Sas­seville Re­port

SkiTrax - - Contents - By Jack Sas­seville

by Jack Sas­seville

U.S. Women Shine – I have to start with how im­pressed I am with the per­for­mances of the U.S. women's team on the World Cup. Even with­out Kikkan Ran­dall this year, these women have con­sis­tently been at the top of the World Cup re­sults lists, in­clud­ing a cou­ple of wins by Jessie Dig­gins and So­phie Cald­well. Per­haps the most no­table re­sult has been their per­for­mance in the re­lay. In Nove Mesto in the Czech Repub­lic, they were sec­ond to the all-pow­er­ful Nor­we­gian women. This shows that their re­sults are not just by one or two skiers. They have a mix of younger and older skiers, sprint­ers and dis­tance skiers. What a sea­son for them so far!

The Bat­tle­ship is Be­gin­ning to Turn – It looks like the Cana­dian ski team is start­ing to move in the right di­rec­tion. It has been ev­i­dent to most peo­ple that it is time to bring on some new, younger skiers. The women's team has been nonex­is­tent at the World Cup level for years, and the skiers on the men's team (with the ex­cep­tion of Alex Har­vey) have been do­ing just enough to keep their places on the team, but they are not nearly as good as they were five years ago.

So far, the younger women at­tend­ing the World Cups have not done that well, with the ex­cep­tion of the sprint in Plan­ica, Slovenia. But they have to start some­where, and there is no sub­sti­tute for Euro­pean World Cup ex­pe­ri­ence. These women and their coaches need to keep look­ing at what the Americans are do­ing and re­mem­ber­ing what Cana­dian women have done in the past to keep their mo­ti­va­tion. There is no rea­son why the Cana­dian women can­not get to the top of the pack too.

For the men, the first sign of change is that Ivan Babikov was sent home af­ter the Tour de Ski, and Knute Johns­gaard and Graeme Kil­lick stayed to race on the World Cup. Babikov has been slid­ing down the rank­ings for the past cou­ple of years now, and even his 11th-place fin­ish on the climb to Alpe de Cer­mis is not enough any­more.

This is good for ev­ery­one on the men's team. For the vet­eran skiers, it sends a mes­sage, and for the younger skiers, it gives them hope. It may be co­in­ci­dence that this has hap­pened with the hir­ing of a new CEO, but it is the right thing to do. There are go­ing to be some tough, un­pop­u­lar de­ci­sions to be made this spring af­ter the Ski Tour of Canada 2016. Cross Coun­try Canada has to bal­ance hav­ing as strong a team as pos­si­ble for the 2018 Olympics while at the same time build­ing for the fu­ture.

U.S. Men – The same de­ci­sions that need to be made in Canada also need to be made in the U.S. for the men. There have been some de­cent re­sults, but noth­ing out­stand­ing. Is the next wave ready to step up?

Nor­we­gian Dom­i­nance – Even with­out Marit Bjo­er­gen rac­ing and Pet­ter Northug win­ning, the Nor­we­gian team con­tin­ues to dom­i­nate the world of cross-coun­try ski­ing. With the Swedish men all sick, hurt or re­tired, there is no other na­tion that can even come close to them. If you are a Nor­we­gian, this is fan­tas­tic and proves what you knew all along – Norge ar Beste!

How­ever, if you are from any­where else, I don't think that this is a good thing for the sport. Most coun­tries, in­clud­ing Canada, are awarded their cor­po­rate and govern­ment fund­ing from podium re­sults, and that has been very hard to do lately. So a Catch 22 now ex­ists, with Nor­way get­ting stronger and re­ceiv­ing more fund­ing and sup­port and ev­ery­one else get­ting weaker and re­ceiv­ing less fund­ing and sup­port.

Prize Money on World Cup – Does any­one out there still think that cross-coun­try ski­ing is an “am­a­teur” sport? If you do, check out these num­bers. Therese Jo­haug has dom­i­nated the women's World Cup and has won 222,500 Euros as of Jan. 27. Sec­ond is Ingvild Flugstad Oest­berg from Nor­way with 129,250 Euros. Dig­gins is the top North Amer­i­can skier with 31,500 Euros.

For the men, Martin John­srud Sundby leads with 225,500 Euros, fol­lowed by Finn Ha­gen Krogh at 84,000 Euros. Simi Hamil­ton is 15th over­all with 10,000 Euros and Alex Har­vey is 22nd at 6,500 Euros.

While it is not ten­nis or golf, those are still some pretty good win­nings, es­pe­cially at the top. These top skiers also have en­dorse­ments and spon­sor­ships and they do not have to pay for their ex­penses when they travel.

Cli­mate Change and Race Venues – It con­tin­ues to get harder and harder to af­ford to hold a race, and it looks like it will get worse in the fu­ture. On the World Cup, es­pe­cially in Cen­tral Europe, if there is not snow-mak­ing, it is im­pos­si­ble to have a race. While at this level there is enough in­come com­ing in to af­ford the cost of snow-mak­ing, this is not the case at the lo­cal level. My fear is that there will be fewer and fewer races at the club level around the world, lead­ing to fewer and fewer skiers and less­ened in­ter­est in the sport. Yikes!

Knute Johns­gaard from White­horse is one of sev­eral young Cana­di­ans who are get­ting their feet wet on the World Cup and hope to make their mark.

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