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    • Davos 1984: Nets to Prevent the Forbidden Skating Technique

      December 17, 2009

      FIS World Cup Davos 2009 is history. Let us go back even further. 25 years back. Its Davos 1984...

      Back to Davos, 25 years ago

      We have just taken part in or watched the exciting Viesmann World Cup races "the meeting point for the best - das Treffen der Besten" in Davos.
      Let us now go back 25 years to December 16, 1984 . Back then, the group of representatives of trainers and athletes met in one of the meeting rooms at Hotel Fluela, having been put at disposal from the owner and also the Chief of the Organizing Committee Andreas Gredig.

      Ban or allow skating?

      At that time the dominating question within the Cross-Country world was whether to allow skating or not? The chairman of the Committee, the Olympic champion from 1976, Ivar Formo (NOR) was of the opinion that it must be forbidden. In a meeting with international journalists in the fall of 1984, he promised them that there will be no World Champion in Seefeld 1985 on skis without grip wax. It is easy to promise a thing but it is more difficult to realize it. We had many ideas and carried out tests on the glaciers in Austria and Switzerland and found that nets could be a solution. In this way the double skating step practiced by Ove Aunli and Annette Boe at their wins in Kiruna in April the same year could be reduced. We therefore constructed small nets at the B├Ąchlers Firm in Hergiswil.


      We were also backed up by the FIS Council which decided the following at its meeting on December 7, 1984:
      "The Council agreed that a solution should be found that the skating step technique will not dominate in the future Cross-Country skiing that the technique shall and cannot be forbidden. Therefore the Council commissioned the Cross-Country Committee to make tests with small nets between the tracks, etc and to change the setting of the course in a way that the skating step will physically not be applicable on all parts of the course."
      The first tests were to be in Davos on December 15, 1984 at the men's 30 km. The TD was Hans Stattmann (AUT) and we put out 12 nets of 50 m each on heavy up hills along the course. On the morning of the competition only 10 nets were operative. 2 had been thrown in the Fluela river. About 5 years ago, I found out that Jeremias Wigger and Paal Gunnar Mikkelsplass were the bandits. Meanwhile, they have been pardoned for this prank..
      The competition had started and I controlled the most arduous zone at 2,8 km of the course of that day.
      All the athletes came in a beautiful diagonal stride and so came Aunli with an incredible pushing technique and without grip wax. Aunli was the winner , which meant the test was not successful.
      It did not help much that the TD wrote in his report :"The winner was so exhausted that he must stay in his bed the rest of the day".
      What to do ? I asked the group of trainers and athletes to come to a meeting the next evening and discuss the situation.

      Coaches and athletes meeting, 2 techniques introduced?
      The Olympic winners from 1984 in Sarajevo; Nikolai Zimjatov (SOV), Thomas Wassberg (SWE) , Jochen Behle (FRG) and Dan Simenau (USA), replacing Bill Koch.
      Mike Gallagher (USA), Venedikt Kamenskij (SOV), Immo Kuutsa (FIN) and Hansueli Kreutzer (SUI).
      In the discussion, Dan Simenau said that the American athletes wanted to have the skating technique based on the Olympic devise: "faster, higher and longer" whereby Venedikt Kamenskij replied that another Olympic devise says : "the same chances for all athletes ". As skating destroys the tracks for the later starters they will not have the same chances as the earlier starters. Behle and Zimjatov wanted to ban skating where tracks were set. During the meeting I got a scrap of paper from Thomas Wassberg, which I still have, saying he wanted to introduce two disciplines; a classical one in which the skating step is not allowed and another one without any restrictions with free choice of equipment.

      Not yet...

      At the end of the meeting the entire group except USA wanted to have a questionnaire sent out to the National Associations to introduce a skating ban during the upcoming World Championships in Seefeld.
      Now to the ladies competition two days later. In the meantime there were many discussions among journalists and other experts regarding the possibility of such a ban. Many reckoned that there will be many athletes in favor of skating and against the classical technique. I remember that I met Berit Aunli the same morning and she said to me: "Bengtsson, now you have to get rid off this damned skating". Berit actually won the racethat day and I was hoping firmly that she would say the same to the press as she had told me earlier. First question " Mrs. Aunli, what do you think of the skating technique? Answer: "It is OK and I even like it!!!" What a disappointment for me.

      Altitude limitation

      Another thing concerning Davos. In 1971, based on a proposal from the Scandinavian countries, the FIS congress discussed the introduction of a rule that no major Cross-Country events should be carried out in an altitude exceeding 1500 meters above sea level. Many other countries wanted to have 1800 metres a.m.s.l. as the maximum altitude and what happened ? We compromised on 1650 metres a.m.s.l. and were grateful that Davos accepted the decision. Some years afterwards when the Committee discovered that the highest altitude in Davos was 1710 m a new proposal was sent to the FIS Council to accept this altitude with the rationale: "It is so beautiful and so well organized in Davos that we want to compete there forever".
      I agree and want to thank Davos and its Organizing Committee for all the beautiful memories.

      Yours Bengt-Erik Bentsson