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  • Golden 25 - Winter Sports Leaders #21


    Rene Fasel, President of the International Ice Hockey Federation

    The first challenge for Fasel, 61, is ensuring the success of ice hockey at the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck next month. As well as men's and women's five-team tournaments, a new “Skills Challenge” competition – the first at any Winter Olympics – willl be held. The best 15 male and best 15 female athletes from countries not qualified to compete in the main ice hockey tournament will go up against each other. They qualified through a global qualification program based on a series of tests designed by the IIHF.

    After Innsbruck 2012, Fasel's focus shifts to preparations for Sochi 2014. The Bolshoi Ice Palace, venue for Olympic ice hockey, will open in May 2012 as the first completed arena for the first Russian Winter Olympics. But Fasel's big test lies on U.S. soil. He will resume negotiations with the NHL and the NHLPA in his ongoing quest to make sure NHL players where the best ply their trade are part of the Sochi 2014 Olympics. In May, Fasel will oversee the running of the IIHF World Championships in Helsinki and Stockholm.

    Last year's ranking: 25

    Gian-Franco Kasper, President of the International Ski Federation

    As head of the IOC Coordination Commission for Innsbruck 2012, Kasper has witnessed all preparations for FIS events at close quarters. Of the 63 medal events in 15 Olympic winter sports disciplines, 14 will feature at an Olympics for the first time with some mixed-gender and mixed-NOC events. Of significant interest ahead of Sochi 2014 is how women’s ski jumping and snowboard slopestyle work out. They are among nine events new to the Winter Olympic program this year that belong to the International Ski Federation. Half of the 98 medal events for Sochi 2014 are split among the six FIS disciplines.

    Kasper, 67, is closely monitoring the inaugural women’s ski jumping World Cup this season that will provide pointers on what FIS needs to improve in the following two winter sports seasons before the 2014 Games.

    Important too is growing the profile of new events such as ski slopestyle, ski halfpipe, snowboard slopestyle and snowboard parallel slalom over the next two years. Kasper and his colleagues are also busy ironing out the complexities of staging more events in Sochi than at the Vancouver Games. Scheduling some events under lights at night is expected to deliver spectacular shows. Rumblings from professional skiers about a union will be an issue facing FIS.

    With all this, Kasper has a hectic schedule until the close of the season, not to mention Sochi 2014 test events. The Rosa Khutor Alpine Center hosts its first FIS World Cup in February, and Europa Cup test events in snowboarding and freestyle skiing will follow at Rosa Khutor Snowboard Park and Freestyle Centre in March.

    Last year's ranking: 25

    Ottavio Cinquanta, President of the International Skating Union

    The Italian IOC member is looking forward to Innsbruck 2012. As a member of the IOC Co-Comm for the YOG, he has seen plans take shape to open a new chapter in the history of winter sport for skating. The competition is divided into men's and ladies singles, pairs and ice dance. There is also a mixed-NOC team event with one woman (singles), one man (singles), one pair and one ice dance couple, all from different countries, forming a team.

    Looking ahead to Sochi 2014, Cinquanta breathed a sigh of relief when the IOC announced in April that a team event in figure skating would join the Winter Olympics program. Now, the ISU has time to refine the format. The best 10 countries, qualified from world championships and the Grand Prix, will enter one man, one lady, one figure-skating pair and one ice-dancing couple, so the grand total for each team will be six skaters for each competing country. At the end of the short and free programs, the top country will be crowned Olympic champion.

    Cinquanta, 73, is also determined to ensure the success of the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships that take place in Nice in March.

    Last year's ranking: none

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    Written by Mark Bisson.

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