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The Way I See It – Selection Process, Tour de Ski, Prize Money, Diggins Travels, Slaves, Racing Bibs, Mini Tours & Stage Races

by Marty Hall
[P] courtesy of Marty Hall
June 30, 2017 – It’s been a great season for both the Canadian and US teams with some remarkable results and lots of personal bests – well done. Got a list of things to talk about, so let’s get started.

History Then and Now – In 1982 when I was hired as the Canadian XC Head Coach my first move in dealing with the team was a questionnaire asking them all about their team experience and what they most liked and disliked about the program.

On the dislike side they all hated team and trip selection, as it was too murky – all politics and  personalities – terminology for discretion.

That was easy to deal with. A points list was developed along with criteria for all trips and team selections and followed rigidly. Discretion was there, but only used for the top athletes, those people who had proven themselves to protect them in case of sickness or injuries.

I said the top athletes, those that make money in the long run for the team and themselves. The bottom guys just spend that money. It’s the same for all national teams here and abroad.

This spring was the point system adhered to by the US Ski Team or were there more discretionary choices of athletes who are still finding their way into the top 30? It seemed to me that it was more the latter, and if so there’s not a lot of confidence for the athletes in these situations on any squad. I’m sure we will be talking about this again in the future.

Tour de Ski – judging from this past year’s no-shows, what’s the drop-out rate going to be during the coming Olympic season? I’m predicting a lot of the top skiers, as no shows and it will be a trip to the bank for many lower-ranked skiers.

Prize Money On the WC – It’s been quite awhile since there has been any change in the the amounts of Euros being handed out or numbers of skiers receiving prize money. I’d venture to say no changes since the beginning. If this remains the status for the future, I’d suggest a change in the system. No more money than presently given, but start with 1st place receiving 10,000 Euros and spreading the money to 15 places. The top guys would still be able to make a 100,000 to 150,000  Euros each season, but more people would start to earn a living. Ideally prize money should go to the top 20 with a first place prize of 20,000 Euros. Shouldn’t FIS be kicking into the pot – more on this later?

Diggins… Travel Travel Travel? – This will be a wait and see like it was in 2013/14 when I wrote that Kikkan was traveling way too much, taking care of sponsor and supplier visits, contract signings, and doing promo stuff for her supporters.

The way she had been skiing with all of her globes it seemed that a medal or two in Sochi would be a shoe-in for the sprint and team sprint. Her team member for the team sprint (Diggins) was dreaming about it all summer, fall and early winter! Well it didn’t happen – there are only so many jet-lag hours to be had in a year. If that isn’t true, why do the US and Canadian teams go to Europe every winter for 5 months. SO, THEY DONT HAVE TO TRAVEL BACK AND FORTH 3 TO 4 TIMES A WINTER!

Back to Jessie who’s been having the best seasons of her life – kudos to her – yet seems to have logged 20,000 plus miles of travel during the month of April by my reckoning. She can handle it from a budget standpoint having picked up some $100,000 to $150,000 in prize, sponsor, and supplier dollars over the last two years, but there’s a cost for everything. Tons of jet lag hours, making all those connections, carrying all those bags and everything else that goes with the PITA fun of flying now-a-days.

The miles add up with two trips back and forth across the country in June for the team camp in Bend and another trip west for the Newell-Flowers wedding.

Later in the summer the team will choose to go to one of these three options for camps – New Zealand, Norway for racing or Alaska – all pretty good jet lag trips as well plus other assorted trips to camps. I wish her well… we’ll just have to wait and see how Jessie’s magic works this out.

Off the Backs Of Slaves – I have been thinking about this for a number of years and all the international sporting associations – IOC and FIS plus all others – do not pay one dollar in prize money to the athletes at their World Championships or the Olympics despite the millions and billions of dollars they make through sponsors, suppliers, television and other pathways,

Take any athlete…do you realize the number of hours of training, preparation and money they have been spent just to get into the athlete’s parade for the opening of the Games ceremony and to the start line? I admit it is a glorious feeling and it should be when you think you have won the survival of the fittest to get this reward.

Not even the two richest sports franchises in the US – the NBA and the NHL – pay their athletes to attend. As a matter of fact, the NHL is fighting with the IOC, over paying for the insurance policies for hockey players – a work in progress.

Also, the NHL has to adjust its schedule for the Olympics – a money loser for them!

The IOC is going through a transformation period, as it may be pricing itself out of business – it is just too expensive for cities to under take the scope of the present day games, they have become so expensive. In the present bid process three of the five cities bidding have dropped out and the IOC is adjusting the process and assigning the remaining two cities for the next two Games. Therefore it seems there’s no actual bid process. What does the future hold for the IOC?

I believe FIS is financially secure enough to hand out prize money checks along with medals for the first three places in each event at the World Championships. Speak out athletes – get your due  – or stay home. You have the power – use it!

Double Poling – It was a pretty quiet winter. It’s still happening now and then but it seems that good trail design can curtail it.

Sprint Rankings – Let’s see if I can explain this. When it comes to the rankings in the heats, FIS (and this goes back to the origin) rules require the organizers to use the skiers’ placing from the qualification to assign their placing in the final heats. They do not use their time/placing from the heats. Not only does this effect skiers placing and points but it also, affects money being handed out.

If you don’t believe me go check it out – could add up to a fair amount of points and money over the year. Also, it would show any discrepancies as to how a skier was racing in the qualification (a couple of hours earlier), rather than in the heats (which were within minutes of the finals).

RS Racing in the Summer – A pet peeve with me as we just don’t race enough here in NA (meaning putting a bib on). The Euros are going at it all the time and because of it stay nearer their racing peak. Thus I think it is an easier process for them to reach that final peak.

So, what is the USST doing to satisfy this situation – trotting over to Norway mid-summer with some of the team to get some racing in. But why can’t do it here and save a bunch of money they don’t have? They can provide a top-level racing environment for domestic athletes as well, minimize jet lag and much more. Why miss a chance to show off our top studs and studettes, get some TV time, newspaper coverage – it is an Olympic year? “The Oracles” on top of their game again!

Mini Tours and Stage Races – The last race of mini tours and stage races is a pursuit format race and I have complained about in the past. First most viewers struggle to understand what’s going on but now about a third of the field are sent off using a mass start format. Is this because the organizers are starting to realize the whole concept is anti-racing…or anti-exciting racing ?

What sense is there in giving the race leader a one-minute advantage and have everyone chase him or her… are we having fun yet ?

Forget the time premiums – make them money premiums instead and let’s have some exciting final races.

Use the Skiathlon, as the format for the final race – both techniques – changing the skis etc. then we’ll have some excitement from the strategies during the 1st km to the possibilities of switching techniques.

The crowd and television viewers would see AND know who was winning from the start to the finish – keep it simple and more viewers will come.

Talk to you soon!

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