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Praise fo first sport events held in Whistler Olympic Park

Sat, Jan  24, 2009 - By Egon Theiner and Sandra Spitz

If you win two out of two ski jumping competitions, then you easily can fall in love with a hill. From this point of view, it is easy to understand Nordic Combined overall World Cup leader Anssi Koivuranta (FIN): "This hill is perfect. It's modern, it's nice to jump - I love it." But he's not alone. Austria's Mario Stecher, one of the old stars in the Nordic Combined scene, who has seen almost all jumping hills of the world, added: "This hill could become my favorite one ..." Daito Takahashi from Japan, Bill Demong (USA), winner of the first World Cup competition on Friday, or Jason Lamy Chappuis from France agreed, too. The new hill in Whistler Olympic Park, the venue for the 2010 Olympic Nordic events, is comparable to the hill in Pragelato where the 2006 Olympic Games were held, it seems small but is majestic at the same time, and by being in the middle of woods minimizes trouble with the wind. "They have done a very great job, I'm already looking forward to next year's Olympics", Demong said.

The Nordic Combined athletes, also felt well on their 2.5 km lap with two hard uphills to climb. "The profile is nice", Germany's top skier Bjoern Kircheisen said. "It was exciting to run in front of a large crowd", Norway's Magnus Moan added. "I felt like running at home, with all these supporters from Norway." No wonder he went on to take his fourth season victory in the second competition on Saturday.

Besides the Nordic Combined athletes testing the Olympic venue, three days of the Viessmann FIS Cross-Country World Cup were carried out as a test for the Cross-Country teams, local organizer and FIS. Under sunny and blue skies, the number of spectators was one of the most pleasant surprises during a well-organized World Cup weekend. Some 6000 excited sport fans were counted on every day.

On the challenging classical sprint course, Alena Prochazkova (SVK) took her first World Cup win while on the men's side Emil Joensson (SWE) took the honors. During Saturday's pursuit race, TV viewers all over the world got the first taste of the amazing scenery in Callaghan Valley. The Olympic courses seemed to suit Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) and Pietro Piller Cottrer (ITA) best as both emerged with victories. The test weekend was concluded by a team sprint where Magda Genuin and Arianna Follis took the ladies' top spot for Italy and Swedes Emil Joensson/Robin Bryntesson finished first on the men's side. The biggest surprise was posted by the home team; George Grey and Alex Harvey from Team Canada II pushed hard and finished in third place. "This is where we want to be for the Olympics. This is a stepping stone so we did it," stated Grey after the race."

All in all, the representatives of FIS were highly satisfied with the pre-Olympic World Cups: "This venue is designed for the future and I am very happy with what I've seen from the tests we've done over the last three days," said Vegard Ulvang, Chairman of the FIS Cross-Country Committee who was present during the entire event.