World Cup in the Time of Corona

The 20l21 World Cup just started. It will definitely be different than in the past. Gerhard Urain, the head of Nordic Racing at Fischer weighs in:

How did the past season go for you, as the head of Nordic Racing Services?

The 19l20 season was generally really successful, though it had an unexpected, sudden end. We were coming out of what was for us a very successful Biathlon World Championships in Antholz, Italy. Everything there was normal. Then the discussions began whether spectators would be allowed at the subsequent World Cup events in Oslo and Kontiolahti, Finland. Four days later it was almost impossible just to get back into Austria. I could never have imagined a virus could just knock out the entire world.

What effect has Covid-19 had on your team’s work this summer?

Everything was different this year. Especially since all testing on snow between April and June fell through. And essentially none of the teams was able to come to Ried during summer, and meeting in person was next to impossible. When it came to selecting Speedmax3D skis, adjusting Speedmax boots, etc., we had to do it almost 100% by telephone. All the gear had to be sent out. On top of that, the lockdown pushed back springtime ski production, which was an additional challenge.

What are your expectations for the upcoming World Cup season?

I have a generally positive view about the season, even though the infection numbers have increased slightly. In spring things were looking grim, but summer has gone much better than we could’ve expected. The top governing bodies FIS and IBU are working on the necessary protection protocols, so I think we’ll be able to hold a good amount of the events. I’m not counting on spectators at first, which is very unfortunate. But we’re hopeful that things will quiet down early next year and starting in the 20l21 season we can be hosting events with spectators again. The next few weeks will tell us a lot more. Overall I’m anticipating a season where we’ll have to improvise a bit and sometimes just react quickly.

Will we be seeing some new faces on the Fischer Racing Team?

Fischer is in a very tough financial situation. That means we have to save money absolutely everywhere possible, including our competition efforts. We’re doing our utmost to hold onto the current competition roster. So only a very few athletes, who are really motivated to come over to Fischer, will be strengthening the roster. For these situations, we’ve been able to offer a package that both sides are happy with.

What changes will there be this year with regard to Covid-19?

The governing bodies FIS and IBU are working on appropriate plans based on social distancing and increasingly frequent testing. Obviously, a lot will definitely be different than in the past. People who are part of the World Cup travelling show will have to be tested once a week at a minimum. The FIS will have a Covid-19 “passport”, into which all travel stops and all tests, including results, have to be entered. The number of accreditations will be reduced, so the overall World Cup travelling show will also be smaller. At each site there will be restrictions, and we’ll have to be flexible to react to the regulations.

What preparations are you making for the World Championships in nearby Oberstdorf and Pokljuka?

Preparations for the championships in Oberstdorf as well as those in Pokljuka have been underway for around two years and all accommodations have been booked. We plan to bring our own edge grinder with us again and have set up a dedicated site to use it. Product testing isn’t specifically focused on the world championships, it’s an ongoing improvement process. We easily lost a full month of testing time in spring. Our goal is to take advantage of the good conditions on the glacier currently to catch up on severely needed testing.

What does #livetoski and the slogan “Skiing is not a lifestyle, it’s life” mean to you.

For me personally, Nordic skiing is my favorite sport. I absolutely love to be out and about in nature. For me it’s important to find a balance for the stress of work and daily life. Sports help me find a counterbalance to stress in daily life and at work. Testing skis on the glacier on a Sunday is no rare occurrence.

Thank you Gerhard Urain, Head of Nordic Racing