TALLINN - The FIS World Cup, the main event of the region's cross-country skiing scene will bring crowds of fans and tons of cash to the town of Otepaa, Estonia's winter capital, on Jan. 8 and 9.
According to the Estonian Skiing Association, Andrus Veerpalu, Jaak Mae, Erkki Jallai, Priit Narusk, Aivar Rehemaa and Anti Saarepuu are on the Estonian men's team for the 15-kilometer race, while the sprint race participants are yet to be picked. Raul Olle will participate in a skiing marathon in the Czech Republic instead of competing at Otepaa.
The country's ladies' team includes Kristina and Katrin Smigun, Silja Suija and Kaili Sirge.
Estonia's most famous female skier Kristina Smigun scored another World Cup victory in Ramsau, Austria, on Dec.18 in the 15-kilometer free-style race, and is expected to do well in her home town. Together with Olympic champion Veerpalu, who also comes from Otepaa, Smigun will most probably attract a considerable crowd for the event.
The country's main hopes - Veerpalu and Smigun - fled to Italy and Austria at the end of December to train for the Otepaa World Cup event because both the weather conditions and the tricky terrain of the winter capital's skiing track weren't able to provide optimal training conditions. Otepaa's Tehvandi skiing center track is considered tough because of its numerous hills.
The contestants' lineup includes participants from 19 countries and is certainly impressive on paper thanks to world-class skiers such as Norway's Jens Arne Svartedal, Russia's Julia Chepalova, Germany's Axel Teichmann and many others.
The two-day competition will include six races: the women's 10-kilometer and men's 15-kilometer classic-style races on Jan.8 and the sprint races on Jan.9.
The Tehvandi skiing center was closed to the public on Jan.3 as the organizers had to finish covering the skiing tracks with some 20 centimeters of artificial snow. The typically tricky Estonian weather promises to hover at around zero, but the organizers have reserved trucks full of artificial snow just to be safe.
Viessmann FIS World Cup Cross-country,
Tehvandi skiing center, Otepaa, Valga county.
Jan. 8 to 9.
Two-day tickets (stadium tickets 10 - 20 euros, track tickets five - 10 euros) available from Piletilevi and Statoil gas stations.
Free entrance for kids under 120 centimeters.