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Looking back at the 11th Otepää World Cup Event – 2011


It doesn’t matter how seriously one views the various stages in elite competition (World Championships and Olympics), the question marks still hover in the air right until race time. “OK, you may be in the shape you say you are in,” it might be said about an athlete, “but what will happen in the heat of competition?” And in Otepää too there was much discussion – what would we see in a month at the sanctum of skiing, the Holmenkollen World Championships.


So it wasn’t as if Otepää was neglected or went unrecognized on this occasion, either. As skiing fans and athletes found, there was much to marvel at and recognize. Few expected to find such a lovely renovated ski stadium, main building and – so important for athletes – services building. The moving spirit of the Tehvandi centre Alar Arukuusk rejoiced – they had finished the work and things looked like they had real potential! This time he had to brief participants in the World Cup more broadly on everything that had been done. A delegation of Oslo World Championships organizers led by Bente Skari had travelled here for the occasion. They viewed, compared and took notes…

Moving right ahead now, Tehvandi drew even greater acclaim for the spectacular conditions and great organization of the Juniors and U-23 World Championships, which began immediately after the World Cup. So the activities that started nearly from scratch about ten years ago have now lifted Tehvandi up to a world calibre!


It is a fairly well-known truth – that good things come in bunches. And nature smiled on this entire attractive, illuminated (in the evening) complex – with the best snow conditions of the World Cup stages. The perfect conditions offered the world’s skiing elite an extremely fiercely contested weekend at Otepää.


If anyone’s World Championships futures jumped in value here, they were Marit Björgen’s on the day of the distance event. As she herself confirmed – “I knew that Otepää would be difficult, but precisely that was what made it an enjoyable track for me”. True, she had to miss the final heat on the day of the sprint event, but to make up for it, an emotional Petra Majdic got her third victory in Otepää. Knowing that it would be her last top-class performance here, she thanked the Estonian ski fans, whose support she said was the world’s most sincere and compelling.


On the men’s side, we knew that Dario Cologna would not compete here, and this raised the Norwegians’ chances even more. They did indeed pluck their victories, but not by their most renowned name – Petter Northug – but in the sprint by Eirik Brandsdal and in the distance event by Eldar Rönning, who managed to tilt the field to his advantage in the last kilometres. Thus Norwegians back home could take satisfaction with the achievement at Otepää and ratchet up the domestic World Championships expectations even higher.


But the entire weekend competition was only a prelude to the World Championships season, which was starting to hit full stride. Even though much of the skiing world’s elite quit Otepää to put the final sheen on their readiness for the Oslo World Championships, Otepää did not fall quiet. The first athletes in the juniors and U-23 age group were already arriving, and they had the whole arena and the K-90 behind a stand of woodland to themselves. Otepää had never before seen so many future stars at one time, including for instance young women ski jumpers. As the ensuing competition showed, Tehvandi helped produce 100-metre jumps, with as many as 18 style points.


The transition between events was as smooth as my own transition in this article. The crème de la crème of world skiing was bid adieu and then the venue prepared to welcome the future crop of top athletes. The organizers could pop home for a bit, take care of business, give their washing machines some work, and then it was back to Otepää. And no one complained about the Tehvandi ski centre having to endure such a busy time. And as it was later noted in many places and discussions – Estonians did their job diligently and well. It remains only to praise everyone who once again gave of their time, skills and enthusiasm for world skiing …


Author: Kaarel Zilmer


Photo: NordicFocus

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