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TT - Ottesen: "The Weekend Challenge winner will be a true champion!"

The Summer Grand Prix 2013 is history and now it's already time to be focussing and preparing for a new winter season in FIS. For today's TUESDAY TALK, fisnc.com spoke to Race Director Lasse Ottesen about the plans for the new season highlight, the Weekend Challenge, the ideas behind it and the process of creating it.

What was the main idea behind creating an event like the Weekend Challenge for Nordic Combined? Why is it important?

Lasse Ottesen: The main idea behind the Weekend Challenge is actually old. It came from the Warsteiner Grand Prix which we had in Nordic Combined some years ago. It was the "Tour" of Nordic Combined and one of the highlights of the season.

It's been some years now since the Warsteiner Grand Prix ended and it's definitely about time that we start with a new World Cup highlight. We have World Championships and Olympics but in our World Cup calendar, we don't have a major event. Like all of the other disciplines and especially our Nordic colleagues in cross-country and ski jumping, we will now also have a World Cup highlight in the season.

With events like the Four Hills Tournament or the Tour the Ski already in place, isn't this only copying the multiple-day-event from them?

Ottesen: No, it's not copying anything. It's a Nordic Combined Weekend Challenge, a three-day event, a long weekend if you want to call it like that. But for sure we had a look at what our colleagues in cross-country skiing and ski jumping are doing, what their experiences have been, what has been working and what did not.

So of course, we have taken the best ideas from those two big events and then discussed "What can we do in Nordic Combined?" That's the way we started working on the Weekend Challenge one and a half years ago.

What was the biggest challenge in coming up with the event? Finding the best place for it, creating the rules, the general concept,Е?

Ottesen: Well, I would say it's a mix of all of these areas. The first idea we had was to bring in more of our venues to have a longer Challenge. But the main point of discussion in the end is the TV times and dates and how to put a big event like that into an already very full TV calendar.

So I would say that the first thing was to come up with a good idea. Then on the one hand, we had to establish the rules and figure out how to go through with the Challenge and the other part was to find an organiser that was willing to host this new product. It needed to be an experienced and established Organising Committee which knew how Nordic Combined works. We ended up chosing Seefeld and the Austrian Ski Federation and I am sure we are in good hands there.

The Weekend Challenge will take part for the first time in this upcoming winter on the weekend of the 17th till 19th of January. Why was this date chosen?

Ottesen: Well, the Four Hills Tournament and the Tour de Ski are more or less happening at the same time. So in cooperation with our marketing department and the organisers and TV, it was important to find the best place in time for our Nordic Combined event. So we will wait until these two big events are over to give everybody the opportunity to also follow Nordic Combined's main event.

We did not want to fight for the audience with these two main events. But we have seen in the TV ratings in the last couple of years that Nordic Combined is growing and hopefully this will be one more step with the Weekend Challenge to grow even more.

The starting times and dates are a big puzzle every year that we start to build in April right after the season. But every nation has their own needs and wishes and so has every discipline, so it's never easy to satisfy everybody. But the cooperation between the disciplines, especially in FIS is getting better and better and this is helping all disciplines.

How are the reactions in Nordic Combined?

Ottesen: So far, we have had really positive feedback from athletes and coaches. The teams are really positive. As it is the first year we might encounter small issues here and there that we might need to improve going into the future but I am also quite sure that it will be really exciting. I hope that the athletes and all of the spectators will find this Challenge to be interesting and exciting to watch.

What will be the hardest thing about the Weekend Challenge for the athletes?

Ottesen: The hardest thing will be to have three tough races on three consecutive days. At the same time this are elite athletes on the highest level of the Nordic disciplines. They are not called the ultimate winter athletes for nothing and will be capable to handle three days of competitions. The recovery will be one issue for sure, the other one will be tactics. It's going to be really interesting to see how the different nations and athletes will be going into this event and what kind of tactics they are planning. Though of course, the best tactic will probably be to win all three races (laughs).

What makes the winner a true champion?

Ottesen: The system we created means that we're taking results from each day to the next day throughout the weekend. The winner needs to be the best one throughout the whole weekend. It's not only winning one day and hanging back the next day, that's not going to take you all the way to the top.

At the same time, we have three very different races. We start with a Prolog of one jump and 5 km skiing, then we have our regular Individual Gundersen (1 jump and 10 km) and final is our classic Nordic Combined format with two jumps and 15 kilometres. So the Weekend Challenge winner will be a true Nordic Combined champion being best one in this very different kinds of races. He will definitely prove that he is the best Nordic Combined skier at that point in time.

fisnordiccombined.com, 3 September 2013

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