Norwegians And Russians Keep On Winning – Here Is Why

World Cup stages won since the beginning of the season up to & including January 3d 2019:

Norway -15
Russia – 6
Rest of the World – 5

Of note: the Norwegians had six different skiers winning thus far and the Russians had five ( a lion share of Norwegian victories occured thanks to two big talents: Therese Johaug and Johannes Klaebo).

So, it’s safe to say that both countries have become “serial winners”- something that can’t be explained by a presence a mega-talented prodigy in the team as is the case with Sweden.

The question that we were always interested in is How? Here’s an attempt to explain, based on months of observations – and some “photo evidence”.

…Now, if you happen to be one of those believers in either Norwegian and Russian “doping systems” – do yourself a favor, read no further: it is our firm conviction that doping as defined by WADA has nothing to do with a success of the either team mentioned. There is simply no way an elite WCup-level sportsman or woman could get away with cheating that way in 2019. We regularly observe how intensely athletes are being doping-checked these days – one of the coaches complained recently that his protege was tested trice in 24 hours!

What is it then?

Why on junior level there’s a strong competition among different nations, but once the athletes mature – it’s always a Norwegian name ( or two. or three) on a podium? As of recently, alternating with a Russian one, while the rest of the skiing world is, frankly, fighting for scraps ( Swedish female sprinters excepted).

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That’s really one of those questions that have many answers, but our conclusion is simple yet all – explaining:

Money. Money – and organisational effort.

In Good Old Days, an athlete got up in the morning, ate his porridge, waxed his skis – went on the track and won. As it were.

These days to win, a nation needs to

– Have money to hire best coaches. And then to send them & their athletes to the exotic glacier of
the said coach’ choice for as many days, weeks, even months, as it takes.

– Have money to pay salaries/stipends/bonuses – whatever you call it, – so a professional skier feels like professional and does not have to look for jobs on the side. What happens when a nation does not want to pay its skiers is described here

– Finally, there is an army of support personnel & long list of equipment that one absolutely needs to have in order to win.

Since it’s kind of difficult to put in pictures the conversation about salaries, we offer you a glimpse of the latter factor – pre-race preps with its unsung heroes. And trust us, nobody has more personnel and equipment involved in eventual victory than the Norwegians and the Russians

All these skis ( and a few pairs did not quite fit into picture) belong to one top athlete. His squires start selecting the best few pairs at least a day before the race
Leading athletes have over 100 pairs of skis. You read it right – over one hundred pairs, covering each and every weather and snow condition on this planet
Checking the best glide is no longer a woodoo ritual for the best teams – there are fancy machines to add science to the choice.
…Remember, it all is happening a day before the race and involves several people – waxers and technicians. Their athletes are already resting for the race
Team Norway has biggest, meanest looking weather station. Probably knows-it-all when it comes to air and snow conditions. And that helps
What happens in waxing trucks is shrouded in mystery, but it is safe to say that the bigger the truck – the bigger is a chance waxers will find the right combo of chemicals to propel one’s skis
The main Norwegian truck ( there are several) literally dwarfs anything the others have
Johannes Klaebo carrying his poles himself? Himself?! We wouldn’t go as far as to call it exceptional, but for today’s Norwegian pro-racing it’s a bit like seeing Tiger Woods carrying his own clubs.
Russians actively employ pre- and post-race massage. At least one doctor or therapist is always at hand at race paddocks
Traditional “line-up” of Norwegian team ahead of the race as athletes squires and waxers hold their skis – individually
The other teams? Well, let’s just say their personnel is a little busier as evident from this picture
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