Markus Cramer made his name by coaching then little known Dario Cologna to overall World Cup victory in 2008/2009 and , later, to the golden medal of the Olympics in Vancouver in 2010.
Before that he brought a virtually unknown Swiss female squad to bronze medals in the 4 × 5 km relay at the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2012
But now, just a few weeks ahead of the Pyeonchang Olympics, a 54 year old German specialist finds himself in a limbo.
Several skiers that Cramer coached in the recent years – namely Alexander Legkov and Evgeny Belov are stripped of their Sochi medals and banned from the Games ( the Court of Arbitration for Sport is hearing their appeal this week).
Others from the Cramer’s group – including arguably the world’s most successful skier of the last season Sergey Ustiugov – are not accused of any wrongdoing – but have to wait till the very last day to hear whether they are invited by the IOC to participate in the Olympics as “neutral athletes” – or not.
The DailySkier catches up with Cramer at the World Cup race in Dresden – and asks how’s he feeling about the whole situation.
“This is a crazy, crazy situation” says Cramer. “ We hope at least all the young skiers – Ustiugov (Alexander) Bolshunov, (Alexey) Chervotkin, ( Denis) Spitsov as well as ( Andrey) Larkov will be allowed to take part in the Games, but we won’t know until the last moment, it looks like”
and you, personally – are you going to Pyeonchang? “ Same – I have no idea” smiles Cramer his characteristic shy smile. “May be I will go as a tourist”
. Everybody wants to know what races will Ustiugov, one of the most universal skiers on the current world circuit, run? “ Skiathlon and both sprints – not sure about the other races yet”
Clearly, Ustiugov will be expected to anchor the Russian effort in the relay – some say his battle against Finn Hågen Krogh was the most exciting moment of Lahti 2017. The Russian men’s squad – regardless the loss of Legkov, Vylegzhanin, Belov and another veteran, Alexander Bessmertnykh – looks exceptionally strong this season.
Who are the main competitors? “Exactly who you would expect – ( Johannes) Klaebo, ( Martin) Sundby – and resurgent Dario Cologna, Tour de Ski winner of this year.” Cramer thinks for a second then adds – “Poltoranin too. He will be hard to beat in skiathlon”
But Ustiugov is highly motivated and has recovered from the injuries he sustained in now-infamous “khaosolopptet” in Oberstdorf earlier in January ( “ The organizers should have cancelled that mass-start race and held sprints instead – the track wasn’t wide enough for so many skiers”)
And Germans? When shall we expect to see new Bundesmannschaft’s angerers and teichmanns? “ Not soon”, sighs Cramer – “biathlon siphons off all the talent – they’ve got a lot more money and better resources in general. I hope the German cross country skiing will rebound – but not soon”
Meanwhile, all Cramer’s thoughts are on Korea. If only he knew whether he and his skiers are actually going!