FIS: Where do you see the biggest advantages for the sport by having women and men racing the same distances?
Pierre Mignerey: It’s about the opportunity that this decision has created to streamline our race formats. It marks a milestone and impact the many fantastic stories that are constantly being written on the race courses already.
The focus is now on trying to implement it into a product, so that TV times are attractive for our sport to be shown and the stories are being told. That needs everyone involved to be open for this change with curiosity and determination.
On the sports side, we have to find ways to implement the racing distances so that it remains attractive and of course also healthy for athletes to participate.
The racing distances and formats approved for the upcoming season give opportunities to boost the potential of Cross-Country skiing with a standard program almost every weekend that includes a Sprint, a 10km Interval Start and either a 20km Mass Start or a Team Event. All these formats will offer a good platform for an entertaining program: not too long, not too short, with a lot of speed and action.
I strongly believe that this is what our viewers – especially the next generation – likes to watch. At the same it does not spoil the nature of Cross-Country Skiing as a sport.
It sounds maybe paradoxal but I think that this standard program will also give the opportunity to have more diversity in our competition schedule. Indeed we will be able to schedule more longer races than before where we had mostly Sprints and 10km for women and 15km for men. With Sprint, 10km and 20km as a core standard program, all athletes will have good opportunities and it will create even more bridges between Sprinters and Distance specialists.
FIS: What critical points can you agree with and how do you deal with them?
Pierre Mignerey: I actually don’t see any major issues. For the first year we will of course have to make a few adjustments with the event schedule and the starting times but in the long term I’m pretty sure that it will make it easier for the teams, the organizers, TV and of course also for the viewers. Standardization, predictability, simplicity and flexibility will definitely be a big plus for our discipline in the future.
FIS: What were the first steps since the approval by the FIS Council?
Pierre Mignerey: We started to work with organizers to make the necessary adjustments on the race courses and the event schedule. Then we work with TV experts and TV directors because the quality of their production and graphics will be as usual crucial for a good exposure and a good entertainment for our viewers.
Even if the final decisions for the competition program for future WSC (from 2025) and OWG will only be taken next spring, we will also start to discuss it very soon with the different stakeholders involved.
FIS: Looking at the overall 2022/23 season, how satisfied are you with the upcoming race calendar?
Pierre Mignerey: I would say that it is a very good race calendar, almost ideal. Firstly because we now have a calendar organized in blocks with optimized travels, more races per venue and breaks during the season to give the possibility for the athletes to rest, train and stay in altitude during the season.
Secondly because I believe that the race formats make sense as published. We have a standard race program and at the same time some diversity in the calendar with more 20km, mixed or gender specific teams events.
Still, I would say “almost” an ideal calendar because ideally, the 50km in Oslo/Holmenkollen should be one week later and not immediately after the WSC. From a format standpoint we are probably missing one Skiathlon and it would be great to include a point to point race again in the future.