The questionnaire that was sent out after Davos (click here for the article) did not show any united opinion regarding introduction of new free technique in cross-country skiing. What would happen to the strong words of Ivar Formo from Norway who as the Chairman of the Cross-Country Committee declared that "no one can be the World champion on skis without grip wax"? Would they remain true?
We asked the FIS President for advice. He said that he and the Council could accept a temporary prohibition of free technique for Seefeld only under condition that all present teams agreed. In other case the rules should be the same as for the OWG 1984.
Christmas was quiet and then I had to follow the FIS Secretary General Gian Franco Kasper to the 4-hill tournament where I learnt how to measure the jumping suits. We had at our disposal a big and heavy machine (30 kg) constructed in GDR. Today, such a machine weighs only 2 kg.
Now to Seefeld and the World Championships. Let us start with the Jury:
Chief of Competition - Fred Rössner AUT
Chief of Course - Willie Köstinger AUT
Hans Enqvist SWE
Technical Delegate - Gerhard Grimmer GDR (World Champion 50 k. 1974)
Ivar Formo was controller of equipment.
It did not take long time until he was called to work. Shocked team captains told us that Gunde Svan was skiing around with only one pole with a length of about 230 cm and his speed was incredible.We looked for him and after a while we found him and asked him: "What are you doing Gunde?". "You want to preserve old technique as you intend to forbid the skating step" he answered and added "if you look at old pictures you will see that skiers had only one long pole and that is my contribution to the development back to tradition."
What should be our answer? Gian Franco Kasper called the present members of the equipment committee and asked us to make a definition of the competition poles as it did not exist that time. Within a few minutes our expert Dietrich Martin made the following proposal which still is valid.
4.2 General rules
4.2.1 Poles of equal length
Two poles of equal length must be used in competition, with one pole held in each hand.
4.2.2 Pole length
The maximum pole length must not exceed the competitor's height.
The QUESTION all participants have waited for. Which technique will be used in Seefeld?Norway had just before Christmas introduced a rule that all competitions in the youth classes (16 years and younger) should be carried out in the classical technique. In Seefeld Ivar Formo supported by Dag Kaas, the trainer for the Norwegian ladies, had long meetings with bigger teams in order to gain their support for no-skating championships. Three days before the opening the Technical Delegate Gerhard Grimmer announced a meeting concerning used technique. Ivar Formo praised for classical technique and warned against all negative consequences free technique would bring. Gerhard Grimmer said that tracks were too narrow and recommended that only classical technique should be used.
Now we come to the voting. Nations were asked to give their votes in alphabetical order. Question was : "Do you accept a temporary prohibition of skating technique in Seefeld? Yes or No". Just as a reminder, unanimous voting was required.
Australia said NO and that was it. We were at the same level as 1984.
My exclusive nets - no use. Today I can reveal that the nets are still at the farm of Willie Köstinger, the chief of course. I know he was breeding lamas once - maybe he could use the nets there?
Competitions began and skiers with kick wax were losers. Vladimir Smirnov was the best one using kick wax and he was 24th in the 30km race. Russians had obviously trusted Ivar Formo too much and the Head coach Boris Bystrov had to leave his position.
Arnold Kaech, the former FIS General Secretary, came to the following conclusion:
"A revolution has swept away the ancient regime - a requiem for the Cross-Country sport should be played."
However, Mr. Kaech was wrong this time.
The council decided on proposal of Ivar Formo that tests should be carried out already in the current season to find solutions in order to avoid that free or skating technique would be the only Cross-Country technique.
We had a meeting and agreed that we should proceed with testing.
Experiences from the tests (personally I could only be present in Syktyvkar, Lahti and Falun). Zones worked best in Syktyvkar. Two zones of 2 km in terrain ideal for the diagonal stride. I was in the longest zone where there was no problem at all. I was skiing to my place but went home by foot. Why? I sold my skis on the spot!
In Lahti some of skiers mainly from Switzerland, Canada and Italy did not follow the rules for the race and skated demonstratingly which made the spectators mad. No promotion of the sport.
I should not mention here Falun as it was a disaster. Swedish ski association had written to FIS and said they knew the solution. Therefore I asked the President to show this miracle in Falun which he gladly accepted. Preparations however were not acceptable and had to be changed one hour before the start. If not there had not been any competition
Holmenkollen. The winner Thomas Wassberg put a tape under his skis and put kick wax on them and after half the race when skating was allowed, he stopped and took the tape away.
Dear readers, I do think you have made a conclusion already. It is impossible to artificially combine two techniques in the same competition.
Now 25 years later I hope that athletes in Vancouver were able to prepare without having been forced to wait on a technical decision.
Next time you will know what happened at the Congress in Vancouver 1985.