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FROM THE STUDENT GRAND PRIX TO THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS IN JUST SEVEN YEARS
Kathrin Ebenhoch

von Kathrin Ebenhoch

January 29, 2024

FROM THE STUDENT GRAND PRIX TO THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS IN JUST SEVEN YEARS

The fascinating story of the female Nordic combined athletes

The 11th Nordic Combined Triple will take place in Seefeld from the 1st to the 4th of February 2024. The women are taking part for the second time and will be holding their Seefeld double, so to speak, from the 1st to the 3rd of February. There is no special classification as there is for the men, but the competitions in Tyrol are still very important in the still very young Women's World Cup. But how did the women get into Nordic combined in the first place, who was Austria's first female combined athlete and when did the World Cup, World Championships and co. really get going? Answers to these and other questions can be found in our short journey through the history of the women's Nordic combined.

The first men's competitions in this discipline are documented in Norway at the end of the 19th century. Women are not mentioned here. However, there are quite a few of them in Norway's first ski jumping competitions (The history of women's ski jumping). As ski jumping and cross-country skiing were usually closely linked at the time and championship titles were only awarded in the combination of both disciplines (Wiki/Nordic_combination), it can be assumed that women also competed in the "supreme discipline" of Nordic skiing.

It all started with an international FIS Pupils' Grand Prix

While the men already combined at the Olympic Games in 1924, at the World Championships in 1925 and in the World Cup from 1983, the women had to wait a long time for their official starting point. This was an international FIS Pupils' Grand Prix in Oberstdorf in the Allgäu region on the 29th August 2014. Around 40 female athletes from nine nations competed in the combined event and determined their winners in three age groups. Around a quarter of them are still active in the combined World Cup today, while a third have switched to speciality jumping. It is no longer possible to determine which of the 40 was the very first to compete in Nordic combined, or whether there were female competitors in this discipline in Japan or the USA earlier than in Europe. In most nations, all junior athletes compete in Nordic competitions both on the ski jump and on the cross-country ski trail up to the end of the school year (at the age of 13/14).

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Timna Moser - A pioneer who doesn't want to be one

In Austria, Timna Moser from Absam is considered a pioneer of Nordic combined. "I wouldn't call myself that now," she says with a laugh. "But I'm delighted that the sport has developed so positively in Austria and that the girls can now compete in the World Cup and at world championships." She herself got into Nordic skiing through her older brother. "He always wanted to do biathlon and, as a little sister, I followed in his footsteps. I first learnt cross-country skiing in the Nordic Team Absam and later tried ski jumping." Like all young athletes, Moser always competed in both disciplines. In spring 2014, she passed the entrance exam for the Stams Ski High School as a specialised jumper, as there was no 'Nordic combined for girls' department there at the time. However, after she confidently won her first official competition in this discipline in summer 2014, she enrolled at the elite boarding school as a combined skier. "In the beginning, I was always travelling alone with a bunch of lads, which was challenging for me and the coaches." They first had to find out how Moser stood up to the boys in training. "It was pretty tough at times, but I always felt very comfortable in the team." Although Moser won almost all junior competitions for several years, her career ended when she left school in Stams. "I suffered two fatigue fractures and was injured for a long time. I somehow lost my inner connection to my sport." Today, the 25-year-old studies, gives cross-country skiing courses for adults and follows the combined competitions of her successors on television or, as in Seefeld, sometimes on site.

Watch or join in - Lisa Hirner

The Tyrolean has only witnessed the major developments in the women's competitions as a spectator. But another Austrian has been there live everywhere - Lisa Hirner. The Styrian actually wanted to become a ski jumper like her father and uncle. "But in my training group at the main ski school in Eisenerz, they were all combined skiers. I had the choice of watching the cross-country training or joining in." Watching was not for her, and neither was cross-country skiing at first.

But then she slowly grew into it and today she can't imagine doing anything else. After the Nordic combined athletes and their competition were not included in the programme for the 2026 Olympic Games in Milan/Cortina, the media asked Hirner whether she was now considering switching to speciality jumping. Her answer was clearly no: "I will (...) still stick with this sport and keep fighting." (Der Standard, 28.6.2022)

The combined skiers still have to wait to take part in the Olympic Games. They are now taking part in all other competition series and major events. Continental Cup competitions were held for the first time in the 2017/18 season. This was followed in January 2018 by a test event at the Junior World Championships in Kandersteg (Switzerland), which Jenny Nowak from Germany won and Hirner came fourth. In 2019, Ayane Miyazaki from Japan was crowned the first official junior world champion, with Hirner coming fifth. One year later, in 2020 in Oberwiesenthal (Thuringia), she finally made it onto the podium and the Styrian won bronze, the first junior world championship medal for the Austrian combined athletes.

2020 - Olympic honours for the youth

But 2020 had a much bigger highlight in store for Hirner. For the first time, the combined athletes were allowed to compete at the Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne (YOG), and the athlete from Leoben won the gold medal in the individual competition in Prémanon/Les Tuffes. Together with Stefan Rettenegger, she was also part of the winning team in the 'Nordic Team Event Ski Jumping', which was contested by two athletes from the combined and two from the specialised jumping events. "I went there with low expectations and then came home with two gold medals. That was the moment that reinforced my desire to be at the top at the Olympics." (Der Standard, 28 June 2022)

2020/21 - Premiere in the World Cup and at the World Championships

Until then, however, there were and are still a few steps to take in this young sport. The next was the first World Cup in history in December 2020 in Ramsau. There, many athletes had the goal of reaching the top and making their mark in the history books. Tara Gerathy-Moats succeeded. However, the US American is considered one of the pioneers of the women's Nordic combined not only because of this victory. Like Moser and Hirner, the now 30-year-old was there from the very beginning and dominated the Continental Cup series for three years before the World Cup was introduced. At the first World Championships in Oberstdorf in February 2021, however, the Norwegians stole the show with a triple victory. The title was won by Gyda Westvold Hansen, who was only 18 at the time and has dominated the World Cup and World Championships at will ever since, even more so than her team-mate Jarl Magnus Riiber in the men's event.

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Seefeld and the future

Westvold also won the first two competitions in Seefeld last year as part of the Nordic Combined Triples as well as the second World Championship title in Planica 2023, where she also won the title in the very first mixed team competition with the Norwegian team.

Although race director Lasse Ottesen is in favour of a Nordic Combined Triple for women including a mixed team competition in Seefeld and absolute equality at the 2030 Olympic Games, the future of the Nordic Combined is generally uncertain in 2024. Critical voices even see the men's competitions in the Olympic programme from 2030 in danger. Top Italian combined athlete Annika Sieff - who has already finished on the podium five times in the World Cup and was recently crowned Junior World Champion twice - is therefore focussing on the special jump at her home Games in Cortina in 2026. Pioneer Timna Moser can understand such steps for the sake of her personal Olympic dream. "But I personally wouldn't have given up the combined for it." The 35 women currently fighting for victories and points in the World Cup rankings have not done so either and are confidently taking the next step towards the future from 1 to 3 February in Seefeld.

Another exciting article on the general history of Nordic combined can be found at:

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