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The CXC Team capped off a great early season racing tour with two more wins at the 2002 Olympic site of Soldier Hollow, Utah. They have now dispersed to their respective homes to enjoy Christmas with their families but will be back on the race scene January 1-7, 2007 in Houghton, Mich. for Senior Nationals.

On Friday, December 15, the snow had melted from Soldier Hollow and the hills were brown. All that was left was a 2km loop that had a good base of man-made snow. On Saturday the women raced five laps to complete their 10km and the men raced eight laps for their 15km race. The trails were hectic with so many racers on the course at once but all of the CXC competitors: Garrott Kuzzy, Brian Gregg, Bryan Cook and Caitlin Compton, managed to stay strong and focused to pull off good races. Kuzzy had the best race on the men's side, finishing 7th (1:40 back of the winner, Kris Freeman) in an extremely competitive field. Kuzzy posted the fourth fastest time for an American as the Canadian National Team had several top men racing. Cook and Gregg also skied well, placing 28th and 30th, respectively. Gregg was the top U.S. U23 competitor.

Before the race, Compton predicted, "There's going to be a lot of girls out on the course. I am going try to catch as many of them as possible; catch up to someone, pass them, then chase down the next girl." Her strategy paid off as Compton posted a blazing fast time of 26:36 setting a standard that only one other woman could come close to Tasha Betcherman's 26:43. Everyone else was more than 50 seconds back. This win further secured Compton the SuperTour Overall Leader and Distance Leader's bibs.

On December 17, Sunday's Individual Classic sprint races, CXC Team was represented by two athletes Bryan Cook and Laura Valaas. The heavy snowstorm and colder temperatures allowed them to race on hard wax instead of klister, although it did make the tracks soft and, in some places, nonexistent. Cook raced the prelims well and qualified for the heats in tenth. He landed in a competitive quarterfinal with Andy Newell (USST), Dave Chamberlain (MWSC), and Anders Haugen (Rossignol). The group was all together coming over the biathlon bridge into the stadium when another skier's ski snapped Cook's pole. His misfortune bumped him back to last in that quarter, 13th place overall.

Valaas had better luck, skiing all three heats without mishap. She won her quarterfinal and semifinal and then went up against Amanda Ammar (Canadian National Team), Kristina Strandberg (Subaru Factory Team) and Tara Whitten (INDi2010) in the women's A Final. Valaas went out hard and put the hammer down on the first hill, dropping the other women. She maintained her lead to win the A Final by 13 seconds, her fifth consecutive victory in a sprint race this season. Valaas said after her race, "I didn't mind if the other women drafted me out of the stadium, I just wanted to have a gap by the top of horseshoe hill so they couldn't draft on the long downhill into the stadium. The plan was to leave them in my wake; the high point on the course the race was mine!"

The CXC athletes racing in Soldier Hollow look forward to rejoining their other two teammates, Andre Watt and Matt Liebsch, for the next series of races in Houghton, Michigan at Senior Nationals January 3rd, a 5/10km classical race.

Demong Top American in Ramsau Mass Start
World Cup leader Christoph Bieler of Austria won his second consecutive Nordic combined event Saturday, December 16 as he led both rounds of jumping. Bill Demong (Vermontville, N.Y.) was 22nd and Johnny Spillane (Steamboat Springs, Colo.) finished 24th.

In a mass start event that began with a 10K race, Demong was third and Spillane 11th but they struggled with the jumping while Bieler - 17th in the 10K - excelled with jumps of 96 and 97.5 meters. He finished with 265.0 points to top Finn Anssi Koivuranta (263.7).

"The boys are so close," Head Coach Lasse Ottesen said, "but not having enough training jumps is a problem. They got a couple of days of good training in Steamboat before coming here, which was a help, but we still need more time jumping on snow.

"They're positive and they're being patient because they can tell how close they are to turning this thing around...and because they know they can count on their cross country," he said. "The mass start always favors the better jumpers, so tomorrow when it's jumping and then cross country in a 'hurricane sprint,' they know they should do better."

In a hurricane start, the athletes start the 7.5K according to a formula which equates points behind the jumping leader to distances behind the top jumper at the start of the race. Under the traditional Gundersen method of handicap start, the skiers are docked time - not distance - according to how far behind the jump leader they place.

Demong Advances 10 Places in 7.5K Race
Bill Demong (Vermontville, N.Y.) tore over a flat course covered in soft snow Sunday, December 17 for the second-fastest 7.5K race as he moved up 10 places in a Nordic combined World Cup hurricane sprint.

A disappointing jump (87.5 meters) in the lone round on the 98-meter jumping hill left him in 26th place. But Demong, who is skiing the best of his career in each race, stormed over the meadow loop and moved into 16th place. Norway's Magnus Moan won by seven-tenths of a second over Jason Lamy Chappuis of France, who was born in Montana when his parents were college students.

Demong, who started the six-lap race 1:42 back of jumping leader Christoph Bieler of Austria, finished 53 seconds behind Moan. Johnny Spillane (Steamboat Springs, Colo.) was 28th.

"I'm happy with my race...but I still need to get a couple of meters in my jumping," Demong said, adding he planned to train extensively at Lake Placid when he comes home for the holidays. "I want to get as many jumps on snow as I can, so I'll be there every day, if I can."

He said the lack of hills on the course "means not too many people were moving up, so you really had to be hauling. No hills reduced the chance of putting some time on the other guys."

After spending the holidays at home, Spillane and Demong will return for the German Grand Prix, the annual three-meet World Cup series, which opens Dec. 30 in Oberhof, Germany.

Jerome Undergoes Successful Knee Surgery
Jessica Jerome (Park City, Utah), ranked No. 3 in the world last year in women's jumping and the leading U.S. women's jumper during the first half of the current season, is resting at home after surgery to repair torn ligaments in her right knee, sustained in a training crash.

Melinda Roalstad, medical director for the U.S. Ski Team, said Jerome underwent surgery Tuesday, Dec. 12 by Dr. Vernon Cooley at The Orthopedic Surgery Hospital in Salt Lake City for reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament and repair of her medial collateral ligament, too. "She'll be out five or six months," Roalstad said.

Jerome, 20, a student at Westminster College in Salt Lake City when she's not training or competing, injured the ligaments and dislocated her right elbow Dec. 2 when she crashed after landing a training jump at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs, CO. Roalstad said the surgery was delayed until swelling had gone down.

"I'm not sure how it happened," Jerome said. "I landed my jump and was going through the outrun and I caught an edge...and that was it. So, my season's over; I don't expect to be jumping in late March or April, so I'll wait until June or so when Utah Olympic Park reopens. I definitely didn't want this to happen, but I'm fine and the surgery went well."

Jerome, who had five top-5 finishes in the current Continental Cup season, including two podiums, said she hoped to be out later this week when Nordic combined World Cup-B action starts with jumping at Utah Olympic Park followed by cross country racing at Soldier Hollow. "I can't do much for a week or so, but I want to be out there Friday and Saturday to cheer for the Americans," she said.

After three stops on the $130,000 Cross Country SuperTour schedule, three men are battling for the overall lead while Central Division CXC teammates Laura Valaas (Wenatchee, Wash.) and Caitlin Compton (Minneapolis, Minn.) are atop the women's standings.

Sun Valley was the third location on the schedule and included sprints Dec. 6 with distance races throughout the weekend. Olympic teammates James Southam and Lars Flora (both Anchorage, Alaska) and Brayton Osgood (Putney, VT) are 1-2-3 in the men's overall points.

Two-time Olympian Kris Freeman (Andover, N.H. ) held off Canadian Dan Roycroft Sunday in a mass start SuperTour 30K freestyle race for the victory by six-tenths of a second. Saturday, Freeman won the 10K classic race by 17.2 seconds over another Canadian Olympian, Drew Goldsack. A third Canadian Olympian, Sean Crooks, won the 1.5K CL sprint the previous Wednesday, leading a Canadian sweep of the top six places.

On the women's side, Valaas stayed unbeaten in SuperTour sprints Wednesday, topping leading qualifier Shayla Swason (Bozeman, Mont.) with Canadians Perianne Jones and Tara Whitten completing the final foursome. Saturday, Canadian Amanda Ammar won the women's 5K classic race in 14:45.7 with Compton runnerup (14:54.4). Sunday, Compton overtook local favorite Morgan Arritola (nearby Fairfield, Idaho) to win the 15K skate by 4.9 seconds - in 43:24.5. Taz Mannix (Anchorage, Alaska), Arritola's teammate on the U.S. Ski Team, was third (43:41.2).

The women's side of the CXC Team saw Laura Valaas and Caitlin Compton continue their podium streak in every SuperTour race of the season. In Wednesday's Sprint race Laura and Caitlin went up against a very competitive field of Canadian women and were able to qualify 2nd and 3rd in the preliminary round for the third sprint race in a row. Laura was second only .24 of a second behind the winner and Caitlin was 3rd about 3 seconds back. The rounds proved to be challenging but successful for the CXC Team women. Caitlin progressed through the quarterfinals but then fell behind in the semi-finals and advanced to the B Final, where she ended up 6th overall. Laura led every round from the quarterfinals through the finals making it all seem so easy. Her Final kick up the "big" hill in the course was commanding as she left the rest of her heat far behind and posted the fastest lap of the day. Valaas is now 4 for 4 in the Sprint Races this season.

On Saturday Caitlin was the only CXC woman to race as Valaas was taking a day off after such a busy race schedule and was focusing on being fresh for the skate race on Sunday. The race was only 5k but at such a high altitude (7200) it was a real test of control so as not to go out too fast. Caitlin had a very good day and finished 2nd overall behind Amanda Ammar of Canada by only 9 seconds.

Sunday's Skate race was 15k of mixed conditions and crowded skiing. The Women's race went out fairly conservatively and Laura was exactly where she wanted to be in about 6th position. Caitlin started a little slower and although not very far behind Laura she was in about 20th position. After the first downhill people began to shift positions and Laura was able to let Caitlin into a gap that had opened up around 5th position. As the first lap was ending the snow began to fall. At first the snow wasn't too much of a problem but slowly the track became slower and slower. Skis and grind became very important during the changing conditions. Caitlin was able to take advantage of a gap in the lead group and maintain her lead through the final 4k to finish 1st overall. Laura skied a solid race and finished 21st, eager to race another distance race at Nationals.

Both women will be only racing one race in the Soldier Hollow SuperTour next weekend. Laura will do the Classic Sprint while Caitlin will race the 10k Skate.

The CXC men's team came into the Sun Valley series well rested and ready to race. Wednesday's classic sprint featured Bryan Cook's CXC Team debut. In a tough day on a long sprint course, Brian Gregg led the men's squad with a 22nd place finish, followed closely by Cook in 25th. The Canadian National Team competed in the sprints on Wednesday as well, taking the top 6 places.

Saturday's 10km classic race took place on a beautiful morning on the Galena trails. The sun crept above the mountains minutes before the race start, warming the spectators and treating races to optimal race conditions. Coach Bryan Fish tested klister covered with hard wax versus straight hard wax over binder. In the end, Toko violet hard wax provided the team with excellent rollerski quality kick and very little wear in the abrasive snow. Garrott Kuzzy started first for the team, back racing after taking several days off. The time off didn't seem to slow Kuzzy, as he finished 14th overall and 7th American in a field that included both U.S. and Canadian national teams. Bryan Cook, working his way back into strong racing shape, finished 24th and skied his last 3km with eventual winner, Kris Freeman. Brian Gregg rounded out the CXC Team's results finishing only 8 seconds behind Cook in 26th place.

The Grand Finale of the Sun Valley SuperTour was Sunday's 30km mass start skate. As if 30km at 7,200 feet with 1,000 feet of climbing weren't hard enough, Mother Nature pitched in with a heavy snowfall starting an hour before the race. By the start, there were almost 3 inches of fresh powder covering the skate course. Gregg and Kuzzy started the race with Cook taking the day off. The race got off to a clean start with both CXC teammates in good position. The race was by far the most demanding this season and skiers had to pace themselves well. Kuzzy started the race too fast and was soon caught by Gregg and dropped by the lead pack. After recovering during the 2nd and 3rd laps, Kuzzy was able to catch up to Gregg and they skied much of the fourth of six laps as a CXC train, catching and passing a number of skiers. Eventually, Kuzzy and Gregg ended up finishing 17th and 23rd respectively.

High-level competitions within the Nordic ski world converge on Utah as the USSA Cross Country SuperTour and the Nordic combined World Cup-B open at the 2002 Olympic cross country trails and ski jumps this week.

As coaches and athletes began arriving in the Park City area, Olympians Johnny Spillane (Steamboat Springs, Colo.) and Bill Demong (Vermontville, NY) were headed back to Europe for World Cup combined events this weekend in Ramsau, Austria. They had returned home from Norway because of poor snow conditions and the uncertainty of upcoming events, but recent snows have improved conditions in Ramsau, scene of the 1999 FIS Nordic World Championships.

Meanwhile, Friday and Saturday, December 15-16, the Nordic combined World Cup-B, comprised of athletes trying to make their onto the World Cup tour, will be competing on the large hill at Utah Olympic Park and on the trails at Soldier Hollow. Saturday and Sunday, December 16-17 the $130,000 USSA Cross Country SuperTour will offer distance and sprint races at Soldier Hollow; the overall champions from the SuperTour earn places on the World Cup to start the 2008 season.

"The snow's good," Nordic combined World Cup Coach Dave Jarrett. "The guys are ready to go, and we're looking at what should be a couple of good competitions."

The World Cup-B Tour stopped in Steamboat Springs, CO, over the weekend for the Mountain Resorts World Cup-B events; Olympian Brett Camerota (Park City, Utah) reached the podium Saturday and was just 11 seconds away from a victory in the season opener.

The World Cup-B schedule has opened in the USA in recent seasons because of the reliability of snow in the American West. After this week's two meets, the tour heads to Lake Placid, N.Y., for the annual Lamb Lumber Classic with competitions Dec. 20-21 before the Europeans head home.

Some new snow this week further spruces up the track conditions at Soldier Hollow, which is offering more than 20 kilometers of skiing. There are short distance freestyle races - women's 10K and men's 15K - Saturday with classic technique sprints Sunday. In the sprints, everyone skis the course in a qualifying time trial and the field is cut to 32 for final heats.

Olympians James Southam (Anchorage, Alaska) and Caitlin Compton (Minneapolis, Minn.) are the SuperTour leaders after the first seven races. The SuperTour champions will compete on the World Cup next season but of more pressing urgency is the opportunity to earn a place at the World Championships in Japan next February.

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) announced Thursday, Dec. 7 that Todd Wyant will assume the role as the first associate athletic director of athlete services. Wyant brings over 15 years of experience in athlete support services and will work directly in support of U.S. Ski Team and U.S. Snowboarding athletes.

"Todd's new role is vital to our organization in providing a higher level of service to our athletes," said President and CEO Bill Marolt. "Todd brings a wealth of experience and knowledge of athlete services to USSA. In his new role Todd will assist our goal-oriented athletes in their pursuit of excellence, by providing additional support for their professional careers and personal lives beyond athletics."

As the associate athletic director of athlete services, Wyant will manage, coordinate and facilitate the interaction and communication between USSA, team athletes and other partners. He will act as a resource for sport directors, coaches and staff, but primarily athletes. In addition, he will be the principal point of contact relative to athlete management outside of athletic, performance-based programs.

"I'm excited for the opportunity to work with this outstanding group of athletes," said Wyant. "With the assistance of the USSA staff and other outside resources, we will provide an outstanding support program for the athletes. Our services will include educational advancement, financial planning, agent selection, media relations, team building, networking and other optimal opportunities to benefit the athletes personal growth and development."

Prior to USSA, Wyant served as associate athletic director for student/athlete services at Syracuse University for six years. He received his undergraduate degree in psychology with a minor in math from Montana State - Billings and a Masters in counseling student personnel from the University of Wyoming.

The Bozeman SuperTour started with a freestyle individual sprint on Saturday, December 2 and a team classic sprint on Sunday. It was apparent that the Bozeman ski community went to great lengths to ensure the weekend sprints were a success. The 1.2-kilometer course started with a 200 meter straight away and then had a short steep descent into a long gradual uphill. The course twisted and turned - up and down throughout the middle of the course and then ascended back into the stadium to the finish.

The weekend started with the women's qualifiers. It was déjà vu from West Yellowstone. The results went Karin Camenish, Caitlin Compton and Laura Valaas in qualification. These three rapidly moved through the quarters and semi finals. Laura made a decisive move into the last transition and up the last hill to seal the win. At the end of the day it was Laura Valaas, Karin Camenish and Caitlin Compton. Same order as West Yellowstone.

The men also skied well. Garrott Kuzzy qualified second and Brian Gregg qualified seventh. Garrott and Brian were in the same quarterfinal, semi final and B final. The semi-final was tightly contested. James Southem, Eric Strable and Garrott Kuzzy had a photo finish. The video displayed that Garrott was third across the line and hence bumped out of the A final. Brian Gregg made a gutsy move in the B final by taking the lead and opening a gap on the field. Garrott was able to reel him in. They opened up a sizable lead in the B final and ended the day in 5th and 6th. The A final came down to another photo finish between Southem and Strable.

Garrott was not 100% on Sunday, so he sat out the team sprint. Brian was able to find a partner and his team ended up fifth.

"It was a very fun race today and the organizers and volunteers did a great job preparing the course," said Brian. "I was bummed that Kuzzy wasn't feeling well this morning; the team sprint is something we have been looking forward to all summer."

Caitlin Compton scrambled and Laura Valaas anchored the women's team classic sprint. They took the lead on the first lap and lead all six laps.

"We put in a high volume week this past week and continue to progress our training," said Valaas. "We have been working more on technique and have been doing a good job getting in aerobic distance and strength. I'm very happy with our results to this point, but I'm pleased that we are also planning and progressing toward future races this season."

USSA Questions Snub of Women's Ski Jumping
The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association said it was "disappointed" by the International Olympic Committee decision to ignore adding women's ski jumping to the Olympic schedule for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

Former World Cup alpine skier Zach Crist (Ketchum, Idaho) lamented the thumbs down on women's jumping. " I was hoping women's jumping would make it because that's a cool sport and they're exciting to watch," Crist said.

At the same time, Marolt - a vice president of the International Ski Federation and member of its governing FIS Council - went on, "It's really hard to understand the decision on women's ski jumping. This is a sport in which women have participated at the highest levels for many years. It has an established international competition circuit with a strong pool of athletes.

"We're disappointed in the decision of the IOC as we have felt that the athletes had progressed over the past decade to a position where the sport was ready for Olympic participation." He noted the U.S. Ski Team has named women to its ski jumping squad for the first time and women's jumping will be part of the FIS Nordic World Championships in 2009 and 2011; five U.S. women were in the top 15 women's jumpers on the sport a year ago, including Lindsey Van (Park City, Utah) second and Jessica Jerome (Park City, Utah) third.

The IOC, despite its stated intention to bring gender equity to the Games, said women's jumping was not yet global enough with enough nations or participants. Ski jumping and Nordic combined are the two ski sports which have no Olympic women's events, but there is no formal Nordic combined women's circuit while women's jumping is in its third year as a Continental Cup schedule after several seasons as a Women's Grand Prix tour.

U.S. Nordic Director Luke Bodensteiner said, "This doesn't change our resolve to press forward with women's jumping. These women have the opportunity to compete to be the best in the world, whether they're given that opportunity in Vancouver or not. And we'll take full advantage of that by continuing our commitment to this team and to this sport."

Marolt added, "As Luke indicated, we plan to continue to press the IOC to reverse its decision about women's jumping. It's not a question of 'owing' women another sport, but the simple fact is the number of athletes and nations participating are worthwhile, and the sport will be even larger by 2010. We feel strongly that it's important to add women's jumping to the Olympics."

Spillane 9th, Demong 12th in Lillehammer Nordic Combined
Johnny Spillane (Steamboat Springs, Colo.) moved up 14 places during the six-lap 15K race on Saturday, December 2 to finish ninth in a Nordic combined individual event with Bill Demong (Vermontville, New York) 12th.

Norwegian favorite Magnus Moan - medalist at the 2006 Olympics and '05 World Championships - out-sprinted Sebastien Haseney of Germany to win by one-tenth of a second and defending three-time World Cup champion Hannu Manninen of Finland was a half-second back in third place.

Under a new World Cup ruling, athletes who are not in the top 35 after the first round of jumping are prohibited from continuing; a week earlier in Kuusamo, Finland, neither American was a top-35 skier in the opening event of the season. This day, Spillane was 23rd and Demong 28th. During the race, run over a 2.5K loop because of the lack of snow, Spillane had the seventh-fastest time and Demong was sixth fastest.

"This was a very positive day. We've still got work to do on the jump hill," Head Coach Lasse Ottesen said, "because it's so tight and the boys just need to get another couple of meters on their jumps to jump into the top 10, and then really challenge for the podium. Obviously, though, their cross country is strong, which was what we thought but couldn't confirm last week in Kuusamo...

"Their skis were good and they just kept moving forward today. They're so close in jumping and when we tighten a couple of things with some more training, they'll be in a better position to move up," Ottesen said. "Today was a good start for them."

He said the two were able to take about a dozen jumps in Lillehammer although the jumps were closed most of the week to preserve the limited snow cover.

The World Cup has been moved to the 1994 Olympic jumps and cross country trails from Trondheim because of poor snow conditions. The next World Cup is scheduled for Dec. 16-17 in Ramsau, Austria, but there is no snow there, he said, so officials are trying to sort out potential options.

U.S. Ski Team Day Returns for Second Season
The U.S. Ski Team has announced the return of U.S. Ski Team Day, slated for February 10, 2007 at participating ski areas around the country. For each ticket or trail pass sold on event day, one dollar will be donated by the host resorts to support education and development of tomorrow's athletes. The inaugural event helped kick off the excitement of the 2006 Torino Games domestically as more than 50,000 skiing enthusiasts became honorary Team members for the day.

"U.S. Ski Team Day 2007 will celebrate skiers' national passion" said Bill Marolt, U.S. Ski Team President and CEO. "We know that tomorrow's competitors are making turns today at ski areas and resorts across the country. Our gratitude goes out to our partner resorts for helping us groom the next generation of U.S. athletes."

Ski areas are currently registering to host the 2007 event. Participating areas will celebrate the day with special collateral elements and will receive educational support materials to assist the development of local skiers.

More information about the event, including a list of participating resorts, will be available at

USSA Cross Country SuperTour News
An excellent World Cup opening result in Dusseldorf for 2004 SuperTour sprint overall champion Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) hints that the racing season in North American isn't far off. Newell is among a core of successful World Cup racers, who have used overall wins in the SuperTour as a springboard for entry into the World Cup. Others include Ivan Babikov (RUS/Subaru Factory Team), the overall winner in 2005 and later used that win to crack into the notoriously competitive Russian team; 2006 overall distance cup champion Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK/Alaska Pacific University), 2003 overall champion Kris Freeman (Andover, NH), and 2001 overall champion Carl Swenson (Park City, UT/Factory Team).

This season's slate of defending champions includes David Chamberlain (Caribou, ME/Atomic) and Karin Camenisch (SUI/Rossignol). But if they are going to defend their titles in 2007, Chamberlain will have to do it with a late start. Instead of starting the season in West Yellowstone along with the other overall hopefuls, he will start with the U.S. Ski Team's World Cup team in Gallivare, Sweden, and will continue to race on the World Cup at least until the Tour de Ski.

Based on his overall win last season, the FIS has granted Chamberlain and Camenisch their own personal start positions for all World Cups in November and December. Other FIS Continental Cup tour winners are awarded the same right, and Chamberlain and Camenisch are joined by the winners of the Scandinavian Cup - Petter Northug (NOR) and Katia Ruosalainen (FIN), the Slavic Cup - Justyna Kowalczyk (POL), the Europa Cup - Katrin Zeller (GER) and Loris Frasnelli (ITA).

After the completion of the U.S. Cross Country Championships in Houghton, MI, the current leader of the SuperTour (men and women) will be invited to the World Cup races after the Tour de Ski and up until Feb. 4. And finally, the overall leaders of each SuperTour classification (sprint, distance and overall) after the Owl Creek Chase in Aspen, CO, will be invited to all of the World Cup competitions in the traditional Scandinavian Tournament, which takes place throughout March.

Will There Be a New Leader in Career Wins?
At the top of the leader board with the most career SuperTour wins are Carl Swenson and Canadian Olympic gold medalist Beckie Scott, both with 21 wins during their careers. Both have retired this season from top-level racing, although Swenson will continue as a member of the Subaru Factory Team for at least another season while he studies for his law degree at the University of Utah.

If not Swenson, then it's unlikely that another competitor will eclipse 21 wins this season. Third place on the career list is Rebecca Dussault (Gunnison, CO), who is not competing this season because she is expecting her second child. Behind Dussault are Babikov (World Cup), Freeman (World Cup) and Wendy Wagner (Park City, UT). U.S. Ski Team World Cup coach Justin Wadsworth comes next on the list with eight wins. The most likely active candidate is Lars Flora (Anchorage, AK/Alaska Pacific University/Factory Team), but with only six wins so far, he would have to win over two-thirds of the races on the calendar to take over the top position already this year.

Team News
West Yellowstone will mark the debut of the U.S. Ski Team's Continental Cup Team comprised of Morgan Arritola (Fairfield, ID), Liz Stephen (Montpelier, VT), Leif Zimmermann (Bozeman, MT) and Tazlina Mannix (Talkeetna, AK).

Flora and NCAA champion Jana Reheema, who will be starting for the first time on the Subaru Factory Team. Both aiming to claim the overall titles for the 2007 season, Chad Giese and Kristina Strandberg will also be looking to defend their overall titles in the FIS North America Marathon Cup, a sub-classification of the SuperTour. They will be joined in their campaign by Swenson, Abigail Larson and Patrick Weaver, who are all retired from elite-level racing, but are always a threat, especially in the long races. Kate Underwood and Justin Easter will also be in contention for the overall Sprint Cup.

FSx will be fielding six top competitors in the SuperTour this season. Kate Whitcomb, 3rd in the overall rankings last year will lead the team, which also includes 2006 national Team Sprint champion Zach Violett, King of the Madison sprints Zack Simons, and Colin Rodgers, 4th in the overall standings last year.

Starting for the first time for FSx this season will be Nicole Deyong and Adam Swank.

The new CXC ski team will field a strong contingent, with Laura Valaas and Caitlyn Compton on the women's side, and Brian Gregg, Garrott Kuzzy and Bryan Cook all looking for their first-ever SuperTour victory this season. This team will be placing a special emphasis on the Midwest Grand Prix, which starts in Madison and ends with the City of Lakes Loppet in Minneapolis, MN. In addition to the Midwest Grand Prix, the CXC Team will enjoy a home-field advantage at the U.S. Short Distance Cross Country Championships in Houghton, Mich., and the Subaru American Birkebeiner in Hayward, Wis., both of which will be a part of the SuperTour for the first time this year.

Debut Sites
Four new organizers have joined the SuperTour this year: Bozeman, Sun Valley, Houghton and the American Birkebeiner.

Bozeman will organize a "sprinters' only" weekend at Lindley Park near downtown. The only other sprinter's only weekend in the Tour so far has been hosted in Madison, and has been a major success.

The American Birkebeiner, the largest race in North America, will bring a new dimension to the SuperTour, and will help to achieve a Tour goal of extending through the end of February.

Sun Valley has changed the distance of their Dec. 9 race to 5/10km, in an effort to make the program during that week a little more manageable for the competitors.

Long-Distance/Short Distance Nationals
For the first time in many years, the U.S. Cross Country Championships will be divided into "Long-Distance" and "Short-Distance" weeks, held in Houghton and Presque Isle, Maine, respectively. This arrangement compresses the program in January, which should enhance participation among the elite athletes, and will add another element of importance to the traditional "Spring Series" races. This program also moves the National Championship Team Sprint into January, where all of the top sprinters will be present.

USSA TD Seminar
This season's SuperTour technical delegates, race organizers and other officials gathered during the last weekend of October in Reno, Nev. to prepare for the coming season. Led by chairman of the USSA officials' subcommittee and member of the FIS rules and controls subcommittee, Bob Gross, almost 40 TDs, officials and organizers gathered to learn about the latest rule updates, race formats and race management techniques. Gross was assisted in his presentations by former USSA Technical Director Hugh Cooke, and the group was hosted by the Auburn Ski Club.

The officials at the seminar also received instruction about the ASTRO (Award for SuperTour Race Organizers) evaluation, and discussed improvements to the evaluation process for this season. The ASTRO evaluates the performance of SuperTour organizers, including areas focused on promotion of the sport.

Nordic Festival at Soldier Hollow
Soldier Hollow is taking an innovative approach to raising the profile of its SuperTour event this year by joining forces with the Nordic combined family. On the same weekend, Soldier Hollow will host the cross country skiers with the SuperTour, and the Nordic combined skiers by hosting the FIS Nordic Combined World Cup B. The FIS Nordic Combined World Cup B is a worldwide tour, which begins in North America, and is the only avenue of access to the World Cup for Nordic combined skiers, will play host to teams from almost 20 nations. This dual event will provide a unique opportunity for athletes from different sports to interact, and will create a very international atmosphere during the SuperTour in Soldier Hollow.

Changes to Overall Prize Money
Reflecting the trend toward specialization in sprint and distance - and the need for competitors to pick and choose their races wisely throughout the season, the prize money for the overall classification has been dropped this year. But taking its place - and increasing the total prize money paid out at the end of the season - are awards of $4,000 for the best man and best woman in the overall Sprint classification and the overall Distance classification. Additionally, a $2,000 prize will be awarded to the best overall man and woman in the FIS North America Marathon Cup.

World Cup Sprint Format
The format of sprint racing on the World Cup has changed slightly this year, with six skiers in each heat through the finals, and with two "lucky losers" moving forward based solely on their times in the respective heats.

The National Championship organizers in Houghton, Mich. will organize the national championship sprint competition with this format.

XC World Cup on WCSN
Cross country fans will be able to watch the FIS World Cup this year on the new World Championship Sports Network. is planning U.S. broadcasting of nearly the entire schedule of the FIS Cross Country World Cup for the first time ever through its partnership with USSA. American cross country fans are encouraged to checkout the coverage and show WSCN that there is a big interest in following World Cup cross country ski racing.

Subaru Factory Team Announced for 2006-2007
Salomon is happy to announce the eleven-person Subaru Factory Team for 2006/2007. The team consists of members with credentials ranging from local marathon champions to Olympic/World Championship competitors. The Subaru Factory Team's veteran athletes are Lars Flora, Kristina Strandberg, Abigail Larson, Chad Giese, Justin Easter, Kate Underwood, and Patrick Weaver.

Lars Flora, a two time Olympian, has set his sights on winning the overall SuperTour, making his way to Japan for the World Championships, and finishing his season on the World Cup - a privilege earned by winning the SuperTour overall title. Lars has perhaps the most big race experience of anyone on the Subaru Factory Team, and he is anxious to get another season started.

Kristina Strandberg, the two-time FIS Marathon Cup champion, looks to defend her title again this season. This cup debuted on the U.S. ski circuit two years ago, but Strandberg proved that she was able to balance a Ph.D. program and ski racing in a way that yielded consistency. Kristina has been attending school at the University of New Mexico, and is looking forward to a slightly lighter workload giving her more flexibility to race in the coming season.

Abigail Larson made her Olympic debut in 2006. In the years before this Olympics her dream of becoming an Olympian had almost been abandoned, but with hard work and dedication her dream became a reality. Abby has entered a Ph.D. program in Exercise Science at the University of Utah, but will continue to train around a rigorous school schedule.

Chad Giese, '05-'06 FIS Marathon Cup Champion, will work to continue his dominance in the U.S. marathon circuit. Chad had a brilliant showing at the season-concluding SuperTour Spring Series races in northern Maine. Chad raced with the strength that he had shown all season, and proved that he will not fade in the near future. Chad has made minor adjustments to his training schedule in the past seven months, and will be the man to watch for a repeat FIS Marathon Cup overall title.

Justin Easter is back on the Subaru Factory Team for his fourth season. After a solid '05/'06 season, including a victory at the North American Vasa, Justin decided he liked being on the podium and has made a few adjustments his training routine to ensure a consistently better '06/'07 season. He will travel to Europe prior to the Birkie to fulfill his goal of racing against an international crowd. Look for a consistent season with marked improvements over last year. Justin will remain the Editor of SkiPost, and looks forward to sharing knowledge and expertise with the readers.

Kate Underwood has been living in Sun Valley and training with the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation since last spring. Kate has shown that she has amazing range in her ski abilities. She is a contender in short races through grueling marathons. After a great showing at last year's spring series including a 3rd place finish (2nd American) in the 30KM classic, she has taken the resolve she has shown during races, and brought it to her training philosophy.

Patrick Weaver doesn't seem to slow down. Patrick is a newlywed as of the summer, has pursued a career as a carpenter and still manages to find time for beneficial ski training. Patrick is a two-time Olympian with a wealth of knowledge to share. His slow transition away from skiing has only been slowed further by his continuing success.

There is some new blood on the Subaru Factory Team for the coming year. Carl Swenson's presence on the Factory Team is not new. He was on the team for three seasons before being re-named to the US Ski Team in 2002. Last season, Carl competed in his third Olympic Games, but he is no stranger to the domestic marathon circuit. In 1998 Carl won the American Birkiebeiner, and will be looking to balance the rigors of attaining a law degree from the University of Utah with continuing ski success with the Subaru Factory Team.

The University of Utah has another member of the Subaru Factory Team pursuing a doctoral degree, Tav Streit. Tav spent a few seasons as the Head Nordic Coach of the University of Nevada-Reno before taking last year to begin the doctoral process. Tav is also a recent newlywed. He will look for success on the FIS Marathon Cup circuit, and hopes to extend his racing knowledge into all of the races he enters this coming season.

Justin Freeman capped off his tenure on the U.S. Ski Team with a visit to the Olympics. Justin and his wife came home from the Olympics with a life-changing result; Justin is now a father. Justin was on his way to obtain a doctorial degree at the University of Colorado before he took his leave to pursue a professional ski career. Justin is making the transition to distance races, and will be the Subaru Factory Team's primary representative in the northeast. Justin is teaching in New Hampshire, but you can be sure that he will balance all facets of his life with his continuing success as a skier.

Jana Reehemaa is the Subaru Factory Team's only female newcomer this season. She comes from a family familiar with success, as she is a first cousin of Olympic Champion Kristina Smigun and former Factory Team skier Katrin Smigun. A native of Estonia and recent graduate of the University of Colorado, Jana chose to extend her stay in the U.S. to focus on racing. Jana will make a serious attempt to win the overall SuperTour title this winter - a feat that would also allow her to finish her season on the World Cup.

The Subaru Factory Team is pleased to have Jean Pascal (JP) Laurin along for another season as the Head Wax Technician. JP made the Factory Team's transition to Salomon skis very natural last season. JP worked with the Japanese National Team on the World Cup two years ago. JP is fond of driving the Factory Team's wax bus across the country, and looks forward to another successful season with this talented group of athletes.

JP will have different company waxing this season. Bertrand Regard left the Subaru Factory Team to work for Salomon on the World Cup this season. Kevin Johnson of Plymouth, Minn. hopes to fill the void Bertrand has left. Kevin has had a successful career as a coach, and worked directly for SWIX last season as a representative in the Midwest. Kevin will serve as the Factory Team's delegate at coaches meetings, and will be instrumental in the team's coordination throughout the season.

For more information visit the Subaru Factory Team at

Medical Director Roalstad to Leave USSA
Melinda Roalstad, the first fulltime medical director for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association who is credited with professionalizing the medical programs and services for USSA but on an international scale as well, is leaving Dec. 31.

Roalstad, who started with the Ski Team in 1990 as a sports physiologist and team trainer for the freestyle squad, helped expand the physician pool, the critical network of doctors who provide coverage for most training and competitions for the 15 teams of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. She also helped establish the official medical providers and designed the systems, which treat acute injury situations, from worst-case scenarios with emergency evacuation to more routine episodes, from injury to rehab and recovery.

She has no immediate plans but will be exploring several opportunities and challenges, she said. "I've been lucky to have had an amazing, devoted staff and many dedicated volunteers who have genuinely contributed to the vision, and I've dealt with such outstanding athletes for about 15 years," she said, "but it's time for me to try something else."

USSA President and CEO Bill Marolt hailed Roalstad's "incredible legacy of commitment and service to our athletes. In the process, she's totally professionalized our approach to medical services...

"Tirelessly and with great integrity, Melinda has built a world-class medical program for USSA with the ultimate goal of providing the best possible service to our athletes. Plain and simple," he said, "she established the protocols and systems, which have made USSA's medical program one of the leaders among national governing bodies in Olympic sports - worldwide, not just in the United States.

"But, beyond USSA, Melinda's been a leader in the International Ski Federation medical program and community, a behind-the-scenes driving force in our sports. It's never been about Melinda, it's always the athlete for her and we're going to miss that kind of expertise and dedication," Marolt said.

Roalstad grew up in Boulder, Colo., and graduated from the University of Colorado and then from the University of Miami with a master's degree in exercise physiology; she worked to create a private performance center in Steamboat Springs, Colo. that initially involved her with USSA. She later earned a physician's assistant certificate and license from the University of Utah. Roalstad served twice with USSA, from 1990 to 1996 (in 1991 she was named assistant director of sport science) and returning in 1998 as alpine women's team physiologist before being named USSA's initial fulltime medical director in 1999. She was medical supervisor for FIS during the 2003 Nordic World Ski Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

"This was a very hard decision to make because I'm extremely proud of what we've accomplished in building this medical program into a model for others. We have such a great group of doctors involved and other medical personnel," Roalstad said. "But there comes a time, and I've felt for a while that I wanted to look at some other opportunities and challenges. I hope to continue working with the FIS Medical Committee because I'm proud of all the good things that are at work with the committee, and how they benefit our sports and certainly our athletes and other nations' athletes. It's an important role.

"I'm thankful for the talented people I've worked with through the years. We've done some terrific things in building a medical program based on integrity and respect as well as a vision of the service that must be provided for our athletes...and USSA has the potential to achieve even better things for our athletes," she said.

Freeman 18th in Swedish World Cup
Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) opened his World Cup season with an 18th-place finish in a 15K freestyle race north of the Arctic Circle. will stream video coverage from Gallivare later this week.

Norwegian Ole Einar Bjoerndalen - who left Utah's Soldier Hollow with four biathlon Olympic gold medals in 2002 - stormed through the final stages of the three-lap race to win in 33:05.6. Teammate Tore Ruud Hofstad was second (33:28.9) in the 25-degree fog.

Freeman, starting 61st in the 97-racer field, was second at the 2.3K mark and top-10 into the middle of the race before dropping back in the final lap; his final time was 34:12.4. It was his best performance since last December when the two-time Olympian was 18th in another 15K free World Cup race in Canmore, Alberta. Andrew Johnson (Greensboro, VT) was 58th and Dave Chamberlain (Bethel, ME) was 82nd.

Earlier, Czech Olympic champion Katerina Neumannova won the women's 10K in 24:17.9 with Estonian Kristen Smigun, the Olympic 10K classic gold medalist, runner-up in 24:42.8. Sarah Konrad (Laramie, WY) was 51st while sprint specialist Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK), using the race as a tune-up for her first sprint of the '07 season next week in Kuusamo, Finland, was 63rd.

"Kris is fit, and we said, 'All right, roll it out and let's see what happens' - and he was in there until he slowed in the last two and a half Ks," said Head Coach Pete Vordenberg. "He felt like he was up to it, so he gunned it as long as he could. He's got more to give, as does AJ, but this is the first race of the season...and it's a solid start."

After warm weather Friday, cold returned during the night to harden the 5K loop "and the snow stayed cold all day. It was an icy, misty day but skiing was really good," Vordenberg said. "The terrain is a windy, twisty trail - nothing huge but a lot of climbs."

The men and women have relays scheduled for Sunday and Vordenberg said the U.S. men will have a team while the two women join with the Canadians for a mixed relay foursome. The season continues Nov. 25-26 at the self-styled Nordic Opening in Kuusamo with a sprint and classic technique races, a men's 15K and women's 10K.

World Cup Cross Country to Resume Saturday in Sweden
The cross country World Cup is set to shift into continuous mode this weekend as U.S. athletes arrived above the Arctic Circle Wednesday night.

Live timing will be available online at

The U.S. Ski Team - Olympians Kris Freeman (Andover, NH), Andrew Johnson (Greensboro, VT), Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT), Chris Cook (Rhinelander, WI), Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA), Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK) and Sarah Konrad (Laramie, WY) - have been training for a week in Kiruna, about 100 kilometers further north. "It's been very good training. Llike it's always been, it was cold and dark, but there was good snow. Everyone's healthy, so that's number one," coach Pete Vordenberg said.

Konrad, who is also a member of the U.S. biathlon squad, joins the team as the first U.S. athlete to compete in two Olympic winter sports when she raced cross country and also entered a couple of biathlon events last season. A strong skater, biathlon remains her focus, Vordenberg said, "but anytime she can get away, we'll be happy to have her with us."

The weekend schedule includes short distance races Saturday - men's 15K freestyle and women's 10K - with relays Sunday. The sprint returns during the Nordic Opening weekend Nov. 25-26 in Kuusamo, Finland.

Freeman, Johnson, Randall and Konrad will ski Saturday while the other three men are expected to race the 4x10K relay to give them a "good training workout in race conditions" before Kuusamo, the coach said.

Racing begins each day at 4:30 a.m. ET. For more details, go to

Five Women Named to '07 US Ski Jumping Team
Seven athletes, including five women - led by Lindsey Van and Jessica Jerome (both Park City, UT), the second and third ranked athletes in the world last season - and two men were named to the 2007 U.S. Ski Jumping Team. The women, who are hopeful of seeing their sport accepted into the 2010 Olympics, are the first to be named to the U.S. Ski Jumping Team. Van, Jerome and three other Park City jumpers - Alissa Johnson, Abby Hughes and Brenna Ellis, were named as women's jumping was approved last spring by the FIS as an event in the 2009 World Nordic Ski Championships, a vital step if it is to be added to the 2010 Olympics schedule.

Van, 21, a University of Utah student when she's not training or competing, has been ranked second in the world for the last three seasons. Jerome, 19, a student at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, has been third twice as the Women's Grand Prix became the Continental Cup with the 2005 season. Van and Jerome, the only two athletes to win U.S. women's titles since their championships began in the late 90s, each have won Continental Cup jumping meets and all five women were in the top 15 of the 2006 Continental Cup standings.

"USSA has been a leader in promoting women's jumping naming the first women to the jumping team is a great step forward. It sends the right message to aspiring jumpers and, we feel, it will help further advance the sport in this country and around the world," U.S. Nordic Director Luke Bodensteiner said.

He also pointed out FIS changed its rules during its biennial convention in May, extending the age for junior jumping to 19 for 2007 and to 20 in 2008. "I think we have an excellent chance for medals at Junior Worlds, especially in the team event," Bodensteiner said.

Women's jumping officially was included for the first time in the 2006 Junior Nordic World Ski Championships. It had been a demonstration event for a couple of years; Van was the 2004 bronze medalist.

OUTSIDE Lists Newell Among Top 100 for '06
While he's training in Sweden for the next cross country World Cup races, Olympian Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) - whose podium finish last March in China was the first by an American in World Cup racing since Bill Koch in 1983 - is being celebrated by Outside Magazine for his historic result.

Its December issue salutes "The Outside 100," subtitled "The Year's Most Important People, Ideas, Trends and Gear." Newell comes in at Number 55 with a brief mention of his accomplishment plus a two-page photo spread of him in catching air out of a superpipe at Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

Newell, who turns 23 on Nov. 30, finished third March 15 in Changchung, China, in a freestyle technique sprint race, the first World Cup race in the nation's most populous nation. He has posted top-10 results in three straight sprints - including eighth to open the 2007 season Oct. 28 in Germany, the first time an American has accomplished that feat.

The magazine said simply, "In March, skinny-ski star Andy Newell became the first American in 23 years to bring home a World Cup medal in Nordic skiing." The two-page photo runs on pages 148-149.

"It's a great tribute to what Andy's accomplished, not just in China but in helping re-energize the Ski Team," said head coach Pete Vordenberg. "It's very satisfying to see Andy recognized outside of just the sports media."

Two Trustees Join U.S. Ski And Snowboard Team Foundation
Robert Reynolds and Steve Strandberg have been named trustees of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team Foundation, announced Foundation Vice President Trisha Worthington.

"We are thrilled to add two more outstanding individuals to our Board," said Worthington. "Their business expertise will benefit our organization and they will help increase USSA's presence in two very important markets - Boston and San Francisco."

Reynolds is vice chairman and chief operating officer of Fidelity Investments, the largest mutual fund company in the United States. He also is head of the Fidelity Management Committee and a member of the Board of Directors of FMR Corp. In addition, he serves as a trustee for the Fidelity family of mutual funds and is on the board of Fidelity Investments Canada Limited.

Prior to being named COO in June 2000, Reynolds was president of Fidelity Investments Institutional Retirement Group. He was named to that position in 1996. He was president of Fidelity Institutional Retirement Services Company from 1989-1996, and an executive vice president of Fidelity Management Trust Company from 1984-1989. He joined Fidelity in 1984. Before joining Fidelity, Reynolds was senior vice president of North Carolina National Bank in Charlotte, N.C., from 1977-1984. Reynolds is an avid skier and enjoys the slopes of Jackson Hole, WY.

Strandberg, an active supporter of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, is Managing Director and co-founder of WestBridge Ventures, which started in 1999. Prior to WestBridge, Strandberg was with Merrill Lynch where he was founder and head of the West Coast Technology Investment Banking group, specializing in advising emerging private companies on financing and mergers and acquisitions.

He began his technology investment-banking career with Morgan Stanley and also worked at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. Steve earned his MBA in 1986 from Harvard Business School and his AB in 1978 from the University of Chicago. In 1982 Strandberg co-founded ARAMEX, a transportation logistics company based in Amman, Jordan that serves the Middle East.

Currently, Strandberg is Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco, a trustee of Town School for Boys, a director of the Wood River Land Trust and serves on the visiting committee for the College of the University of Chicago. Strandberg and his wife Diana, who works as an asset manager with Dodge & Cox, have two teenage sons and live in San Francisco.

Read and Resnick Join Team Foundation
Steven Read and Eric Resnick have been named trustees of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team Foundation, announced Foundation Vice President Trisha Worthington. "We are thrilled to add Steven Read and Eric Resnick to our Board," said Worthington. "They are both well respected businessmen and avid skiers. Plus their combined expertise will be an incredible asset to the Foundation's efforts to support the athletes of the U.S. Ski Team and U.S. Snowboarding."

Steven Read is co-founder, co-owner and co-chairman of Grocery Outlet Inc., a retail chain of non-perishable food stores in the Western states, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Texas. Currently, he serves as Partner of Read Investments, specializing in commercial real estate development.

Read also is a Trustee for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the San Francisco Opera, he serves on the Executive Committee of DeYoung Art Museum, is a board member of the Steadman-Hawkins Sports Medicine Foundation and is a former Duke University Trustee.

After attended Boarding School in Switzerland, he moved to Utah to attend the University of Utah on a skiing scholarship. He finished his degree at the University of San Francisco in Economics and French.

An avid skier, Read enjoys golf, fly fishing, and biking. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Mary Ann. The Read's three children all attended Head-Royce School where he is a trustee.

Eric Resnick is the co-founder and managing director of KSL Capital Partners, LLC a $1 billion private equity fund with extensive experience in the ownership and active management of hotel, resort and leisure properties. He is actively involved in managing the fund's business, including fundraising, acquisitions and asset management.

Prior to KSL Capital Partners, he co-founded and was Chief Financial Officer of KSL Management, a resort management company that managed Grand Wailea Resort Spa, Arizona Biltmore Resort Spa, La Quinta Resort Club, La Costa Resort Spa and the Hotel del Coronado. Prior to forming KSL Management in 1994, Resnick was Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of KSL Recreation, joining the company in January 2001. KSL Recreation owned and operated eight of the leading destination resorts in the United States prior to selling the majority of those properties in 2004.

From May 1996 to January 2001, Resnick was an executive with Vail Resorts, where he served as Vice President, strategic planning and investor relations, after having been Corporate Treasurer and servicing in other capacities. Prior to Vail, he was a consultant with McKinsey and Company. He holds a B.A. with distinction in mathematics and economics (phi Beta Kappa) from Cornell University. Resnick serves on the board of KSL Management and Rocketship, a Charter school operator in Northern California. He is married with three children and resides in Cherry Hills Village, Colorado.

Team Assist
Team Assist, a program created to assist cross country ski teams throughout America receive the best ski equipment in a simple and easy fashion, will help teams and local retailers work with leading equipment suppliers to make sure athletes and staff get the gear they need to truly enjoy winter. Teams accepted to this program will gain unparalleled service directly from the leading ski equipment brands and their race service departments. All teams accepted into the program will gain sales access and assistance with: Salomon white glove ski and boot fit, Suunto heart rate monitor Team Packs, Swix team wax box needs, Craft Custom Clothing and much more.

Team Assist will work directly with each Team's coach/administrator, local retailer and their suppliers' race service departments to provide the best pricing, product selection, order fulfillment and service throughout the race season.

To get a Team Assist application, e-mail or call Endurance Enterprises, Inc., (406)582-2660,

Mom-To-Be Sara Renner Targets Podium at Vancouver Games
Olympic silver medalist, Sara Renner, will compete for Canada on the international cross country ski circuit until the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, but her journey towards Vancouver will have a unique and exciting challenge.

The 30-year-old from Canmore, Alta., and husband Thomas Grandi, a four-time Olympian and leader of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team, are expecting their first child in February, 2007.

"My focus has quickly turned from Torino to bambino," said Renner, who married Grandi in the spring of 2003. "It has always been a dream for Thomas and me to start a family together, and we believe given our busy schedules as high-performance athletes, the opportunity for me to take this next year off to have our first child is the best option in order for me to fully prepare to achieve my other dream - to compete for my country in the Olympics at home."

Parent-athletes are a common occurrence on the World Cup cross country ski circuit, with many European women raising children while continuing to excel against the best in the world. Renner's teammate, Milaine Theriault of St. Quentin, N.B., has successfully balanced life as an athlete and mom for the past two years. Theriault returned for her third Olympics in 2006 after taking a year off to give birth to her son.

"I do realize this will be a new challenge, but I'm definitely excited to take on the responsibility," said Renner. "Being close to Milaine and the other women on the World Cup circuit who are moms, I have been able to gain some familiarity on how they are able to focus on training and switch gears to dedicate themselves to their children. I truly believe it will allow me to look at life, and my sport, more in perspective, and I appreciate the support and understanding from my teammates and the staff at Cross Country Canada."

With the retirement of two-time Olympic medalist, Beckie Scott this spring, Renner will be counted on to carry the torch for a young group of athletes that have been making significant progress, and continue to push harder each day in an effort to win more international medals. The senior squad combined to win a total of 16 World Cup and two Olympic medals during the 2005-06 campaign, marking the most successful season in history.

"We are delighted to have Sara continue to be there with us to deliver on her high standards and commitment to excellence over the next four years," said Al Maddox, Executive Director, Cross Country Canada. "Sara is a world-class person both on and off the snow. Our team will continue to benefit from her leadership, and from having a proven international performer at their side as we work together to own the podium in 2010. We wish her and Thomas all the best."


Burke 20th in Snowy Hochfilzen Pursuit
Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, N.Y.), once again finished in the top 20 in the Men's 12.5K Pursuit on December 9 as the first major snowstorm of the season hit this valley in Austria's Tirol region.

Change was in the air before the competitions started. A week of sunny, warm, and dry days gave way to light mist early in the morning, with the weather report calling for ---snow. The arrival of the heavy mist sent conditions from bad to worse during the Women's 10K Pursuit. What was just soft deep snow became slushy. As the men began zeroing, the mist turned to snow, which continued to intensify throughout the competition, dropping almost two inches of very wet snow in less than an hour. Despite this, the typical, boisterous crowds filled the Hochfilzen stadium to cheer on watch the men battle the elements.

Burke started 10th, within striking position of the top three competitors. As the visibility dropped and the tracks deteriorated, he cruised through the first 2.5K, remaining in 10th position. A clean stage moved him up to sixth as he left the stadium. Halfway through that loop, Head US Wax Technician Bernd Eisenbichler radioed that, "Tim is right in the middle of the pack, letting the others do the work. He is in a good position." In the second prone stage, he missed one shot, slipping to 14th position.

Before the first standing stage, Coach Mikael Lofgren commented, "With the wind and the snow, standing is going to be hard today." As Burke set up for the first standing stage, he had to clean the front sight. He reset his position and then snowflakes filled the rear sight. He had two penalties on that stage, falling to 26th position. "I had a horrible range time on that first standing stage. The sights continued to fill with snow and then I lost concentration," Burke said later.

In the final standing stage, he had a single penalty, giving him four for the day. Still he moved up in the standings as several competitors ahead of him missed more shots and fell back.

Burke finished 20th, 3:50.5 behind the now five-for-five Ole Einar Bjorndalen of Norway. Bjorndalen was unchallenged through the 39:50.9 he spent on the tracks. He had two penalties, but still was 2:08.1 of second place Dmitri Iarochenko of Russia at the finish. His Russian teammate Ivan Tcherezov took third, 2:20 back. Iarochenko had two penalties while Tcherezov had one.

Like Bjorndalen, Burke has a streak going, scoring World Cup Points in all five competitions this season. He was philosophical about slipping from 10th yesterday to 20th today. "A week ago, I would have been thrilled with 20th, but after 10th yesterday, I am a bit disappointed. Still, I scored points and showed that I can compete up there."

The other two U.S. Biathletes did not fare as well as Burke. Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, Alaska), finished 36th, with four penalties, the same as Burke. Teela shot clean on the first stage, then followed with single misses, putting him in the mid-20s. On the final standing stage, he had two penalties and dropped out of the top 30, finishing 5:05.5 back.

Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, N.Y.) had nine penalties on the day, with four coming in the first standing stage. This pushed him back to 50th place, 7:00.6 back.

Burke Thrills in First leg of Men's Relay
Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, N.Y.), after two weeks of outstanding performances shocked everyone on December 10 in the Hochfilzen biathlon stadium with an extremely competitive first relay leg, eventually tagging off in fifth position, just 21.7 seconds off the lead.

The sunny warm Hochfilzen was totally transformed into an alpine winter wonderland as over a foot of new snow blanketed the meadows. The pine trees on the mountainside drooped near the ground from the weight of the heavy wet snow. Fresh snow covered the tracks for the first time this season, lessening the burden on the wax technicians and providing acceptable conditions for both relay competitions.

The U.S. Men's Relay team eventually finished 12th, despite Burke's outstanding first leg. Burke's aggressive leg kept him in front of the television cameras for all 22-plus minutes that it took him to complete his 7.5k leg. Throughout the first 2.5K, Burke stayed within striking distance of the leading German, French, and Swiss teams, coming to prone in sixth position. He shot rapidly, knocking down all five targets. According to Coach Mikael Lofgren, "All of Tim's prone shots were excellent today." Burke left the stadium in fourth!

Again, Burke cruised around the tracks, covered with fresh, but wet and in places, glazed snow. Lofgren added, "He is really going easily." In standing, Burke shot aggressively, but needed two extra shots to clean, pushing him back to ninth, about 20 seconds from fifth position. Skiing with the confidence he has shown all season, he passed one, then another. By the final uphill stretch to the exchange, he was in fifth position, 21.7 seconds out of first.

Burke was again beaming in the finish area. "It was fun and exciting out there today. I had some good battles out there. My skis were really good and that made it easier."

Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, N.Y.) took the exchange and kept the U.S. team in at the top of the leader board. He shot clean on prone and maintained fifth position, moving to within 13.4 seconds of first place. In standing, Bailey's legs were visibly shaking as he used all three extra rounds, recording two penalties. This dropped the U.S. men to 12th position, 2:08 off the lead.

Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, Alaska) followed Bailey. Teela needed all three extra rounds in prone and had one penalty. The U.S. team dropped to 15th. Nevertheless, Teela came back with an outstanding standing stage, cleaning very rapidly. He moved the team back to 12th by the exchange with Jay Hakkinen (Kasilof, Alaska). On his standing stage, Teela smiled, saying, "I just did what I had to do out there." Hakkinen needed two extra rounds to clean prone, but was quickly out on the tracks. Hakkinen needed the three extra rounds in standing and had one penalty. Even with the penalty, he brought the U.S. men home in 12th, 4:40.8 behind the Russian team.

The Russian men like the women in the morning, defeated the Germans. Russia needed just three extra rounds, finishing in 1:25:18.4. This left the German team 32.8 seconds back and France in third, 1:03 back.

Sixteen women's teams started the Women's 4 X 6K Relay competition in the morning. Lanny Barnes (Durango, Colo.), after the best U.S. woman's result in al most two years (15th in Ostersund Individual) led off for the U.S. team. She started well, staying about 20 seconds off of the lead coming into prone. Uncharacteristically, she needed all eight shots to clean prone, dropping to the rear of the field. Even with a fast clean standing stage, she did not move up. At the finish, Barnes revealed that she hurt her shoulder on the first uphill, when she tangled her poles in a closely packed group. She related, "I was having trouble shooting prone because of the shoulder."

Tracy Barnes (Durango, Colo.) handled the second leg, cleaning prone, but needing two extra rounds in standing. Despite this, she moved the U.S. up from last position. Denise Teela (Anchorage, Alaska) took over from the Barnes sisters. Teela held the U.S. position, with two extra prone rounds, and a fast clean standing stage.

Sarah Konrad (Laramie, Wyom.) anchored for the women.. Konrad had a good prone stage, using only one extra round to clean. Unfortunately, in standing, she needed all eight rounds and had two penalties; while the Romanian athlete just behind her shot clean, leaving the U.S. women behind.

The U.S. women's team finished in 16th place, with 11 extra rounds and two penalties, 11:15.3 behind Russia. The Russians used only two extra rounds during the competition. Anchoring for the Russian team, Natalia Guseva edged crowd favorite Kati Wilhelm by seven tenths of a second. The pair was together for the final two loops, but Guseva took a five-meter lead on a critical turn near the finish and Wilhelm could not catch her in the finishing straight. The German team had one penalty and seven extra rounds. A young Norwegian Team finished third, 1:50.4 back.

Tim Burke 10th in Hochfilzen Sprint Three U.S. Men in Top 25 for the First Time Ever!
Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY), led teammates Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY, and Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, AK) into U.S. Biathlon history as the trio finished 10th, 18th,and 21st, on Friday, Dec. 8 in the Men's 10K Sprint. This is the first time three U.S. Biathletes finished in the top 25 in the same World Cup competition.

Burke's first words at the finish were, "Four for four!" This was Burke's fourth top 30 in four competitions this season. The 10th place today is another personal best for Burke, topping his 19th place in the 12.5K Pursuit competition in Ostersund, Sweden last Sunday. He was visibly happier today than Sunday when he was "simply "pleased" with his result.

The afternoon Men's 10K Sprint, had conditions that were worse than even the women faced in the morning, when it was already warm and sunny, deteriorating the snow. The plus 15-Celsius temperatures made the snow look more like deep sand than snow for all of the men. The snow on the tracks is a dull ribbon of glacier snow, brought to the venue by the organizers from several of the highest glaciers in Austria, cutting through brown fields of brown grass. The positive part of this situation is that there is snow here at all; the negative is that the tracks are very soft and slow for everyone. U.S. Biathlon Coach Mikael Lofgren commented before the women started at 10:30, "When we started testing skis at 7:30 the tracks were perfect, with a light crust on top, but now the women are sinking down already. By the time the men start, they will sink down to their knees!"

Burke started in 25th position. In prone, he faced a wind that shifted left to right twice. Keeping his calm, he had only one penalty. Even with the penalty, he was close to all of the top men, about 45 seconds behind Michael Greis of Germany who eventually finished second. In the standing stage, the young New Yorker was brilliant, literally drilling the five shots. He left the stadium in 10th and by the finish was in sixth position, after only 25 of 119 men had finished. He lost a few places as the competition progressed, ending up 10th, 1:10.9 behind Norway's Ole Einar Bjorndalen, who now is four for four in the victory category this season. Greis, with one penalty, finished second, 39.2 seconds back, while third today went to Matthias Simmen of Switzerland, with two penalties, was 46.5 seconds back.

Burke's 10th was a mere 2.7 seconds from an eighth place podium finish. Beaming at the finish, he stated, "Today's effort was like a 20K; the snow was so deep. In places, it was up to here (pointing at a spot just blow the knee). I really had to fight in prone with the changing wind. Nevertheless, the standing was very relaxed. They felt good and I just let them fly." Burke was extremely nervous last week starting in the top group, but today he felt differently. "I was totally calm today (starting 25th). After last week, I am fine being up there now."

The story does not end with Burke, as his teammates Bailey and Teela were the perfect supporting cast today. Bailey started near the end of the field at number 96. Like Burke, Bailey missed a single prone shot. Going into the standing stage, he was about 30 seconds behind his friend. With a clean standing stage, he left about 25 seconds behind. With each stride, Bailey was gaining on the field, moving from near 30th position to 18th at the finish, 1:27.1 back. His 18th place was a personal best also, topping his 27th place in the 2006 Olympic 20K Individual competition. "I skied very conservatively on the first two loops, but went for it on the last one. It is good to get my World Champ's qualifier (top 30 finish)." he commented.

With his hard last loop, Bailey overtook teammate Jeremy Teela in the final standings. Teela, an earlier starter finished three places (21st) and 3.3 seconds behind Bailey. Teela shot clean on prone for the first time this season and had a single standing penalty. The staff was pushing him just as hard as his teammates on the tracks, as the split times indicated there was less than 20 seconds between 10th and 30th positions throughout the day. The 21st place was Teela's best result since a 20th place at Ostersund in December 2004. Teela expected more of himself, "I was dead on the last loop. Usually, I can kick better than almost anyone can, but today, I was just hanging on. I felt really slow."

The three U.S. men all had just one penalty each today, leading Bailey to comment, "We all had one penalty-that is super!" Coach Mikael Lofgren added, "That is the way it should be. The three boys were super today." His counterpart, Coach Per Nilsson said, "I told Mikael that I expected we would have at least three in the top 30 today, but this is even better than I imagined. The boys are in a very good position for tomorrow's Pursuit competition." The three top 25 finishes gave the U.S. men fourth place in the Nations Cup score today, another high point for the U.S. program. For the season to date, the U.S. men are in 8th place in those rankings.

Jay Hakkinen (Kasilof, AK) placed 79th today, with two prone penalties, 3:32.2 back. Despite this result, it was a breakthrough day for Hakkinen, as he cleaned standing very fast for the first time this season.

For the three U.S. women in the morning 7.5K Sprint, it was another day of frustration in the soft snow under warm temperatures Lanny Barnes (Durango, CO), had a good start, cleaning prone, which kept her in the top half of the field. In the standing stage, her normally reliable shooting missed the mark three times. On day when the skiing is so hard, every missed target adds to the struggle and she fell rapidly down the standings. She finished 68th, 4:36.7 behind the winner, Andréa Henkel of Germany. This left Barnes 31.5 seconds from making the cut for Saturday's 10K Pursuit. Henkel shot clean today, leaving rising Polish star Magdalena Gwizdon, who also shot clean, 30.6 seconds back. Third went to Yingchao Kong of China, 37.4 seconds back with one penalty. Only two of the top 10 women had more than one penalty today. Lanny's sister Tracy had two prone penalties and another on standing, giving her the same three penalties as her sister. Tracy finished 77th, 5:04.2 back. Sarah Konrad (Laramie, WY), starting at 106, near the end of the field had three penalties on both prone and standing. She finished 89th, 6:01.1 back.

Although none of the U.S. women made the pursuit field, Burke, Bailey and Teela will start, all less than one minute behind the third starter.

Live streaming video coverage of Biathlon World Cup competitions for the remainder of the season is available at

Tim Burke Moves Up with 22nd Place in Men's Sprint
Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, New York), after a personal best 30th place finish in the Men's Individual on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2007, moved up to 22nd place in the Men's 10K Sprint.

The men's competitions enjoyed good conditions, while the women have struggled through two days of soft, slow snow. Perfectly fast conditions allowed Ole Einar Bjorndalen to win his 64th World Cup competition despite two one-minute penalties. On a similar day today after a hard overnight freeze, he won number 65, with one penalty, covering the glistening icy tracks in 24:16.2. The Norwegian again dominated the field, besting clean-shooting Russian Dmitri Iarochenko by 15.5 seconds. German Olympic star Michael Greis, with one penalty followed the Russian by 1.7 seconds.

Tim Burke had much better luck today when he fell before the third shooting stage, breaking his rifle stock, forcing him to use the U.S. Team's spare rifle for two shooting stages. After several hours of woodworking repairs by Coach Mikael Lofgren, Burke had his rifle back the next day for training and the Sprint. "I made it over the whole course (in the Sprint) standing up, nothing was broken, so I consider today a success," he chuckled at the finish.

It was more than just making it through the whole competition for Burke. He picked up another personal best with his 22nd place finish, putting him solidly in the top 30 in the Overall World Cup standings after two competitions.

Burke started at number four, his first time in the first seed group, surrounded by all of the big stars like Bjorndalen, Greis, Poiree and Gross. In the prone stage, the 24-year old Burke had two penalties, well off the mark. "I was pretty nervous starting up at the front today, so I am not surprised those were big misses."

Despite the two penalties, Burke was having another good day, just as in the Individual two days earlier. He shot clean in the standing stage, flying around the ribbon of artificial snow to finish 1:38.8 behind Bjorndalen. On the skiing today, he added, "My skis were really good and I felt good. But it was pretty scary out there, very icy and dangerous." US Coach Mikael Lofgren added, "Tim did a very good job out there today. He still has a lot of room to improve in both his shape and his shooting, as the season goes on."

Burke's two penalties and 22nd place put him ahead of his three teammates, Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, Alaska), Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, New York), and Jay Hakkinen (Kasilof, Alaska), who were battling to make the Sunday's Pursuit field. All there had three penalties. Still everyone took to heart, the words of Head U.S. Wax Technician Bernd Eisenbichler who urged the team last night, "to fight for every second as it will be a very close competition."

Of the three, Teela made the 60-man Pursuit field, in 55th place, 2:33.9 behind Bjorndalen. The usually glib Teela at the finish was pleased to make the Pursuit, but not pleased with his shooting. "I really tried hard to clean prone (shooting very slow and deliberately), but still missed one." When told he missed the two standing shots by about ¼ inch each, he simply frowned.

For Bailey and Hakkinen, the day was pure frustration. The duo missed the Pursuit cut by 5.9 and 6.2 seconds respectively. Bailey placed 64th, 2:49 back with Hakkinen on his heels, 2:49.3 back. The men's field was so tightly packed that both were less than one minute from 30th place and World Cup points.

Lanny Barnes Surprises with 15th Place in Ostersund
Lanny Barnes (Durango, Colo.) finished 15th in the season-opening Women's 15K Individual at the Ostersund World Cup on November 29. Barnes' top-15 finish was a huge step for the U.S. Women's Biathlon Team. This was Barnes' personal best World Cup finish, her first top 30 (World Cup Points scoring result), the best U.S. woman's finish since March 2005 and almost a perfect shooting race as she had but a single shooting penalty. "In my mind, I hit that target before I pulled the trigger. But actually, I squeezed the shot just a split second before I should have." she commented at the finish.

Asked how she compared this season with the Olympic year when she and her twin sister Tracy struggled with a series of illnesses, ending in mononucleosis. "Well, there is actually no comparison; no words can explain how much better I am physically. It also helps that we have such good support from staff and coaches."

With her first World Cup top 15, Barnes, with a single penalty, was only 2:13.5 behind the first time World Cup winner Irina Malgina of Russia. Malgina had two penalties on the day, while second and third finishers Liv Kjersti Eikeland of Norway and Zina Kocher of Canada had one each. They finished 3.6 and 23.3 seconds back. Kocher attributed her first podium result "in a long, long time, to taking the nervousness of the first race which everyone has and embracing it, which made me very relaxed."

If the calendar did not read November 29 in Ostersund, it would have been easy to think that it was March 29. Conditions for this opening competition of the World Cup Biathlon season were spring-like, with light drizzle in the morning giving way to high clouds and steady temperatures all day around plus 5 Celsius, until just before the competition started. Suddenly, the wind picked up, temperatures dropped about three degrees, and there was a brief rain shower. Before the women started, the men had trained on the tracks, leaving visible ruts and tracks in the soft wet snow on every turn and uphill. Under these conditions, a field of 92 women kicked off the 2006-2007 season.

Lanny Barnes was the second US starter at number 63 while her sister, Tracy started at number 44. Neither Tracy, nor Sarah Konrad (Laramie, WY) could match Lanny today. Tracy had four penalties, finishing 68th, 7:09.9 back. Konrad started well with a single penalty in the first stage, but collected eight more in the final three stages, finishing 77th, 9:36.8 back.

After the rain and short-lived windy conditions, the later start time for Lanny was a bonus, as conditions did improve. Both Barnes sisters are excellent shooters and today Lanny was "on her game." She flew through the first three stages of prone, standing, and prone flawlessly, even though one prone hit was a split bullet that fell for her. After three clean stages, the new U.S. coaches Per Nilsson and Mikael Lofgren were visibly nervous, but smiling and confident. Lofgren commented, "I should have the heart monitor now, because my pulse is racing."

Approaching the final stage, Barnes was in sixth position. A clean stage would put her within reach of a podium position. She calmly set up for the final five shots. They fell, one, two, three, four, and then… the penalty, her only shooting error of the day One minute was automatically added to her time, but she still left the stadium in 13th position. The coaches and staff scattered to the tracks to help her over the final 3K loop. She crossed the finish line in 14th, but another later starter eventually finished ahead of her. Smiling, but definitely tired at the finish, she talked about her day. "I am happy to have done so well this early. The skiing is not quite there yet, but it is early."

One of Lanny's goals for the season was to shoot clean (no penalties) in every competition. She almost succeeded, drolly adding, "I guess I still have a bit of work to do on that." Even with "work to do," Lanny Barnes' efforts opened not only a new biathlon season, but led the U.S. women in an exciting new direction.


Olympic cross country ski heroes, Beckie Scott, Sara Renner and Milaine Theriault, will be making tracks across the country to inspire and support young Canadian skiers, and attract new children to the sport at Cross Country Canada's ski tournaments, thanks to a new partnership with Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), the national body announced on Thursday, December 14.

The CPR Ski Tournament is a component of Cross Country Canada's skill development program coined, "Track Attack." The initiative is part of the national framework designed to support and foster the development of cross country skiers in Canada. Established in 2005 with a plan leading to 2010, the ski tournaments are a one-day festival of ski relays, sprints and special activities that encourage participation in a fun environment.

"Holding these children's ski tournaments is crucial, and an advantageous tool for Cross Country Canada to introduce new children to the sport, and motivate the next generation of world-class athletes," said Al Maddox, executive director, Cross Country Canada, who added that more than 3,000 youth from 25 selected clubs across the country participated in the program last year. "The support of CPR has enabled us to add a significant component to six tournament events by including the presence of an Olympic role model."

Three-time Olympians Scott, Renner and Theriault will each participate in two of the six selected events across the country. The Olympic athletes will provide an impetus for greater sport development through on-snow training, coaching, and autograph signings, while providing support, guidance and experienced advice. Scott and Theriault retired from the sport this spring, while Renner is taking the year off from competitive racing to have a baby.

"This is an exciting, new program that will have a direct contribution to attracting and developing new talent for Canada in a sport in which we have demonstrated great success," said Paul Clark, vice-president, communications & public affairs, CPR. "Our employees are proud to be associated with athletes of the reputation and caliber of Beckie, Milaine and Sara, who have demonstrated the values and ethics that make our country great."

In addition to the on-snow participation, the Olympic athletes are also committed to an evening fundraising event that reaches the broader cross country ski community in each host location. Proceeds from the fundraiser will be shared by the host club, and Right to Play - an athlete-driven international humanitarian organization that uses sport and play as a tool for the development of children and youth in the most disadvantaged areas of the world.

"Having new opportunities to pursue excellence through sport will change the lives of aspiring Olympians in every corner of this country," said Beckie Scott, who is an athlete ambassador for Right to Play. "This much-needed funding will enhance the ski tournament programs, and give young children from different regions of the country the ability to interact with Olympic role models."

To launch CPR's involvement in the ski tournament program, Scott and her teammates joined dozens of young aspiring athletes from the Foothills Nordic Ski Club in Calgary on the world's longest ski train in an attempt to set a new Guinness world record. The special 108-meter long skis, propelled by 108 skiers over 100 meters, were provided in cooperation with the Keskinada World Loppet and the Norwegian Embassy.

Cross Country Canada will send the exploit to the Guinness Book of World Records for consideration. The existing record for longest skis made measures 104.8 meters, and were worn by 101 ski instructors in Selva Gardena, Italy.

Devon Kershaw and George Grey continue to progress their way up the international cross country skiing leader boards around the world. The Canadian duo finished 22nd and 37th respectively in one of the most punishing events on the World Cup circuit - the men's 30-kilometer mass start skate event in La Clusaz, France on Saturday, December 16.

The world has taken notice of the feisty Kershaw, who is quickly developing into one of the top all-round skiers produced out of Canada. The Sudbury, Ont. native, who became the first Canadian male to win a World Cup cross country skiing medal last year in more than a decade, has consistently skied with the top of the pack in both short and long-distance races throughout the young season.

Kershaw maintained pace with the frontrunners down the monstrous Nordic highways in France, which included steep and torturing climbs with long, winding downhills, crossing the line with a time of one hour 18 minutes 26.1 seconds.

"I was really upset about my race earlier this week so I came in with zero expectations and wanted to see what would happen. I had one of my top races of the year," said Kershaw, who is four days removed from his 24th birthday. "For me the 30 kilometer races are absolutely grueling and I needed an extra five kilometers in my legs today. You have to be skillful and calm, and not make a move that is going to be a wasted move. There is so much going on around for such a long period of time that it can be mentally draining and you have to stay sharp."

The talented Canuck was able to tactfully pick his way into the lead pack after a blistering start for each of the 80 athletes entered in the field, far removed from the sedate openings more common to the 30-kilometer marathons.

"I started in row 11 of the mass start so I had to wade my way through quite a few people," said Kershaw. "It is hard starting that far back. It is so chaotic and there is always people falling, and poles snapping, so you have to try not to waste too much energy in the start, but to see the people in front and search your way through the holes that are available."

Kershaw's teammate, George Grey, is also starting to find his groove on the World Cup. The 27-year-old Rossland, B.C. native, who is coming off his best ever World Cup result in Europe earlier this week, finished just under three minutes behind the leader in 37th (1:20:05.2).

"George would have wanted a better result today, but it is great to see him getting back into top racing form this week," said Kershaw. "It is so important to be out here with George. We tend to feed off each other and build confidence from one another. Each race is so tight, and it is easy to get discouraged, so I think it is a big advantage being able to compete on the World Cup with one of your best buddies at your side."

Germany's Tobias Angerer won a dramatic dash to the finish line that saw the top 17 skiers within 45 seconds of the lead. One of the strongest skiers on the World Cup circuit, Angerer reclaimed his stride in France after claiming the gold medal with a time of 1:17:11.8. The German edged out Russia's Alexander Legkov (1:17:12.4) and Eugeni Dementiev (1:17:12.6), who finished second and third respectively in a thrilling chase for the line that had the top-three skiers all within fractions of a second of each other.

Meanwhile, Virpi Kuitunen continued her superb start to the season with her first-ever freestyle World Cup victory in the women's 15-kilometer mass start race in France. The World Cup point's leader powered her way to the finish with a time of 42:08.8. Kuitunen's teammate Riitta Liisa Roponen was second (42:09.1), while Italy's Arianna Follis was third at 42:09.5.

Canada's Olympic gold medalist, Chandra Crawford, of Canmore, Alta., and Dasha Gaiazova, of Montreal, did not start the race. Crawford traveled to Germany for a sprint race, while Gaiazova is resting with a sore throat.

Olympians Renner and Grandi Go Carbon Neutral to Fight Global Warming
Concerned about the future of their sports - as well as the future of their family and the environment - Olympic medalist cross country skier Sara Renner and partner, double World Cup winner Thomas Grandi are going carbon neutral, shrinking their environmental impact and offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions they produce.

"Play it cool" is a new initiative by the David Suzuki Foundation to get winter athletes to help combat global warming and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. "Global warming threatens the winter sports we love and that help define us as a nation," says Thomas Grandi. "If we continue business as usual, we're going to lose that cultural identity and all the recreational opportunities that go with it."

A recent United Nations report warns that downhill skiing could disappear completely at some resorts by 2030. The National Science Foundation reported last February that recent studies showed some mountain ranges in Europe and the Western United States have experienced decreases of 50 to 75 per cent in snowfall amounts in recent decades. "As winter athletes, we have much to lose from global warming, but so do all Canadians, especially our children," says Sara Renner. "Being a winter athlete might end up being a real luxury - if it's even possible."

While some places in North America have had early and heavy snow this year, there are more persistent, longer-term troubling trends threatening winter sports. This year on the World Cup alpine circuit, warmer-than-average temperatures in the Alps have led to repeated race cancellations due to lack of snow.

That's why Renner and Grandi are going carbon neutral and talking to their teammates and other athletes about doing the same. They bike rather than driving in their hometown of Canmore, Alberta. For emissions they don't directly control, such as those produced by air travel and hotel accommodations on the road, they neutralize by purchasing high-quality carbon offsets.

Grandi is also donating half his World Cup winnings this season to the David Suzuki Foundation. "It's an issue that hits close to home because we are winter athletes. But it encompasses more than just sports," Renner says. "It's the environment we all share and depend on."

"Sara and Thomas are taking bold steps and concrete action to do something about one of Canada's biggest challenges - global warming," says Dr. David Suzuki. "Winter sports are a big part of our country and our culture. We hope Sara and Thomas's example can lead other athletes to help protect their winter sports." For further information, please contact: David Suzuki Foundation at (604)961-9591.

Altitude was not a factor for Canada's Amanda Ammar, who skied a smart race to take the gold in the U.S. Super Tour Sprint in Sun Valley.

Conserving energy was the strategy of the day, according to the advice Ammar received from teammate and Olympic silver medalist Sara Renner. She did just that, waiting for the right moment to punch up the effort and take the lead.

"I haven't done a five kilometer classic in a long time so I was really excited for today's race," said Ammar. "Because we were so high up, I focused on skiing smooth and saving my energy for the uphill section."

American Caitlin Compton managed to hold off Tasha Betcherman of Canmore, Alta. by just two seconds, giving them the silver and bronze medals. Other Canadians in the top-15 included: Madeleine Williams who narrowly missed the podium, finishing in fourth place (15:03.7); Edmonton's Tara Whitten was eighth in 15:25.9; and Perianne Jones, of Ottawa, Ont. who stopped the clock in 15:39.4, good enough for 13th place.

The men followed suit, dominating the top-10 with seven spots going to Canadians. Drew Goldsack of Red Deer, Alta. led his teammates to the finish line, just 17 seconds back of the winner, Kris Freeman of the U.S.

"I was really pleased with my result today," said Goldsack. "Kris Freeman has been in the top-30 on the World Cup circuit, so to be that close to him is definitely an encouraging result."

The Super Tour continues in Sun Valley, Sunday with a 15 kilometer classic competition for the women and a 30-kilometer classic race for the men.

After days of seeking snow and international racing in Europe, the Canadian Cross Country Ski Team hopped in the team van for a two-hour ride from Davos to Olten, Switzerland to test their luck against a strong field in a CO-OP City Sprint under the lights Thursday night.

Dashing literally from the van to the start line, the strategy paid off. Devon Kershaw of Sudbury, Ont., sprinted his way into the silver medal position on the podium, while Chandra Crawford of Canmore, Alta., won the women's B-final to settle for fifth spot.

"It is not ideal to jump into a race right out of the van, but we did what we had to do and it was great to get right back into racing after a long lay off," said Kershaw, who added the team found out about the race during yesterday's training session in Davos. "There is no snow in Europe and we've been struggling to find places to race, which is so important to stay in the mental game. I'm happy we came and it was a great night."

On a course made entirely of man-made snow, the 400-metre track looped through the downtown streets of Olten. Mounds of snow were brought in to stage the race that featured Olympians and World Cup athletes from Germany, France, Switzerland and Canada, while the roadways were lined with thousands of people dancing to the music and gobbling bratwurst in the true international festival.

"We need to take this approach to staging ski races in Canada," said Olympic gold medalist, Chandra Crawford. "The music is pumping, people are having a party and just enjoying being part of the event. It is such a great atmosphere and so much fun. Racing in this atmosphere makes it so enjoyable."

Crawford, who won her Olympic gold in a skate sprint race, has been focusing on working on her classic sprint technique, distance skiing during training sessions over the last couple of weeks despite the lack of snow.

"It's tough to stay focused out here with the dry and tough conditions, but the team has really stuck together, and Dave Wood has done a fabulous job in sourcing places for us to ski and train," said Crawford."

With cancellations and postponements of European World Cup races being commonplace for this season, teams have had to search for alternate training and racing outlets until the snow conditions improve.

The Canadian squad will be back in action on the World Cup circuit Wednesday, December 13, 2006.

Results can be found on the following links:>

Canadian Nordic Skier Devon Kershaw Scores Historic Finish in Opening Race of World Cup Season
Canada's Devon Kershaw took a deep breath, convinced himself to finally relax and welcomed the cold and hard conditions in Swedish Lapland to post a 15th-place finish in the men's 15-kilometer freestyle race in the opening World Cup event of season for the Canadian squad in Gaellivare, Sweden on Saturday.

The performance by the Sudbury, Ont. native marks the best-ever finish for a Canadian male in more than 10 years in a distance event as another chapter in the freshly cracked history book for the young 23-year-old Canuck. Following the 2006 Olympic Games, Kershaw began turning heads on the international circuit when he won Canada's first-ever medal in a World Cup sprint event, capturing the bronze.

"This was such an awesome day for me," said Kershaw, who skated his way around the Swedish track in a time of 34 minutes 7.2 seconds. "It was so tight today throughout the entire pack, and I just wanted to fight for ever second and focus on what I can control. I did it and I'm very happy with this early-season start."

Filled with energy and youthful enthusiasm for the sport and life, Kershaw has struggled to remain calm in races. But today, he kept his focus on little pieces of the race, and every stride, rather than getting worked up and thinking about the challenges he faced ahead in addition to racing against the best Nordic skiers in the world.

"I'm not the most relaxed guy in the world so it is hard for me to calm down and focus on the moment, but I just chilled out and was able to put it all together," said Kershaw, who said he was aiming to break into the top-30 regularly. "I know it's early, but I hope our team can carry some momentum from this result and continue to compete for the top."

The performance was definitely a breakthrough for Canada's most promising men's skier since Pierre Harvey. Known more for his sprinting and classic skiing skills, the result is proof Kershaw is evolving into an all-round skier.

"I think Devon had a psychological barrier that he couldn't skate well in these races, but I think with his exceptional performance today he'll be able to get over that now," said Dave Wood, head coach, Canadian Cross Country Ski Team. "He is in great shape, has been training very hard and is now applying himself effectively in all disciplines."

Kershaw was chasing the frontrunners, led by five-time Olympic gold medalist and biathlon specialist, Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, of Norway, who blew away the cream of the crop on the World Cup with a stunning performance, crossing the line with a time of 33:05.6. Bjoerndalen's teammate, Tore Ruud Hofstad captured the silver medal with a time of 33:28.9, while Germany's Franz Goering rounded out the top-three at 33:35.8.

George Grey, of Rossland, B.C., was the only other Canadian in the men's field, and finished 49th (34:07.2).

Two Canadians also suited up in the women's 10-kilometer skate race. Montreal's Dasha Gaiazova was the first maple leaf-clad female to cross the line, stopping the clock at 27:20.9 and 71st spot. Olympic gold medalist, Chandra Crawford, of Canmore, Alta., was in 82nd (27:59.5).

Katerina Neumannova, of the Czech Republic, dominated the women's race, destroying the field with a time of 24:17.9. Estonia's Kristina Smigun trailed in a distant second, nearly 25 seconds back at 24:42.8, while defending overall World Cup titleholder, Marit Bjoergen, of Norway, crossed the line third after a gutsy effort to post a time of 24:51.4.

For complete results:

Top-5 Men:
1.Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, NOR, 33:05.6; 2. Tore Ruud Hofstad, NOR, 33:28.9; 3. Franz Goering, GER, 33:35.8; 4. Lukas Bauer, CZE, 33:38.6; 5. Lars Berger, NOR, 33:38.7.

Top-5 Women:
1. Katerina Neumannova, CZE, 24:17.9; 2. Kristina Smigun, EST, 24:42.8; 3. Marit Bjoergen, NOR, 24:51.4; 4. Valentina Shevchenko, UKR, 24:54.8; 5. Vibeke Skofterud, NOR, 24:55.2.

Alberta Government Steps Up Funding for Olympic Legacy
The Alberta government has committed $69 million towards athletic facilities that will strengthen Alberta's role as a centre of winter sport excellence.

The funding represents 25 per cent of the total $276 million cost of the Calgary Olympic Development Association's (CODA) proposed project. It also supports the Own the Podium program, which is designed to place Canada at the top of the medal standings for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver-Whistler.

"If we want our athletes to be the best, we need to give them the best facilities to train and compete at," said Denis Ducharme, Minister of Community Development. "This government made a commitment to continue Alberta's Olympic legacy so our next generation of athletes could reap the benefits. With our strong fiscal outlook, the province is now able to follow through on this commitment and be the first partner to contribute to CODA's vision of Alberta as a world leader in winter sport development."

CODA's project includes upgrades to existing facilities as well as a new athletic and ice complex, which will house Hockey Canada. The project will address natural building lifecycle pressures and major changes to sport training technology and international event hosting requirements. The project will also provide recreational opportunities to Albertans through the CODA venues.

"The $69 million provided by the Alberta government towards the planned $276 million rejuvenation of our unique Winter Olympic legacy allows CODA to begin developing the first Centre of Sport Excellence in Canada," said Bob Nicolay, president and chief executive officer, CODA. "The Alberta government just delivered more Olympic medals to Canada, and CODA is fully committed to raising the additional money required to give athletes the facilities and services required to be the best in the word."

The Alberta government has already shown its support to renew the 1988 Winter Olympic legacies by providing $25.6 million to renew the Canmore Nordic Centre and $600,000 to upgrade the ski jump facility at Canada Olympic Park. It also provided more than $91,000 to purchase new safety fencing at Nakiska Ski Resort to address the safety needs of high performance athletes training there.

The funding commitment also supports the Alberta-British Columbia Memorandum of Understanding on the Sharing of Olympic Training and Competition Facilities. The agreement strengthens access to training and competition facilities and programs for athletes, coaches and officials in targeted summer and winter sports, as well as promoting sport tourism in each province.

Canadian National Team Announced
With Beckie Scott's retirement, and Sara Renner taking the year off to have her first baby, Olympic gold medalist, Chandra Crawford, of Canmore, Alta., and World Cup bronze medalist, Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., will be counted on to lead the way for the young Canucks. Crawford shocked the world by winning gold in Torino in the sprint event, just days after winning her first World Cup medal last season. Following the Olympics, Kershaw became the first Canadian male in 15 years to medal in a World Cup event.

The Canadian trail extends far beyond the two young Canucks. Building off Kershaw's breakthrough performance, Canada will field a national men's team loaded with depth and potential after making its first international mark against the world's top skiers last year. Other members of the team include: George Grey of Rossland, B.C., who had a remarkable result in the men's 15 kilometer individual start race in Canmore, Alta. last December where he finished 16th, the best distance result for a Canadian-born male in more than a decade; Chris Jeffries of Chelsea, Que.; Sean Crooks of Thunder Bay, Ont.; Drew Goldsack of Red Deer, Alta.; Phil Widmer of Banff, Alta.; Dan Roycroft of Port Sydney; Ont.; David Nighbor of North Bay, Ont.; and Graham Nishikiwa of Whitehorse, YK.

Brian McKeever, of Canmore, Alta., who has dominated the international disabled cross country ski circuit over the last five years, will lead the ParaNordic team towards Vancouver. Arguably the most successful disabled cross country skier in the world, McKeever claimed four Paralympic medals in 2006.

A quartet of athletes will join Crawford on the women's team this year. Amanda Ammar, of Onoway, Alta., who also made her Olympic debut in Torino, will continue to match strides with the best in the world. Rounding out the women's team is Montreal's Dasha Gaiazova, Perianne Jones of Almonte, Ont.; and Madeleine Williams of Edmonton.

"This is a unique group of athletes that has been making significant progress, and has demonstrated the ability to maintain Canada's position on the podium in international cross country skiing," said Dave Wood, Head Coach, Canadian Cross Country Ski Team. "Our young team has had a taste of success, and now knows what it takes to win. We are committed to working together to improve on our team's Olympic medal count in four years. It promises to be an exciting journey."

New Era of Cross Country Skiers to Benefit from CODA's $2 Million Expansion of Canmore Training Centre
Canada's elite Nordic athletes will begin to cut their final tracks down the road to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver with additional training resources, thanks to a $2 million investment by CODA that will expand the Bill Warren Training Centre, allowing for technologically advanced training facilities and support services in Canmore.

CODA's financial injection will expand the existing Bill Warren Training Centre by more than 6,000 square feet, which will significantly enhance weight training and aerobic facilities, laboratory testing space and offices for coaches and support staff, while adding a video analysis room.

"CODA is committed to providing Canada's athletes with the premier training facilities they need to win in 2010 and beyond," said Bob Nicolay, president and chief executive officer, CODA, whose organization has been moving forward with construction of the nation's first Centre of Sport Excellence. "This investment complements the more than $30 million the Government of Alberta recently spent to modernize the Canmore Nordic Centre to current world-caliber standards, and will ultimately put more Canadians on the international podium in the sports of cross country skiing and biathlon."

The Canmore Nordic Centre is core to CODA's plan to develop the Centre of Sport Excellence in Alberta. The national body also announced construction of five new world-leading facilities at Calgary's Canada Olympic Park for the sports of snowboarding, freestyle and alpine skiing, and ski jumping.

CODA has also played a key role in the development of Canada's cross country skiers, along with other high-performance winter sport athletes who call Canmore home, by operating facilities at the Bill Warren Training Centre since 1994, and the Beckie Scott High-Performance Training Centre on Haig Glacier.


The holiday break could not come at a better time for Canada's Zina Kocher, who has been on a whirlwind tour since the 2006 World Cup biathlon season began.

Kocher, of Red Deer, Alta. who won her first World Cup medal three weeks ago in Sweden, and has consistently finished among the world's best throughout the first half of the season, was less than satisfied with her performance in the last race before the holidays, missing two targets in the women's sprint event.

The 24-year-old completed the race in 24 minutes 23.6 seconds, resulting in a disappointing 34th-place finish.

"It was a really frustrating day," said Kocher. "Conditions were perfect for shooting clean, but the targets just weren't going down for me. That's biathlon though, sometimes it's there and sometimes it's not."

Sweden's Anna Carin Olofsson was a force to be reckoned with, capturing her first win of the season and effectively ending the three-race winning streak of Germany's Andrea Henkel. Shooting flawlessly on the range, Olofsson stopped the clock at 22:6.9, a full 32 seconds ahead of Sandrine Bailly, of France, who won the silver medal. Henkel had one miss on the range, and settled for third spot, +41.6 behind Olofsson.

"Today's race really belonged to the best skiers," said a frustrated Kocher. "Because so many of the top racers shot perfectly on the range, it made it really tough for a good result if you had any misses."

Other Canadians in the race included: Sandra Keith, of Calgary in 73rd (+3:51.6), and Marie-Pierre Parent, of St-Paul de Joliette, Que. was 83rd (+4:26.1).

The next generation of Canada's top biathletes were also in action on Friday, December 15. In men's Europa Cup competition, Marc-André Bédard got an early Christmas present, turning in his best result of the season with a sixth-place finish, in the men's 10-kilometer sprint event.

Narrowly missing the podium, the Quebec native shot flawlessly on the range to complete the race in 26:29.4, just 25.5 seconds behind the winner, Christoph Stephan of Germany. Teammate Sebastian Berthod claimed the silver medal, 12.7 seconds behind Stephan, while Austria's Julian Eberhard was third, 14 seconds out.

Maxime Lebouef, of Val Belair, Que. who posted his best result of the season just a week ago, was 25th on the day, just under two minutes behind the leader.

The holiday break could not come at a better time for Canada’s Zina Kocher, who has been on a whirlwind tour since the 2006 World Cup biathlon season began.

Kocher, of Red Deer, Alta. who won her first World Cup medal three weeks ago in Sweden, and has consistently finished among the world’s best throughout the first half of the season, was less than satisfied with her performance in the last race before the holidays, missing two targets in the women’s sprint event.

The 24-year-old completed the race in 24 minutes 23.6 seconds, resulting in a disappointing 34th- place finish.

“It was a really frustrating day,” said Kocher. “Conditions were perfect for shooting clean, but the targets just weren’t going down for me. That’s biathlon though, sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s not.”

Sweden’s Anna Carin Olofsson was a force to be reckoned with, capturing her first win of the season and effectively ending the three-race winning streak of Germany’s Andrea Henkel. Shooting flawlessly on the range, Olofsson stopped the clock at 22:6.9, a full 32 seconds ahead of Sandrine Bailly, of France, who won the silver medal. Henkel had one miss on the range, and settled for third spot, +41.6 behind Olofsson.

“Today’s race really belonged to the best skiers,” said a frustrated Kocher. “Because so many of the top racers shot perfectly on the range, it made it really tough for a good result if you had any misses.”

Other Canadians in the race included: Sandra Keith, of Calgary in 73rd (+3:51.6), and Marie-Pierre Parent, of St-Paul de Joliette, Que. was 83rd (+4:26.1).

Canada’s World Cup team will not be competing in the team relay and will head to Italy for a week of training before the holiday break.

The next generation of Canada’s top biathletes were also in action on Friday (Dec. 14). In men’s Europa Cup competition, Marc-André Bédard got an early Christmas present, turning in his best result of the season with a sixth-place finish, in the men’s 10-kilometer sprint event.

Narrowly missing the podium, the Quebec native shot flawlessly on the range to complete the race in 26:29.4, just 25.5 seconds behind the winner, Christoph Stephan of Germany. Teammate Sebastian Berthod claimed the silver medal, +12.7 seconds behind Stephan, while Austria’s Julian Eberhard was third +14 seconds out.

Maxime Lebouef, of Val Belair, Que. who posted his best result of the season just a week ago, was 25th on the day, just under two minutes behind the leader.

For complete results:

Canada's George Grey found some new life in his skis to post his best finish ever result at a European World Cup event when he finished in 25th spot in Congne/Val d'Aosta, Italy on Wednesday, Dec. 13.

The 27-year-old Rossland, B.C. native, who has been struggling during early-season races on the World Cup, discovered some extra energy in his body to finish the men's 15-kilometer classic race with a time of 39 minutes 46.0 seconds on good hard-packed conditions.

"I felt so much better today than I have all season, and this will definitely be a confidence booster," said Grey, whose best finish on the World Cup was a 19th-place result in Canmore, Alta., one year ago. "I was in a bit of a hole for the last four races, but I tried to refocus and reinforce the things that are sometimes stored away in the back of your head and forgotten about. Today I was finally back racing against everyone else rather than the pains in my body."

Grey and his Canadian teammates have been off the top international racing circuit for the better part of two weeks due to unseasonably warm and dry conditions that have been plaguing Europe's winter sport scene. As a result, the Canadian squad has traded its snow skis for roller skis, and has resorted to numerous summer training mechanisms.

"It has been a landmark year for training and competition over here. We've even been hiking up mountains," said Grey. "It is a little frustrating, but everyone is in the same boat and we've just had to adjust."

Norway's Eldar Roenning won the men's race with a time of 39:05.0, while his teammate, Tor Arne Hetland finished second at 39:08.6. Russia's Eugeni Dementiev grabbed the bronze medal after crossing the line with a time of 39:10.4


Meanwhile, it was Finland's Virpi Kuitunen who captured the gold medal in the women's 10-kilometer classic event with a time of 26:44.5. Slovakia's Petra Majdic was second at 27:16.6, while Finland's Aino Kaisa Saarinen was third (27:34.7).

Two other Canadians also hit the start line in Italy on Wednesday. Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., finished 67th (40:52.8), while Chandra Crawford, of Canmore, Alta., was 64th at 31:08.3.

Canada's Megan Imrie led the Canuck charge through heavy snow and a difficult track to a 14th place finish in the Europa Cup women's sprint event.

Imrie, a native of Falcon Lake, Manitoba, moved to Canmore just over a year ago to train at the newly upgraded Canmore Nordic Centre.

"I decided to use the conditions to my advantage today," said Imrie. "I was confident that the training I did in the off-season was going to help me handle the challenging conditions.

Shooting eight out of 10 on the range, the 20-year-old Junior National Team member skied a strong race, coming in just one minute 16.5 seconds behind leader Jenny Alder of Germany, who crossed the line in 23:06.3.

"I shot really well on the range and I am sitting in a great position, just over a minute behind the leader, going into the pursuit."

Other Canadians in the women's race included Claude Godbout of Quebec, who finished 38th +3.21.2 behind the leader. Winnipeg's Cynthia Clark was 48th (+3:59.5), and Audrey Attali rounded out the Canadian women's squad in 62nd, just over five minutes behind Alder.

On the men's side, it was a complete German sweep of the top five positions. Simon Schempp has the lead over teammate Christoph Stephan by just over 10 seconds, completing the narrow course in 27:29.2.

Two Canadians found their way into the top-30. Maxime Leboeuf, of Val Belair, Que. was top Canuck in 27th stopping the clock +2:35.2 behind Schempp. Fellow Quebecor, Marc-Andre Bedard was 30th(+2:42.5). Just missing the top-30, Brendan Green of Hay River, NT. was 32nd only seven seconds behind his teammate Bedard.

Canada's Zina Kocher continues to solidify her position as one of the top biathletes in the world after the 24-year-old finished 14th, and a personal best result, in the 10-kilometer women's pursuit race in Hochfilzen, Austria on December 9.

Starting more than a minute behind the leader following a sixth-place performance in Friday's December 8 sprint race, the Red Deer, Alta. native, made her way into the top 15 after losing nearly three more minutes off the leading pace in heavy rain and icy conditions on a barren track in Europe. Kocher finished three minutes 51.5 seconds behind Germany's Andrea Henkel, who was first to cross the finish line.

"I'm satisfied with my result despite the conditions because it wasn't easy out there," said Kocher. "I know it is not excellent, but it is a personal best. I find the pursuit races a little more difficult to concentrate because there is so much going on and many distractions, whereas in the individual races I can just focus on my own pace. It is something I need to work on getting more comfortable with."

The women's pursuit discipline has the fastest 60 athletes from Friday's sprint. Athletes start according to their time behind the sprint leader. Each athlete skis a two-kilometer track five times, while hitting the shooting range between each lap. Shooting consists of a combination of two prone and two standing. Kocher missed five out of her 20 shots on the range.

"The leader only missed one shot so that was the difference. I think if I could have even shot 90 percent I would have been right there," said Kocher, who has quickly made her way into the pack with the world's elite this year after claiming the nation's first World Cup biathlon medal in more than a decade. "I skied really well today, and I really picked it up in the final lap so I'm happy despite the shooting."

Andrea Henkel took advantage of her 30 second lead from Friday's sprint victory to cruise to her second gold medal in as many days with a time of 32:29.28. The 28-year-old German hit 19 of her 20 targets which helped distance herself from her closest rivals, Norway's Linda Grubben and Sweden's Anna Carin Olofsson, who battled it out for the silver medal position on the final lap. Grubben won the dash for silver, finishing 37.4 seconds behind Henkel, while Olofsson settled for third, 39.9 seconds off the mark.

Calgary's Sandra Keith was the only other Canadian to hit the start line in women's action. The 26-year-old settled for 45th spot more than seven minutes behind the gold-medal time.

Meanwhile, nobody has yet been able to stop Ole Einar Bjoerndalen from taking the top step of the podium in the men's World Cup. The Norwegian claimed his fifth straight victory on Saturday in the 12.5-kilometre pursuit race after dominating the field with a time of 39:50.91. Russia's Dmitri Iarochenko was his next closest competitor, crossing the line in second spot, 2:08.1 later. Iarochenko's teammate, Ivan Tcherezov, was third +2:20.0.

David Leoni, of Camrose, Alta., finished as the top Canuck in the men's pursuit race. Leoni crossed the line in 51st spot, 7:37.0 behind Einar Bjoerndalen. Ottawa's Robin Clegg also qualified for the Austrian pursuit, but did not finish.

Nearly two weeks after her bronze-medal performance, Zina Kocher, of Red Deer, Alta., is continuing to prove she can race with the world's best, after sprinting her way into a sixth-place finish at the Biathlon World Cup in Hochfilzen, Austria on Friday, December 8.

With just one miss on the range, the 24-year-old Kocher skied her strongest sprint race of the young season, stopping the clock just over one minute behind winner Andrea Henkel of Germany, who finished with a time of 24 minutes 22.6 seconds.

"I skied really well today, and if I would have shot clean on the range I think I would have been on the podium," said Kocher. "Winning the bronze medal a few weeks ago has given me the confidence I needed to know that I can be in the top-10 consistently, and start to be a medal threat."

The result is key to setting up another strong performance in Saturday's pursuit race, which Kocher will start just over a minute behind the frontrunners.

"I am sitting in a really good position not far behind the leader. If I ski well again, and also have a good day shooting, then hopefully I'll be right in there with the leaders and post another great result."

Two other Canadians also posted their best results of the season. Ottawa's Robin Clegg finished in 27th spot, while Calgary's Sandra Keith finished 37th. Clegg completed the men's 10-kilometer sprint just 1:39.7 behind Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndale, who clinched his fourth World Cup title in a row with a time of 26:27.9. Keith crossed the line in the 7.5-kilometre women's sprint 2:59.9 behind the frontrunner.

Kocher's results, and those of her teammates, are an affirmation that Biathlon Canada is making strides in the right direction as Vancouver 2010 approaches.

"Through the support of Own The Podium over the past two years, we have been able to augment our coaching and sport science team to provide the athletes with an even greater level of service than we have been able to do in previous years," said Joanne Thomson, executive director, Biathlon Canada. "This detailed attention to the athletes' training programs is proving successful with the improved results that we are starting to see across the board. Ongoing support from Own The Podium over the next three years will only serve to augment further, the gains that Canadian biathletes can make in the sport at the international level."

Joining Henkel on the women's podium was Magdalena Gwizdon, of Poland, (+30.6), while China's Yingchao Kong was 37.4 seconds back in third. The men's podium also included Germany's Michael Greis, who finished 39.2 seconds behind Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, while Switzerland's Matthias Simmen was third just 46.5 seconds off the pace.

Other Canadian results included: Marie-Pierre Parent, of St-Paul de Joliette, Que., in 70th (+ 4:44.9), while on the men's side, David Leoni, of Camrose, Alta., finished 55th (+ 2:32.6), and Jean Phillippe Leguellec, of Shannon, Que., was 100th (+5:34.3).

For more information on Biathlon Canada, please visit their Web site at

It wasn't a podium finish, but Canada's Zina Kocher turned in a solid top-30 performance in the women's 7.5- sprint at the Biathlon World Cup in Östersund, Sweden on Friday, Dec. 1, 2006.

Despite three misses on the shooting range, the Red Deer, Alta. native powered her way into the top 30, nearly two minutes off the leading pace 26 minutes 03.0 seconds, thanks to an improved performance on her skis.

"My skiing went really well today," said Zocher. "In the past, with three misses on the shooting range, I never would have made it into the top-30. It is really encouraging to know that my skiing has improved so much. If I can shoot a bit more consistently, then I believe I have what it takes to start hitting the podium regularly this season."

Kocher fulfilled a life-long dream on Tuesday, November 28, bringing home a bronze medal for Canada in the season-opening women's 15-kilometer individual Biathlon World Cup. It was the first Canadian biathlon medal in nearly 12 years.

"Winning the bronze medal on Tuesday took a lot of out me," said Kocher, who will soon turn 24. "It was such an emotional day. Although I did not crack the top 10 today, I am satisfied with my race, and I have a good chance of moving up in the 10 km pursuit."

Meanwhile, it was Poland's Magdalena Gwidzon, who was perfect on the shooting range, crossed the line first with a time of 24:05.0 seconds.

Germany's Kati Wilhelm was second in 24:26.4, while teammate Martina Glagow rapped up third spot at 24:40.2., despite having three misses on the shooting range.

For the past six years, Canada's Zina Kocher has dreamed about putting together the perfect race, and crossing the finish line knowing she would be standing on a World Cup podium wearing her country's colors.

That dream came true on Wednesday, November 29 for the Red Deer, Alta. native after winning a bronze medal in the season-opening women's 15-kilometer individual Biathlon World Cup event in Ostersund, Sweden. Just one week shy of her 24th birthday, Kocher's result makes her the first Canadian biathlete to step onto the World Cup podium since Olympic gold medalist Myriam Bédard did more than a decade ago.

"I've been dreaming about this moment every day for years, and everything happened exactly the way it was supposed too," said an emotional Kocher, who has been celebrating with her teammates since crossing the finish line just 23 seconds behind the frontrunner. "I had the same nerves and anxiety that I always do today, but I just went to the race relaxed, and excited to be competing again this season. I crossed that line and started waving my poles in the air. It was unbelievable."

After a relaxing morning that included a massage and yoga session, Kocher skied the race of her life, and only had one error on the shooting range, which was good enough to solidify third spot and the first podium finish of her career. Two other first-time World Cup medalists joined Kocher on the podium. Irina Malgina, of Russia, won the season-opener with a time of 50 minutes 41.2 seconds, while Norway's Liv Kjersti Eikeland was second 3.6 seconds back.

"The smile on my face was so huge when I left the shooting range for the final time," laughed Kocher who quickly broke down into tears. "When I stepped onto the podium, the medal and money meant nothing to me. "It reminded me of the dedication, hard work, focus and determination to get to this point and put our sport back in the public eye. I've been emotional all day. I haven't been at this as long as my teammates, but this is just so surreal right now, and our team is ecstatic."

A gifted and well-rounded athlete recruited from cross country running, Kocher took her first strides in the sport of biathlon in 1998 and joined the national team in 2000. A will to succeed and dedication to achieving excellence has quickly propelled her up the international rankings. Her previous best result was a fifth-place finish in a World Cup sprint event last season.

"I just hope this reinforces to Canadians, and sport leaders in our country, that Canada's biathletes are medal contenders too, and we are improving internationally. Maybe this will help gain some additional support for our program," said Kocher. Canada's biathlon program has flown under the radar over the last several years, but significant strides have been made to put athletes like Kocher back onto the international podium. A new development system implemented nearly seven years ago was designed to build a strong talent pool of biathlon athletes to compete on the world stage. The program, which was created in 1999 following a significant decline in performance by Canada's athletes, focuses on centralizing high-performance athletes at national training centers in an effort to enhance Canada's biathlon performance against the world's best. There are now two training centers for the sport in the country - the Canmore Nordic Centre in Alberta, the current home of the Canadian Biathlon Team, and the Myriam Bédard Training Centre in Quebec.

Two other Canadian women that have benefited from the new training center model also suited up alongside Kocher on Wednesday. Marie-Pierre Parent, of St-Paul de Joliette, Que., was 69th, while Calgary's Sandra Keith was 70th. Both athletes were just over seven minutes off the leading pace.

Complete results can be viewed at

The Norwegian flag made it to the top of the men's and women's podiums in the pursuit races at the Biathlon World Cup in Ostersund, Sweden on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2006. Ole Einar Bjoerndalen captured the men's 12.5 kilometer race, while Linda Grubben won the women's event.

Two Canadian athletes qualified to race amongst the top-60 athletes on Sunday. Zina Kocher, of Red Deer, Alta., finished 44th in the women's race, while Ottawa's Robin Clegg had to settle for 48th position after crossing the line three minutes 51.6 seconds off the leading pace. It was the end of an historic week for Canada's biathlon troops. Zina Kocher, who finished more than five minutes behind the leader on Sunday, kicked off the week winning the team's first World Cup bronze medal in nearly 12 years, while Clegg continued to work his way into top racing form with the best in the world.

It was a brilliant start to the season for Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen who made his way to the top step of the podium all three times he hit the start line. Bjoerndalen set the mark to beat at 34:33.23 in the men's pursuit. Russia's Dmitri Iaronchenko was on the Norwegian's tale for the second straight day, winning the silver medal after stopping the clock just 19.7 seconds behind Bjoerndalen. France's Raphael Poiree was third 29.2 seconds behind.

Norway's Linda Grubben won the women's event in a time of 31:07.47. Sweden's Anna Carin Olofsson pleased the hometown crowd with a silver medal just 23.3 seconds behind the leader, while Poland's Magdalena Gwizdon rounded out the women's podium finishing third 59.7 seconds off the leading mark.

Biathlon Canada, the governing body for biathlon in the country, oversees the Canadian Championships, Eastern and Western Canadian Championships, and North American Cups held in Canada. For more information on Biathlon Canada, please visit their Web site at on the Internet.

For complete results visit

Robin Clegg Fights Back
Canadian biathlon veteran, Robin Clegg, fired his way back up the international rankings after finishing 33rd in the men's 10-kilometer World Cup sprint in Ostersund, Sweden on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2006

The 29-year-old Ottawa native, who is entering his seventh season of competing against the top biathletes in the world, is feeding off some early-season momentum built from teammate Zina Kocher's bronze-medal performance. Clegg, who had one of the fastest times in the range while missing only one shot, crossed the line one minute, 53 seconds behind the leading pace.

"It usually takes me a couple of races to get going each year because we aren't exposed to the pace over here in Europe while we are training in Canada," said Clegg. "So I am really happy to be able to put together a strong performance at this point in the season. I'm not at Zina's level yet, but I am certainly trying to build off that momentum of her medal. It has been an inspirational shot for all of us over here and is a reminder that we can do it too."

Clegg was one of 115 starters in the field that had to battle significantly deteriorating conditions in Sweden. The entire field struggled to compete on a combination of icy snow with dirty patches that made skiing a challenge.

"It definitely makes the skiing interesting and actually makes some of the downhills a test of courage," laughed Clegg. "You have to be very careful, but everyone has to ski under the same conditions. I know I'm on pace with my goals and I was really pleased with my shooting today. If I can get the skiing going with that I'll be right where I need to be."

Two other Canadians suited up on Saturday. David Leoni, of Camrose, Alta., was 75th, while Jean-Philippe Leguellec, of Shannon, Que., was 80th. Both athletes finished just over three minutes off the frontrunners.

Canada to Host Worlds' Top Youth and Junior Biathletes in 2009
Biathlon Canada, the nation's governing body for the two-discipline winter sport has been approved by the International Biathlon Union (IBU) to host the 2009 Youth/Junior World Championships. The newly refurbished Canmore Nordic Centre will provide the site of the competition, which will feature the world's top biathletes in the Youth category of 17 to 18-year-olds, as well as the world's top Juniors, aged 19 to 20.

"It is very exciting for us to host an event that brings more international-level biathlon competition to North America, and to Canada in particular," said Joanne Thomson, Executive Director, Biathlon Canada. "It's an excellent opportunity for Canada's youth and junior athletes to compete on their home snow, especially in light of the fact that some of these young athletes could potentially be representing Canada the following year at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games."

The competition, slated to run in late January or early February of 2009, will feature approximately 275 athletes from 30 countries, along with 150-175 coaches and team staff members.

The Canmore Nordic Centre, originally constructed as the site of biathlon and cross country ski competitions for the 1988 Olympic Winter Games, last hosted the Youth/Junior World Championships in 1992. A new-look facility will greet the world's top youth and junior biathletes when the event makes its long awaited return in 2009. In June 2004, the provincial government of Alberta allotted $16.5 million in upgrades for the Canmore Nordic Centre, which boasts 70 km of groomed trails for advanced, intermediate and novice cross country skiers, and an international-standard 50-meter shooting range specifically for the sport of biathlon.

For more information on Biathlon Canada, visit


World Cup Biathlon Season Set to Open

The 2006-2007 Biathlon World Cup season kicks off this Wednesday, Nov. 29, in the small city in central Sweden, which will host the Biathlon World Championships in February 2008.

This is the second year in a row that Ostersund has hosted the first World Cup of the season. Like last year, it has been unseasonably warm, just reaching freezing at night and about plus 6 Celsius during the day. Last year, there was barely enough snow to conduct three days of competition. This year, thanks to a big storm with cold temperatures in early November, the tracks are well covered and the organizers have huge stocks of manmade snow to make fair racing conditions for every competition.

The US Biathlon Team has been in Sweden most of the month, doing final preparation for the season. Even though much of the month has been warm, the team has not missed a beat in their training. They spent the first 10 days training in Torsby, using the Fortum Ski Tunnel, the longest facility of its kind in the world. While there, they also completed final tests of race ammunition and went through a final round of physical tests. From Torsby, they moved to Solleftea, Sweden for a few days before coming to Ostersund, where conditions although a bit warm have been good.

During the past month and especially as the first competitions approach, anticipation has filled the air. "The athletes are really eager to start racing. We have had some good training and physical testing in the past few weeks," according to coach Per Nilsson. As the athletes anticipate their season debut, the new U.S. Coaches Nilsson and Mikael Lofgren are equally excited to see how the team they have worked with for just over six months performs this week. Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY) commented, "I think the coaches are as excited as we (the athletes) are."

The US biathletes will get a good test this week as all of the stars of biathlon are in Ostersund. The big names to watch continue to be Ole Einar Bjorndalen of Norway, Raphael Poiree of France on the men's side, while Kati Wilhelm of Germany and Sandrine Bailly of France are the top women.

Leading the US Biathlon Team are: Lanny and Tracy Barnes (Durango, CO), Sarah Konrad (Laramie, WY), Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY), Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, NY), Jay Hakkinen (Kasilof, AK), and Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, AK). The competition schedule this week, with all times in CET (Central European Time):
Wednesday, November 29, 1:15: Women's 15K Individual
Thursday November 30, 1:15: Men's 20K Individual
Friday, December 1, 1:15: Women's 7.5K Sprint
Saturday December 2, 12:15: Men's 10K Sprint
Sunday, December 3, 11:15: Women's 10K Pursuit, 12:45 Men's 12.5K Pursuit

Wednesday's 15K Individual favors the deadly accurate shooting of the Barnes' sisters. This competition will be a bit of a comeback for the two Olympians, who struggled with illness during the Olympic season. They are eager to be competitive again on the World Cup Circuit. Thirty-nine-year-old Sarah Konrad ended last season with her first top 30 finish in her biathlon career. As an Olympian in both cross country and biathlon, Konrad is one of the fastest skiers in biathlon and hopes to be in the top 30 more than just once this year.

The clocks is ticking as the organizers put up the final banners, continue to groom the tracks, and prepare for the live television broadcasts, while the athletes focus on the week ahead that begins a four-month season. Ready or not, the 2006-2007 biathlon season is here.

© Cross Country Skier: October 2006, Vol. 26 Issue 1

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