OKBET WINTER RACING | The Italian team is superior in this regardOctober 28, 2022
SKI RACING NEWS : At a recent ceremony in Milan, Lombardy, the Italian Ski Federation (FISI) unveiled their alpine team for the upcoming 2022/2023 season. Stars of the sport including Dominik Paris, Federica Brignone, Sofia Goggia, and Marta Bassino are among the 80 skiers announced for the World Cup and junior categories.
Both the men’s team, under Massimo Carca, and the women’s team, under Giovanni Luca Rulfi, have been given new technical directors after their respective federations elevated them from inside.
Most Italian skiers belong to police enforcement or military sports teams, as has always been the norm. The money they earn representing their organizations, like the Italian Police or Army, allows them to devote themselves to training and racing.
As the new season begins, Team Italy has set its sights on retaining its position as one of the world’s top three alpine countries. While Austria and Switzerland have traditionally dominated the Nations Cup, Italy has emerged as a steady third power in recent years, often placing second to Austria. The 2026 Winter Olympics in Milano Cortina are quickly approaching, and Italian supporters are hopeful for even greater success in the following Olympic cycle.
The Italian team is growing in both physical and financial prowess
In fact, FISI President Flavio Roda told Ski Racing Media that “the Italian squad is today stronger than ever.”
It’s no secret that Italy has a formidable alpine skiing squad. Despite the fact that soccer is more widely followed, the “beautiful land” of Italy still has a rich history of skiing. The first Italian skiing hero, Zeno Col, won two world titles in 1950 in Aspen, Colorado, and made history by becoming Italy’s first Olympic gold medallist in 1952.
Despite having his career halted by World War II and later punished by restrictions against sportsmen believed to be “professionals,” Col defined a whole period in alpine skiing. During the 1970s, when the “valanga azzurra” (blue avalanche) was at its peak, numerous athletes, like Gustav Thöni, Piero Gros, and others, were able to rule the “white circus” for lengthy stretches.
The 1990s saw the rise to fame of skiers like Deborah Compagnoni and Alberto Tomba. Roda, president of FISI, recalls the period fondly because of the impact he had on the popularity of “Tomba la Bomba.” Previously, Roda coached Tomba before going through the ranks in the Italian Football Federation. From 2012 on, he took on the role of president after having previously served as technical director.
Several recent Italian skiers, including Isolde Kostner, Peter Runggaldier, Denise Karbon, Giorgio Rocca, Manfred Mölgg, and Peter Fill, have won crystal globes in World Cup events.
There was a significant shift in economic security
Even still, just a decade ago FISI was in financial disorder, a precarious situation where spending vastly outnumbered earnings and jeopardized the viability of the sport. FISI was able to quadruple its revenue to EUR 28 million in only five years and continuing increasing it to the present EUR 40 million budget thanks to a required process of cost optimization, accomplished via harsh cutbacks in people and major expenditures in marketing. Despite having to invest in additional disciplines, some of which are not financially viable, they are now on level with the budgets of Austria and Switzerland.
The FISI’s thriving economy is in no little part due to the government’s recent 14-million-Euro subsidy hike. One million Euros in funding have also been approved by the Tourism Ministry for FISI. There will be more chances for businesses and broadcasters to profit from the World Cup in Italy because of the increased number of activities.
In the words of Roda: “I don’t like to say it out loud, but Italy will host more FIS alpine skiing World Cup events this season than any other nation.” In the Italian Alps during the winter of 2022/2023, there will be a total of 14 competitions, six for women and eight for men.
There are two main problems with the recent reelection of Kappa and Roda.
Roda has good cause for self-satisfaction and confidence. The popularity of the Italian ski team has led to an increase in corporate sponsorship, and now sponsors are vying to be linked with the squad. A new contract between FISI and Giorgio Armani’s EA7 label, which will last until 2026, has just been concluded. Kappa, FISI’s former clothes supplier, has filed suit against the company because of the agreement, claiming that it violates the contract’s renewal provisions. Due to a legal judgment, FISI was unable to work with any uniform companies other than Kappa. For each year of breach of contract, Kappa is requesting four million euros in damages.
With the legal concerns behind him, Roda ran a successful campaign leading up to the 15th of October, 2022 FISI elections. With a 5762% majority, Roda was reappointed. On the other hand, there is still an outstanding legal matter. In accordance with Italian law, he is now running for a fourth consecutive term, which might render this election null and void. The issue that matters is whether or not to count his first term, which was less than four years in length.
Nonetheless, the current FISI chair will retain his positions as FIS council member and FIS vice president, assuring Italian participation at the top level of FIS, since he earned the most votes at the FIS Congress held in Milan in May 2022.
As it turns out, Roda isn’t the only Italian official having a high-up position inside the FIS. Former coach Massimo Rinaldi has been leading alpine skiing’s most influential body, the FIS Alpine Committee Executive Board, since earlier this year. The committee makes rule modifications and guides the sport’s evolution.
The recent Italian success may be attributed in large part to Rinaldi
As the FISI alpine sport director from 2014 to 2022, Rinaldi played a crucial role in the resurgence of Italian alpine skiing during the last decade. His role was crucial, since he was responsible for coordinating efforts between the men’s and women’s teams.
R inaldi elaborated, “It was a stance presented by Flavio (Roda). It helped the men’s and women’s teams work together more effectively and improve their strategic planning. Training alongside the guys was really helpful for all of our athletes, but our female ones in particular. Olympian Sofia Goggia told SRM that she benefited much from training among males. “I learnt a lot from skiers like Dominik Paris,” Goggia says. He’s always been there for me, and he’s been instrumental in my reaching new levels of training intensity.
Italy is taking a multi-faceted strategy
Head of International Relations at FISI, Rinaldi, explained why it was crucial for the Italian women’s team to avoid specialization.
The addition of Goggia, Brignone, and Bassino to the women’s squad as all-around skiers was a major goal of ours, and they more than delivered. We formed a “elite group” squad out of them, and their performance beyond all expectations. They have all made remarkable strides, and they continue to benefit much from working together, even if they no longer share coaches and staff.
It is crucial in the Italian system to implement novel approaches to training and development. According to Rinaldi, another one of the Italian team’s strengths is the “Scuola Tecnici Federali” (National Coaching School). According to Italy’s previous alpine sport director, “We are ahead compared to other countries. As shown by the fact that numerous Italian coaches have been recruited by other national teams, we not only have well-prepared coaches at the top level, but we also have well-prepared club coaches doing remarkable work encouraging and developing younger ski racers.”
For Rinaldi and his coaching staff, the plethora of talent frequently posed a difficulty. With so many deserving players to choose from, creating the national team was no easy assignment. It was tough going for even a great like Alberto Tomba when he was just starting out in sports. It was only at the last minute that Tomba was promoted to the “C-team,” and only after one of the regional managers urged that he was worth investing in despite his reputation as a “city lad.”
An open and welcoming new route for “athletes under observation” to reach the highest levels of competition
The ‘Gran Premio Italia’ is a series of FIS races that determines Italy’s national ranking and guarantees the best athletes a spot on the national team without having to compete in any other qualifying events.
For the skiers who needed a second chance, Rinaldi and his fitness coach, Roberto Manzoni, formed a new group called “gli osservati” (“the athletes under surveillance”).
We don’t want to leave anybody off the C-team who deserves to be there, and there are instances when there are more than eight deserving young athletes. As Rinaldi put it, “it’s a process that may be so discouraging that some skiers give up competing entirely.” These athletes may continue participate in FISI-sponsored training camps, consult with their respective club coaches, and be subjected to performance-tracking functional assessments under the present setup. Each year, the program welcomes about 40 skiers who spend around 40 days a year on snow engaging in elite training. The experience “also offers them a sense of the national team environment,” Rinaldi said.
Blardone is pleased with the improvements
Massimiliano “Max” Blardone, another famous Italian skier from the early 2000s, confirms that the FISI development paths have been better managed in recent years. To quote him: “Over the last decade, FISI has grown lot more structured, programs are clearer, and instructors are paid frequently, which wasn’t always the case before.” Blardone, now a coach, has been a member of the national team for 23 consecutive years and has seen personally the reforms made by the Italian Federation.
It was a difficult moment for our federation when I first began participating in the World Cup, Blardone said. Because of Tomba’s retirement, we haven’t had a compelling figure who could appeal to a wider audience than just those interested in ski racing. The alpine movement suffered, even if Italian competitors still did well and won medals. Key personnel improvements have been made over the last decade, allowing us to reduce the number of workers in the back office and increase the number of strength and conditioning coaches and physiotherapists who assist our B and C teams on the field. That was the deciding factor.
After four years with the men’s C-team, Blardone is well-versed in the inner workings of the FISI organization and has begun his fifth season as head coach. With the help of their club coaches, who are also invited to the training camps, we have amassed a large pool of talented young players and can easily incorporate new recruits. Young skiers may gain self-assurance via these programs, and everyone benefits from a shortened learning curve and a deeper sense of camaraderie.
Blardone participated in military sports while serving in the “Fiamme Gialle,” the Italian organization charged with investigating and prosecuting financial crimes. My parents did not inherit a fortune, and they worked hard to provide for me and my siblings and myself. The ability to provide for myself was made possible by my wage. For me, and I’m sure for many other Italian national team players, it was a turning point in our lives.
More and more Italian C-team skiers have the opportunity to train and compete in the Southern Hemisphere over the summer thanks to the backing of Italian police force sport organizations and an expanding FISI funding. Because “skiing has grown more and more difficult and there is no time to squander,” this is crucial, according to Blardone. He was comparing the early and consistent support given to young skiers in other countries to the lack of such support in the United States.
Nothing left to chance
The FISI is doing all it can to keep Italian teams at the top of their respective sports. The Mapei Sport Research Center (MSRC), one of the best multisport research facilities in the nation, has been a partner since 2001. The center was established in 1996 to aid the professional cycling team sponsored by the Mapei building materials manufacturing company. Since then, it has expanded its clientele to include professional football teams such as Juventus F.C., Olympique Lyonnais, Olympique de Marseille, and U.S. Sassuolo, as well as basketball teams, tennis players, runners, and motorsports competitors.
General Manager Ermanno Rampinini was recently interviewed by reporters who inquired about their partnership with FISI. He explained that they conduct “regular functional assessments,” measuring physiological qualities like strength and endurance, in order to keep tabs on the athletes and their training. Skiers and their conditioning coaches may benefit from the center’s evaluations once it has determined which athletic factors influence skiing performance.
We’ve seen a remarkable improvement in the athletic ability of (Italian) skiers over the years. The level of skill among female skiers, in particular, has risen dramatically from previous decades. Whoever performs better under pressure will likely do better on the slopes, regardless of how their physiques seem on the outside.