Bernhard Russi, the 1972 Olympic champion and many time World Championship medallist and World Cup podium winner in downhill, currently serves as the Chairman of the FIS Alpine Committee while also being a FIS technical advisor for downhill course design. Since the mid-1980’s Russi has designed or re-contoured downhill courses for top level of ski racing in Are (SWE), Nakiska (CAN), Vail (USA), Val d’Isere (FRA), Morioka (JPN), Kvitfjell (NOR), Sestriere (ITA), Nagano (JPN), Beaver Creek (USA) and St Moritz (SUI), among others. One of his latest projects has been the courses for the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi (RUS) in 2014.
As the official Sochi 2014 test events, the Audi FIS Ski World Cup events in Sochi, are approaching this week for the men – downhill and super combined on 11th-12th February with three training runs scheduled from 8th February. The ladies will follow the week thereafter with downhill and super combined (super-G and slalom) competitions scheduled on 18th-19th February, also with three training runs starting on 15th February.
FISAlpine.com had a chance to ask Bernhard about his vision for the Sochi 2014 courses and the challenges awaiting the world’s best racers there this February for the first time. To see the general course map click here.
What was your vision for the 2014 courses as you embarked on this task?
Bernhard Russi: “In general the challenge with course design has to do with what the mountain and its terrain have to offer. My goal is to find and build as attractive a course as possible that will allow the best skiers to excel while not allowing the equipment to play a decisive role. I try to balance speed and technical prowess. In the end, however, course design is only 50% of the end product; the other half of a downhill is determined by snow preparation and course setting on the day of the race.
In the Rosa Khutor ski resort in the Caucasus we are in a beautiful mountain region with great peaks and vast forests between the altitudes of 500m-2500m. Given the vicinity of the Black Sea and the latitude of Nice, the winters there have plentiful snowfall and surely offer great conditions for ski racing.”
How do you see the men’s downhill course for Sochi 2014?
B.R.: “The men’s course is quite well-balanced. It has a lot of terrain, from steep and tight sections to both fast and long curves and four very good jumps. But it also requires good gliding skills. However it is a course that is very susceptible to course-setting and snow conditions which will make a big difference to it being more or less challenging on race day. All in all, based on the profile, it is a very good men’s downhill course.”
For the course details click here
How about the ladies?
B.R.: “For the ladies, my goal was to design a technically difficult course. After the European Cup competitions last season, we made certain adjustments to the very first 500m of the course and it now features a very attractive and technically challenging top part which is steep and quite contoured. In the middle part there is a rather long gliding section while the finish is again very attractive. The course allows for two very good jumps and great opportunities for speed changes and control. Course preparation in the middle part will be important - I would prefer it to be prepared quite rutted. It is a good ladies’ course especially on top and bottom.”
For the course details click here
Is there a particular type of skier that you expect to do well on these courses?
B.R.: “The courses are definitely on the long side in terms of racing time. Which skiers will do well will depend on the snow preparation and course setting as these courses can be made faster or slower, technically less or more demanding by these decisions.”
Do you have any particular concerns about the events in Sochi?
B.R.: “Preparation for major events is always a long process that includes a variety of steps and challenges. I am sure we will have great Games in Sochi in 2014. The Organizers have taken the right steps to prepare themselves until now. The various competitions in Krasnaya Polayna are a great opportunity to test all aspects of organization including the staff, equipment and, of course, the courses. I am sure we will end up making certain adaptations which is precisely the purpose of test events before major events.
In terms of weather I think our challenge will more likely be too much snow than too little. In this region, precipitation tends to be in great quantities when it begins! They have recently invested in very good avalanche control so I am not concerned about that.”
To see the general course map click here.