“It was embarrassing,” said Johannes del Skivedal after the season opener in Sjusjøen.
It is commendable that athletes speak openly about the sliding differences between Norwegian athletes and other countries.
They know better than anyone what consequences this sport can have.
But to understand how a fluoride ban affects performance, we need to know what factors affect slippage in ski racing.
Ski characteristics, sole characteristics, lubrication and not least grinding.
Although other biathlon nations also have sharpening machines, cooperation between specialist communities, industry, specific sports and the Olympic summit has made Norway the absolute best in ski sharpening. This advantage is enhanced by the fact that other countries cannot stain with fluoride to compensate. Because without fluorine under the skis, lubrication has nothing to do with slippage, and other factors that affect slippage become more important.
Certainly some of the big countries like Germany, Sweden and France will participate in individual races, as we saw France do in the season opener in cross-country skiing in Pitostol. But over the course of an entire season, a fluoride ban would likely make Norway even more superior before the start.
We must learn from Formula 1
No other countries have greasers who can walk as many miles a day as the Norwegians to find the winning formula. By using fluoride, other countries can make up for bad skis with a good hit on lubricant.
In addition, the best athletes can choose skis from the manufacturers first. There are those who believe that fair skating includes measures such as the International Federation distributing the same skis with the same slip and the same lubrication to everyone. But since athletes choose skis with characteristics that suit them, such a solution would only create more injustice because the athlete risks getting skis that don’t fit them. The best solution is to limit the number of captains per athlete or country.
The results at Lake Sjusjøen in any case suggest that the Norwegian team is best prepared for a fluoride-free sport. Since the announcement of the possibility of a fluoride ban, Lubrication Director Tobias Fennery and the team have been fully prepared. And it’s allowed to be the best at preparation, right? Other countries have also received a warning about the fluoride ban, noted TV 2 country expert Peter Solling-Skenstad.
But simply saying, “This is the game. Play the game,” will not eliminate the problem in the long run. Namely, Norway will be far superior. Therefore, the International Biathlon Union must come up with equivalent measures.
In the same way that a Formula 1 driver relies on the whole team working well together, a biathlete relies on a strong team with good systems. But just as the FIA has realized that it has to set clear rules for car characteristics and the use of the resources of different teams, the IBU must, at a much faster pace, address the significant differences between countries when it comes to everything related to sliding on skis.
Biathlon in the summer
We need a federation that has greater knowledge of skiing and paragliding – and shares it with all nations. If the differences become greater, the result is that the sport as a whole will suffer.
There is also a radical solution that could solve the problem: biathlon will eventually become a summer sport.
With the warmer winters, it’s like you’re fighting nature to hold on to the artificial snow at arenas in Europe, where the snow is dug up again on the Monday after a weekend of competition.
Think about the possibilities of switching to roller skates where the organizer is responsible for distributing the same roller skates to everyone. There will be many countries that will have the opportunity to practice this sport and you can hold flexible competitions in the center of new cities.
The intention of banning fluoride is undoubtedly good, but have you thought about the consequences for sports? The opening of the season suggests that Norway is the best prepared they have ever been. The Norwegian athletes realized that the difference was “embarrassingly” large.
If biathlon wants to maintain good recruitment and public and media interest for 20-50 years, they will have to think long term. Moving to the competition period in the summer and the training season in the winter would make everything much easier. As of today, it seems more sustainable too.
The fact that Norway enters the World Cup arenas with a larger greaser trailer and with a greater number of pairs of skis (about 100 per athlete) certainly does not improve the work ethic of other countries either.
“Infuriatingly humble internet trailblazer. Twitter buff. Beer nerd. Bacon scholar. Coffee practitioner.”