The International Ski Federation (FIS) will introduce equal distances for women and men in cross-country skiing. It is a rule change that the FIS cross-country committee has been working on for a year and a half.
It was Vegard Ulvang who proposed. For him, the change is about recognizing that women and men are equally strong. Ulvang believes that the rules as they stand today suggest otherwise.
“For me, we tell a story now that women are not as strong as men. I want to change that,” Ulvang said during the meeting, which Dagbladet followed live.
However, there was no unanimous yes to the rule change in the cross-country committee either. Russia, Italy, and Austria were among the nations that were clearly opposed to women and men going the same distance. The United States, Sweden, and Finland clearly wanted the change.
The final voting result was 57 percent ‘yes’ to the change, 36 percent ‘no,’ and the rest abstained.
The board of FIS (FIS Council) will now formally assess and approve the decision that will be made on Thursday, May 26. Only then the rule change will be introduced. But according to FIS insiders, it rarely happens that the FIS Council opposes decisions made in the organization’s subcommittees.
Divided Opinions Among The Skiers
The Swedish women support the proposal and would like to introduce equal distances as soon as possible.
But not all skiers are equally enthusiastic about the change. Several of the Norwegian national team women expressed skepticism about the principle of equal distances when the proposal first became known earlier this spring.
Therese Johaug fears that introducing 50km for women will make women’s cross-country skiing less exciting for spectators and the TV audience.
“There will be too much ‘water between the boats’ then. The time difference is larger on the women’s side than on the men’s, which are more even. If we go as far as the guys, it’s going to be even more boring. That is not the way to go,” Johaug said when the proposal became known.
Anne Kjersti Kalvå, and the two new Norwegian national team skiers Marte Skaanes and Julie Myhre agree.
“It has at times been complained enormously that it is boring to follow because the distances are long, and the excitement disappears. Therefore, I am not sure if 50km for women is the way to go,” Skaanes told Adresseavisen.
Both Myhre and Kalvå think the same. None of them are so concerned that women should necessarily have the same distances as men.
“I am basically negative that women and men should go the same distance since we clearly do not have the same physical starting point. But if that is where the ski world wants, then I will definitely take the challenge,” said Kalvå.
Good Viewing Figures For Long-Distance Skiing
However, it is not sure that the skeptics have anything to fear.
When it comes to media and audience interest in long-distance, the winter viewer figures from NRK’s and SVT’s broadcasts from the long-distance races in Ski Classics may indicate the opposite. In several contexts, the long-distance races had higher viewers than the World Cup broadcasts last season.
Rule Can Be Introduced Immediately
Provided that the FIS Council approves the rule change, equal distances can, in theory, be introduced in the World Cup as early as next winter. In the context of championships, however, it will be able to be introduced at the earliest to the World Championships in 2025 at Trondheim, Norway.