Walter Hofer, Head of Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined, and Ulrich Wehling, FIS Race Director Nordic Combined, reflected on the 2008/2009 season in the FIS Ski Jumping and DKB Nordic Combined World Cups.
“The first World Cup period, with the exception of Kuusamo (FIN), was facilitated by generally quite stable weather conditions. This helped to steer the focus on the athletic performances as we had a really nice atmosphere and exciting competitions on the whole. During the second half of the season we faced big challenges through the external conditions. The main stakeholders, athletes and coaches and the organizers and officials, were all forced to work really hard. Thanks to everyone’s great efforts, only one competition had to be cancelled despite the long season and a very tight calendar.
However, during the season analysis, we have realized that in certain situations the competition jury would have required some more flexibility. Regardless, we know the final outcome will be dependent on not just the jury’s experience but also on some luck. But with some new ideas we hope to open up some additional options in this area.
With Gregor Schlierenzauer, we saw a more than deserving FIS Ski Jumping World Cup overall winner. Through his very extraordinary performances – including many records – the sport of Ski Jumping grew its popularity beyond the normal level of public interest. With his results he has already now established a solid basis for becoming one of the very best in the history of this sport and is well on his way to becoming a true ambassador for his own discipline.
In Nordic Combined, the athletes adjusted to the completely new competition format very successfully. Otherwise, too, we can say that the new format has proven itself in reality. This applies even though some events, especially in early season, were impacted by difficult weather. At the same time, we are still in the middle of a consolidation phase which will surely require another season. This is what the organizers and TV producers will need to attain a certain level of standardization both for calendar planning and preparation for staging the competitions.
From a sports perspective, we anticipate seeing the emergence of a true combined athlete. The expectations for the best athletes will focus on achieving an optimal jump during the one competition round and delivering their very best performance in the 10 km cross-country race. This will end up requiring methodical adjustments in training as well. And here, just as in Ski Jumping, the competition management will require some more flexibility to be able to better steer the competitions in the current circumstances.”
"First of all, the 2008/2009 DKB FIS Nordic Combined World Cup season set a record in terms of the number of competitions during one season. The new competition format with the provisional competition round clearly helped us complete four events despite quite adverse weather conditions. The overall season impression was positive and we feel that the sport of Nordic Combined took a big step forward.
The new format with one jump and a 10 km Gundersen race had a dramatic impact; a new era of Nordic Combined was launched. But it is wrong to think that the competitions were easier than in the years before. Because of the large number of competitors and since all events with the exception of the Liberec weekend planned for December were held, this season’s Nordic Combined World Cup was a big challenge for everybody.
It was commonly expected that Finland would play a minor role following Hannu Manninen's retirement. But then Anssi Koivuranta emerged. We should not forget that he already won medals at the 2007 World Championships in Sapporo, therefore he is surely no rookie. However, his consistency in jumping and skiing during the entire season was really impressive.”
Contributed by Horst Nilgen & Egon Theiner