World ski body FIS airs new ideas to rethink Alpine racing

GENEVA (AP) — Aiming to make their sport more dynamic and appealing, Alpine skiing officials on Thursday discussed new race formats and the possibility of more frequent world championships.

The International Ski Federation (FIS) used its preseason meeting for Alpine team leaders, athletes and race organizers to air ideas such as staging marquee downhill events in separate races for elite and lower-ranked racers.

The idea of adding a third world championships during the four-year Olympic cycle was also raised. Currently, the Alpine worlds are held in February of each odd-numbered year.

“We have the idea to implement another big event,” FIS secretary general Michel Vion said, suggesting something like a “mini Olympic Games” could be created in 2024 or 2028 — years when no major championships are on the schedule.

New race formats and broadcasting innovation were promised by new FIS president Johan Eliasch when he was elected in June. He is just its fifth president in 97 years.

Eliasch, the billionaire long-time boss of Head ski and tennis brand, set up working groups to explore new ideas.

It would not be enough to change just a little bit, FIS marketing director Jürg Capol told the online meeting while offering radical ideas to rethink the Alpine schedule.

Capol outlined a focus on the traditional downhill, giant slalom and slalom events that envisaged dropping super-G. The second speed discipline joined the World Cup program in 1982 and the Olympics at the 1988 Calgary Winter Games.

Capol also suggested a downhill structure of A- and B-level races on the same day with promotion and relegation during the season.

A top-tier race could showcase just 24 elite downhillers. A World Cup downhill typically has more than 50 starters and continues long after the podium result is known.

Offering more compact broadcast slots, Capol’s vision included splitting Alpine’s traditional disciplines into “Classic” and a “Shorter Race” format of less than one hour.

Athlete representative Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen said more night events raced under floodlights were likely in future seasons.

No formal proposal has been drafted but FIS is expected to develop ideas before a congress of national federations next May in Portugal.

FIS already cut the fifth Olympic discipline, Alpine combined, from the World Cup circuit this season, although men’s and women’s medal races will be held at the Feb. 4-20 Beijing Olympics.

The two main courses to be used at the Olympics — separate but nearby hills for speed and technical races at Yanqing — are “relatively steep” and “very, very challenging,” FIS official Atle Skaardal said.

World Cup racers have not skied on those slopes because visits and test races were canceled as the COVID-19 outbreak spread into a pandemic.

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