• Alex 50km Lahti Champion
    • Bengt's Corner: First sprint competitions

      November 4, 2011

      The Cross-country committee appointed a working group to study the future of our sport in fall 1993. The group consisted of Dietmar Miklautsch AUT, Thomas Wassberg SWE, Marjo Matikainen FIN, Bill Koch USA and Bengt Erik Bengtsson as secretary. The working group met three times during the OWG 1994; unfortunately Bill Koch could not be present at the meetings. In the report you could read:

      SPRINTS, SHOWRACES AND INDOOR RACES

      “For a long time there have been alternative competitions but never at World Cup level. In order to increase the interest in Cross-Country it is important to care for the development of such competitions. It would be possible to organize such races on a weekday between the World Cup weekends at a place close to the travel route.

      By the introduction of such races on the World Cup level the results should be evaluated only for the nation’s cup but later, if successful, be integrated in the World Cup perhaps with a reduction of the World Cup points.”

      It was not easy to get the support from especially Thomas Wassberg and he agreed at last more or less under protest. He had in his mind all the protests against pursuit start competitions. As you can see the writing was therefore very cautious.

      Why did the group discuss this item? I only want to mention some happenings. At this time, we had regularly sprints in the Swiss Cross Country week, which took place every year since the early 80´s; we had the Dolomite sprint in connection with the traditional Dolomite popular Cross-Country race and also in Kitzbuehl, from where the member of the group Dietmar Miklautsch had collected practical experiences. I myself could contribute with Åsarna galoppen from 1978 where we had 16 junior skiers in 4 heats with the two best qualified for the next round. It was new and I remember that the upcoming World champion Thomas Eriksson upon my question if he wanted to participate said “that is nothing for me. I would rather go out training”.

      After the trial in Sweden I did not see any sprints until 1993 in connection with the World Cup final in Strbske Pleso. On March 19, the 15 km was organized for men with Björn Daehlie as winner and 10 km for ladies with the winner Elena Vaelbe. The relay race was the next day. A fantastic winter day.

      Directly after the race a bus came and picked up athletes to participate in Banska Bystrica about 100 km away. The competition took place in the Ice hockey stadium Iskra Smrecina and consisted of two parts:

      First part – sprint

      Competitors were divided in pairs and would complete two rounds, starting from the opposite sides of the track. Competitors started in reverse order to their ranking in the World Cup.

      Second part

      Men competed in pairs 6 rounds (8 in the final). Ladies competed in pairs 4 rounds (6 in the final). There were also prizes to be handed over. First prize for men’s winner was new Skoda Favorit car. Ladies’ winner was awarded 100 000 KCS.

      At the beginning there were no problems but after a while the snow got more and more difficult and many falls were registered. The fastest in the qualification Markus Hasler fell down as well as the local favorite Katarina Neumannova who was eliminated due to the fall.

      In the men’s final there was a fight between two young Norwegians; Tomas Alsgaard and the combined World Champion Trond Einar Elden who did take a narrow win and the car was his.

      But let us go to the prize giving ceremony and hear the reactions from a very special guest.

      “I am a pig and my master donated me to be a prize in the sprint race. I was very proud to have been chosen and I tried to present myself as nice as possible,” I heard a conversation between a person they called chief and one of the athletes.

      ”Vegard, look at this pig, you should take it as your 4th prize.” So happened and it was transported to the Patria hotel in Strbske Pleso. Vegard wanted to introduce it to his sleeping friends by throwing it into their beds. A reaction from a tall Norwegian called Björn was that he got into a panic and could not sleep any more that night. The next day he had a very tough fight with Silvio Fauner on the last leg in the World Cup final in the relay and could win despite the episode.

      By the way the pig also got a name; Oscar. The problem was that he could not take it home. The solution was that Willy, a serviceman who was a farmer in Ramsau, took it home with a deal that the ham should be smoked and delivered to Vegard in Lillehammer during the upcoming Olympic Games. The interest about the pig in Norway was so great that a journalist, Rolf Arne Odiin from Verdens gang, came and wrote an article.

      Back to the first prize, the car; Trond Einar Elden, the winner, recently told me that Vegard Ulvang recommended him to let me try to sell the car as it would be difficult to take it home. So happened and I had the possibility to sell it to Jan Michalik, the former coach of the Swiss ladies team.

      That was one of the first international sprints, which inspired others for the future. Thanks to Dalibor Cisar who was the organizer.

      By the way, when you see Thomas Alsgaard the next time you should ask him “What happened to your license to hunt a bear in the Tatra Mountains?” It was the second prize for men. I also want to mention that Silke Braun GER did win a beautiful fur in the ladies competition.

      link to original article and pictures