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2010

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Looking back at the 10th Otepää World Cup Event – 2010

As hoped, the 10th Otepää World Cup competition fully lived up to the quality that might be expected of a tenth anniversary. There was pomp and circumstance. There were memories. And, especially pleasingly, the Otepää competition was graced by the presence of FIS secretary general Sarah Lewis. Rushing to Estonia in the middle of a truly busy season and amid problematic snow conditions at the Winter Games, she was immediately wowed by the impeccable snow conditions and commented on how pleasant a surprise her first visit to Estonia was.

 

Among other guests of honour, the grand old man of FIS cross-country skiing Bengt Erik Bengtsson (naturally accompanied by Solveig) weighed the current development level of his decision to entrust the competition to Otepää.

And on the first morning of competition, briefly taking in the ambience at Tartu for a celebration marking 50th anniversary of the Tartu ski marathon, they experienced yet another facet of Estonia, a country riding high on a national wave of skiing enthusiasm. But a few words about another guest – Bente Skari, who came to Otepää with the 2011 World Championships organizing committee to see how things went, perhaps with an idea to using something for a future major competition. As she later confirmed, being in Otepää generated quite a number of new ideas in light of conditions at Holmenkollen. As Tiit Pekk was serving at Otepää in the capacity of head referee, a position in which he is fast approaching legend status – Bente was able to discuss some technical niceties with him. Tiit is after all the FIS TD referee at the future World Championships and he undoubtedly wants to assist and support the Norwegians as much as his duties entail and as much as they – one of the world’s bastions of Nordic skiing – require…

 

The ski stadium being renovated at Tehvandi proved the setting for a classical battle, as customary. Although it seemed the sights were set on Otepää as well, naturally the more distant aim was apparent – the Vancouver Games. As many athletes were still warm from the Tour de Ski, it was no wonder that many mustered up good performances at Otepää as well. That the women’s triumvirate of Justyna Kowalzcyki, Marit Björgen and Aino-Kaisa Saarinen would sweep the podium was not in much doubt, but on the men’s classical side, Andrus Veerpalu and Jaak Mae produced a true surprise for the large home crowds. All of it was relished by Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who was in attendance. When the day also yields a trophy for the local boys, an organizer at any venue will undoubtedly see it as fitting recompense for their efforts…

 

Each year, the sprint event is a true highlight at the Otepää stadium. The superb track location is of course one of the reasons. Being right in the heat of battle – in the stadium – allows nearly the entire field of competition to be viewed. Thus the incomparable progress of winners-to-be Hanna Falk and Emil Jönnson would not be missed, nor too Kaija Udras’s quarterfinal or on the men’s side semi-final heats for Peeter Kümmel and Kein Einaste. Summing up the sprint event, we saw the Norwegians present and accounted for as usual, but the Swedes also posted good results, with plucky Russians, Finns and other capable of surprise at any moment. Thus Otepää turned all the favourites and projections for Vancouver topsy-turvy…

 

In terms of setting, the Tehvandi competition seemed to take place during a work break on a construction site. If you looked around a bit, you saw that the major jobs had been put on hold just for a moment. The end result – completing construction of a big, modern ski stadium – as we know must be ready by the next, 11th World Cup round and the Juniors and U-23 World Championships at the end of January. These new winter competitions will be the most prestigious in Otepää’s skiing history, as in addition to cross-country skiers, ski jumpers and Nordic combined athletes will be on hand as well. During that time, the organizing forces must be up to the task for more than half of the month. “Well, one could say we have summoned these spirits ourselves and now we must rise to a world-class level,” said head organizer Alar Arukuusk. And no doubt he has the best knowledge of exactly what the event and its staff are capable of…

 

Author: Kaarel Zilmer

Photo: NordicFocus

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