Monday Media for Oct. 31: Fluoro use in Planica, Bjørgen speaks against weighing one’s food, early on-snow racing in Russia


Welcome back to Monday Media, a weekly feature that curates some of the most insightful (as it were) recent news stories from home and abroad. The focus will be primarily, but not exclusively, on the foreign press. This week: Swedish athletes express concern over the potential use of fluorinated waxes at this year’s World Championships; Marit Bjørgen observes, “As a top athlete you need to eat a lot” and speaks out against the recommendation that junior athletes weigh their food; and Russia rings in the northern-hemisphere race season with races on natural snow in Yakutsk.

N.b., all non-English articles mentioned here were viewed with Google Translate. If your browser does not automatically translate an article for you when you follow the link given in this piece, copy and paste its URL here.

Swedish athletes express concern over potential use of fluorinated waxes at this year’s World Championships

The pace of FIS’s progress, or lack thereof, in implementing a meaningful and technically feasible ban on/test for fluorinated ski waxes over the past several years was neatly summed up in this August headline: “FIS Postpones Fluoro Wax Ban—Again.”

The handheld fluoro tracker was said to be in development in November 2019, three years ago. Nonetheless, a proposed ban was first postponed in October 2020. It was postponed again in June 2021. And it was postponed again this August.

Where does that leave the current state of the technology? The meme above, which dates to last year’s postponement, is pointed but not inaccurate.

The stakes were perhaps lower at last season’s global championship, the Beijing Olympics, because the snow was cold and dry, precisely those conditions in which fluoros make the least difference. The question about whether or not teams would use fluoros at the Olympics “would likely remain hypothetical anyway,” wrote the Daily Skier in a January article in advance of the Games.

Cold and dry.

“The weather in Zhangjiakou is widely expected to be cold, with very dry artificial snow while C8s primarily give advantage in high humidity conditions,” the paper quoted Chinese distance coach Max Volkov as saying.

But conditions at this season’s global championship, World Championships in Planica in late February and early March, are expected to be precisely the opposite: a mix of warm temperatures, wet snow, and high humidity, i.e., those conditions in which fluoros have the greatest effect.

So will athletes or their teams cheat, when medals will likely be decided by margins far smaller than the advantage potentially accorded by a winning wax job?

“There are always people who cheat. It is clear that there is someone who is keen to fiddle with those cans,” Swedish skier Jens Burman told Expressen earlier this month, according to an auto-translation.

Athlete Marcus Grate shared similar views: “It’s naïve to believe otherwise. If there is someone who has unauthorized stock left, they will certainly use it if there are medals at stake.”

National team coach Petter Myhlback was less concerned, telling Expressen that he thought the new, fluoro-free waxes were better anyway. That said, he also stated that his team was not tested or inspected a single time last winter, after FIS had announced that multiple random tests would be carried out to check for the presence of fluorinated waxes.

Marit Bjørgen: ‘As a top athlete you need to eat a lot’

More inside information about the last decade-plus of high-level Norwegian women’s skiing continues to trickle out, as fans and journalists pore through Therese Johaug’s recent memoir, Hele Historien (“The whole story”).

A recent article in NRK drills down on a period in the early 2010s, when, as Johaug recounts, she was struggling to eat enough and saw her weight drop. Longtime team captain Marit Bjørgen noticed that Johaug had lost weight, and responded by immediately contacting the Norwegian team nutritionist, Heidi Holmlund.

“Marit has always had the ability to care about everyone, so it would have been natural for her to bring this up with me,” Holmlund now says, according to an auto-translation. “Marit had an important role as captain, and there was a good feedback culture.”

Johaug also describes an incident in which both she and several junior national team athletes were “encouraged to weigh their food” prior to eating.

Bjørgen had a negative reaction to this: “I have no sense of weighing the food. It will be completely wrong. As a top athlete, you need to eat a lot,” said the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time, according to an auto-translation.

Evgeniya Krupitskaya, Eduard Latypov take season-opening races in Russia

In what were almost certainly the first on-snow races in the Northern Hemisphere of the 2022/2023 season, as well as the rare high-level October races held entirely on natural snow, a field of Russian and Belarusian athletes contested a pair of skate and classic races over the weekend, in the Sakha Republic region of eastern Russia. The races were described on Instagram as the Всероссийских соревнований, or “All-Russian competitions.”

Saturday morning brought a pair of interval-start skate races, 5 kilometers for the women and 10 kilometers for the men.

In the women’s race, Evgeniya Krupitskaya led the way in 13:48.9, followed by Kseniya Shalygina in second (+9.4) and Olga Zholudeva in third (+14.8). Shalygina is from Kazakhstan; the rest of the podium is Russian. Krupitskaya skied the scramble leg for the silver medal–winning Russian relay team at this year’s World Junior Championships in Lygna, Norway, and was fourth in the 30km skate at this spring’s Russian national championships in Syktyvkar.

The men’s race was taken by Eduard Latypov in 23:18 for the 10km course, with Ilia Semikov (+4.7) and Andrey Melnichenko (+12.5) close behind. Notably, Latypov is a biathlete, not a cross-country skier, albeit a decorated one; he brought home three bronze medals in biathlon from Beijing. Semikov, a nordic skier, has five World Cup relay podiums to his name, and a best individual World Cup finish of fourth, on multiple occasions. Melnichenko, also a nordic skier, has logged multiple World Cup podium finishes.

Results from or distances for Sunday’s classic race, which judging from social media postings appeared to also be an interval-start competition, were not readily available online, at least within this reporter’s limited knowledge of Russian.

Videos from the women’s skate race and classic race were available via Krupitskaya’s public Telegram account. They depict what can only be described as midwinter conditions. In October.

Screenshot from Google Maps showing location of Aldan.

Finally, a brief geography lesson: Aldan is located roughly 290 miles south of the republic’s capital, Yakutsk. It is several hundred miles closer to Anchorage, Alaska, than to St. Petersburg, Russia. The historical average high temperature for the month of October is 29° F, with an average low of 14° F, according to Wikipedia, conditions conducive to early-season snowfall.

— Gavin Kentch

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