Ramping up after this year’s holiday season didn’t take long in the world of ski racing. For the women’s alpine squad it was a bittersweet time. As editor Eric Williams
reports, veteran Sarah Schleper brought her colorful career to an end, retiring with
her 3-year-old son, Lasse, in her arms as she crossed the World Cup finish line for
the final time. Schleper was one of the more popular athletes on the women’s tour
for 16 years and always brought her “A” game with her. The tour and Ski Racing’s
staff will miss her vivacious competitiveness and broad smile. On a far brighter note,
Mikaela Shiffrin proved why she earned Ski Racing’s Junior of the Year award last
season by acclamation. For one run, she was the fastest slalom skier that day, and
landed on the podium in third. Julia Mancuso came within an eyelash of winning Bad
Kleinkirchheim’s downhill, only to see Austrian star Elisabeth Goergl push her down
to second. It was Mancuso’s third podium this season!
But it wasn’t just the alpine skiers who were scoring points. The newly formed women’s ski jumping team was soaring as well. Sarah Hendrickson, Lindsey Van and Jessica Jerome have been climbing multiple podiums, and the team finished the holiday
season leading the jumping Nations Cup. In the marvelously successful FIS Tour de
Ski Kikkan Randall continued her strong showing as well.
If you have not read David Dodge’s letter to the FIS regarding the unilateral new-ski-dimension decision (rubberstamped by the FIS Council), Ski Racing editors have published it in this issue beginning on the next page. It is well worth reading as it discusses
issues backed by legitimate science, and implies that the data the FIS used to justify
the mystifying decision was, at best, suspect.
Mikaela Shiffrin shouldn’t
get used to those skis.
Despite work in the background by USSA representatives, the FIS remains intransient
regarding its decision and provides no solid reasoning, scientific or otherwise, as to
why GS skis were selected for the most dramatic change in radius. Sadly for the sport,
mounting evidence points to a decision made with the influence of cronyism, egos and
politics — and certainly not safety — in mind. Evidence is surfacing that further disparages the “science” on which the decision was based. Peter Shelton, a noted author
and ski professional, uncovered some, which is found at: peterhshelton.wordpress.
DIRECTOR OF MARKETING &
C. J. FEEHAN
While the FIS is welcome to set the alpine World Cup circuit back under a sham of
safety, the real shame is what the decision might do to alpine ski racing in nations that
have competitors who can still participate in the sport into their 20s. There is no indication that the FIS professionals will have any consideration for juniors or those who are
fortunate enough to be able to compete at FIS level events throughout much of their
formative years. In the central European nations, FIS competition falls off dramatically
because subsidized European national teams weed out all, save the athletes with the
best potential, by the age of 16. Thus Switzerland, for instance, will have approximately
200 young athletes competing at the FIS level. The same is true of Austria and Germany. In fairness, it should be pointed out that the FIS has issued no edicts regarding
how junior skis will be shaped. What we do know is that athletes competing in the world
junior championships will be forced to use the unwelcome new-radius skis. (Mikaela,
welcome to your new 188 centimeter GS Dart skis!) Perhaps Shiffrin can call on Chris-tin Cooper for some instruction. Anyway, we have a pretty good idea of what to expect
going forward decisions based on egos and politics under the guise of safety.
Importantly, Ski Racing’s editor-in-chief, Sarah Tuff, was able to sit down with FIS
Secretary General Sarah Lewis and discuss her role as one of the most influential
women in sport. Lewis, who revitalized the Continental Cup circuit and was FIS director before taking her current position, can be credited with a number of changes at the
FIS, particularly in the area of professional staffing. While an ardent supporter of the
organization, Lewis may indeed be in position to ameliorate the process by which the
radius decision was ramrodded through totally-excluding key constituencies.
There is much to read in this issue as we approach the heart of the World Cup season.
Keep abreast daily with our iPhone and Android apps as well as by looking at our website for more detailed information. In the meantime enjoy what the editors have prepared. They have provided a nifty panoply of ski competition worldwide. — G.B. Jr.
GARY BLACK JR.
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