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Friday, April 8, 2011
FIS snowboard race directors speak

By Olivia Dwyer
ESPN Action Sports

Things will get pretty firey if slopestyle gets accepted into the 2014 Olympic Games.

Marcel Looze and Uwe Beier work for the FIS. Beier is the current FIS snowboard race director and will oversee snowboarding events at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia; Looze held this post from 2006 to 2010, overseeing the snowboard events in Torino and Vancouver. ESPN spoke to Looze in London the day the International Olympic Committee postponed a decision on snowboard slopestyle, then caught up with Beier over the phone from Germany to get the FIS position on all the Olympic grumbling that's been going on lately.

ESPN: What was your reaction to the news that slopestyle is not in the Olympics yet?
Marcel Looze:
We are happy with the inclusion of two of our events, and we are confident that the others will come as well.

Have you been working to design a slopestyle World Cup tour if it is accepted?
Uwe Beier:
This is the third season now that we did slopestyle as part of the World Cup tour. So independent of any Olympic decision, we will -- and we did -- integrate slopestyle ...

Slopestyle has been within the FIS as one of the most popular and dynamic, youth disciplines. We as the FIS have to organize slopestyle events for the youth ... because it's an important part of the sport. It has nothing to do with IOC decision.

If the IOC does accept slopestyle, would you expand that tour to become the qualifier for the Olympics?
Beier:
This is an IOC decision. If they say it is going to be an Olympic event, the IOC will decide how the qualification is run. So far, for all the other events [have used our] judging and ranking lists -- we have a very well accepted system and ranking list.

What is missing in most of the communication articles [is]: snowboard in the FIS is organized and done by snowboarders. People are still talking about skiers organizing snowboarding events.

-- Uwe Beier

There has been a lot of discussion in the snowboarding community about creating a combined world tour including FIS events and TTR events. Is FIS open to this?
Looze:
We are open to discussion, and we are doing that. That's something between the FIS and TTR. There is an open communication; there are no secrets between each other.

Beier: I was talking, myself, to members of the TTR and I will meet them again. We want to avoid like we had this season ... [so] all the riders and athletes have a fair chance to go to the most important events, and those events do not overlap. ... I could even imagine that we find a way, for example, that TTR events can be FIS-sanctioned and therefore a part of the qualification system. I could imagine this would be a good solution.

[It doesn't] seem realistic that we have a combined world ranking and combined tour because I see a lot of differences between what we and TTR and others do, and how we organize our ranking system.

[But] TTR events which are ... FIS-sanctioned events, at least some of them -- that could make it easier for athletes to choose which to go to and even fulfill [FIS qualification] criteria. I personally would support this. ... We have certain criteria. To be a sanctioned event, an event has to fulfill those criteria. I don't see that these criteria are that far away from high-level TTR events, so I guess if both sides are willing to cooperate in that -- and I have the feeling it is like this -- that should not be a big deal. I'm really willing to talk.

They know how to run one kind of snowboard competition, but can the FIS handle the other kind? The FIS Race Directors address some concerns.

If you aren't able to work together would FIS then create events that might conflict with existing events, forcing athletes to choose?
Beier:
I don't see this. It's a big discussion this year [but] the criteria that the past two Olympics had to qualify ... was quite a low one. So everybody competing in one or two FIS events would easily reach [the FIS] qualification criteria, and then the nations make their own qualification system.

For example, the U.S. picks from X Games or whatever events ... and these events then determine which athletes would qualify internally to go to the Olympics.

So at the end, this discussion should not be as big as it is at the moment. Who's going to the Olympics or not -- it's the decision of each individual nation how their athletes can qualify.

Athletes have been very outspoken this season, from Terje Haakonsen's 180 Charter to We Are Snowboarding coming together. What is the FIS reaction, and what's the most effective way for athletes to work with FIS?
Beier:
The lack of communication, this can only be said by someone who is not taking part in this communication because they are not there. We are open to everybody. They can bring concerns to FIS directly. The easiest and professional way is that riders are talking to their coaches and their coaches are talking to us. Then we get not hundreds of opinions, but collective opinions.

What is missing in most of the communication articles [is]: snowboard in the FIS is organized and done by snowboarders. People are still talking about skiers organizing snowboarding events. The riders who are competing regularly can confirm that the snowboarding events are organized by snowboarders. It has nothing to do [with] skiing. We are part of the organization, yes, but the snowboard department is separate.

I have the feeling that most of the things discussed are discussed by people who are not [or] who never took part in our system. ... It's good that the riders organize themselves. Sometimes it would [be] better if there would be some talking first before writing articles and putting something online. I'm not worried about this development because I have a good feeling that we are doing everything on our side to develop snowboarding, and doing good for the sport of snowboarding.