Pyrrhic victory at World Championship premiere

Norway dominates the Nordic combined - but nobody wants to know it

Of course, the jubilation was great for the world champions Gyda Westvold Hansen and Jarl Magnus Riiber. Both are Norwegians, both dominate their sport, the Nordic combined, both were not to be endangered in the first decisions of the Nordic World Ski Championships in Planica. This was also true for their joint performance in the mixed team competition in their discipline, which was held for the first time, where Norway finished well ahead of Germany as the first title holder in this format. But Riiber, Westvold and Ida Marie Hagen and Jens Luraas Oftebro, who also won in the team, could not suppress their concern about the future of their discipline despite all the joy at the latest when the international media wanted to know from the new champions after the title win where the journey is going in Nordic combined after the World Cup premiere.

FIS - President with irritating announcements, spectators scarce

Because - as nice as the medal wins for Norway, Germany and the third-placed Austrians were - the competitions in Planica did not serve to give new momentum to the combined. The dilemma had already started when the President of the FIS, John Eliasch, made the statement that the Nordic combined was "funny". The Austrian "Standard" quoted the native Swede with the remark that Norway's former King Olav V had been one of the first Nordic combined athletes and the FIS President probably sees here the reason for the inclusion of the discipline in the Olympic program. The fact is that neither the descendants of the king, nor his compatriots, and certainly not the host Slovenians, wanted to watch the world championship competitions live, and so a hand-picked crowd of relatives, acquaintances, team colleagues and a few "hard-core fans" were lost in the ski jump area and on the stands of the cross-country stadium during the individual decisions. Advertising for the combination looks different.

Hosts embarrass themselves in preparation for World Cup premiere

But the bird was shot at the mixed team premiere: Because - caused by whoever - the ski jump run had not been newly prepared after the snowfall the night before the competition, the test jumps had to be cancelled before the competition after a fall of the experienced Allesandro Pittin from Italy in the rehearsal. What followed was a half-hearted improvement of the situation in the jump-up. Completely inadequate, as it turned out afterwards, because in the first competition round only Pittin fell for the second time - although he had actually brought his jump safely and in the telemark technique to the valley and directly after the Italian also the Japanese Akito Watabe. Both had got caught in the fresh snow, which had abruptly slowed down the athletes and thus put them off balance. The competition was over for Pittin, and substitute Aaron Kostner took his place at the start. However, only after a delay of more than two hours, because after the fall festival the competition jury had seen itself forced to cancel the jumping in order to first put the facility in a World Cup worthy condition. What followed was a far too short change between jumping and running and when during the race itself also advertising banners blew into the track, the disaster was perfect.

Sharp criticism from the combined camp

Ivar Stuan had already summed up the drama after the aborted first run. "This is not good," said the sports director of Norwegian Television succinctly. And Germany's men's jumping coach Heinz Kuttin criticized: "This is the first time we have a stage at a World Championships to start a good competition with women and men - and then this...". And head coach Herrmann Weinbuch added: "For the entire situation of the Nordic Combined. sei es “einfach wieder eine Katastrophe. Wir müssen weite, gute Sprünge sehen und nicht welche, die mit Stürzen enden. Das tut mir in der Kombinationsseele weh”.

The next nail in the coffin for the discipline

And so the conclusion of the world championship premiere is bitter. Despite all the jubilation about the winners and placers - the disaster in Planica was another nail in the coffin for the Nordic combined, the air for the preservation of the discipline is getting thinner and thinner. It is high time that the world federation comes up with more than just catching the eye with whimsical sayings of its president. By the way, he has been conspicuous by his absence at all World Cup competitions so far, having left Planica the day after the official opening. But one can't help feeling that the leadership of the world federation doesn't seem to be resisting the impending death of the Nordic combined with any last ounce of strength.


Pictures: K. Voigt Fotografie

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