The FIS Continental Cup series are some of the most important Cross-Country competitions. They provide the younger athletes with a chance to prepare themselves for the World Cup and to test their level against athletes from other countries. These different series – a total of nine different ones - are held in the different parts of the world where Cross-Country Skiing is a competitive sport. Some of those held during the Northern hemisphere winter are the OPA Cup in Central Europe, the Scandinavian Cup and the US Super Tour.
This season’s OPA Cup was a great success. 20 events at 11 different venues in five countries took place, only the finals in Medvode (SLO) had to be rescheduled to Pokljuka (SLO). The winners of this Cup, and therefore holders of a fixed starting place during the first World Cup period next year, are the ski veteran Manuela Henkel from Germany and Florian Kostner (ITA). Henkel won the ladies’ ranking 41 points ahead Karin Moroder (ITA) and 48 points ahead of Swiss, Doris Trachsel. Kostner managed his overall victory ahead of two Germans, Tom Reichelt and Kai Bochert.
In the Scandinavian Cup, 9 competitions were held at five different venues. The Norwegians dominated the series, having eight skiers in the men’s top 10, and the complete top 8 on the ladies’ side. The World Cup skier Hans Petter Lykkja and 25-year-old Ingri Aunet Tyldum won the overall rankings clearly. The runner-up on the men’s side, 81 points behind Lykkia, was Swede Frederik Oestberg whilst John Anders Gaustad (NOR) ranked third. In the ladies rankings, Sara Svendsen and Karianne Bjellaanes rounded out the all-Norwegian podium.
The US SuperTour completed last weekend in Fairbanks (Alaska, USA). The overall winners are Kristina Strandberg (SWE) and Ivan Babikov (RUS). The US SuperTour is a very attractive Continental Cup series, where also a significant number of foreign skiers participate and 130’000 US dollars in prize money were paid out.
The first 2008/09 Continental Cup series will kick off in July/August with start of the Southern hemisphere winter season downunder.