Two top female skiers announce break in their careers for medical reasons-just weeks before the Olympics. What’s going on and what’s to be done?

The Sunday news came as a bit of a shock

And then again it didn’t – Oestberg’s struggles with her form & health were well publicised.

Even still, those troubles seemed to be behind her. Ingvild came strong 8th in 10kF in Davos mere two weeks ago, just 28 seconds behind Therese Johaug. Since the Beijing 2022 distance courses seem to clearly favor light yet strong and technical athletes, many felt the ex-World Cup winner’s place in the Norwegian line-up is all but guaranteed.

Not so, alas

A little less noticed by the media but nonetheless shocking was a similar announcement earlier last week by one of the most promising young Italian athletes: Francesca Franchi informed her fans via Instagram that doctors told her to stop competing, effective immediately.

Franchi, 24, has also run in that recent Davos race ( albeit less successfully, 56th, 2 and half minutes behind the winner).

What’s going on? Both clearly had the Olympics in sights and by now both logged in what? 600? 700 hours of very hard work since early May?

Oestberg makes no mentioning of what put her effort to stop. Franchi indicates unspecified ” eating disorders”.

You don’t quit on a whim after so much effort went into preparing. There gotta be some oversight or confluence of unlucky events. Is there a way to foresee and to beat it?

“Skiing on the elite level demands an incredibly high training load combined with everyday, on-the-go scientific analysis of how the body adapts to that workload, making adjustments if necessary. You also have to factor in nutrition and psychological conditioning. No doubt that each coach/athlete should know and control the Female Athlete Triad issues. Specialists got the consensus that Disordered Eating, Amenorrhea, and Osteoporosis are not separate problems but three sides of one triangle. You make one slip, one wrong turn in training and things start going haywire for an athlete.” , says Egor Akimov, experienced xcskiing/ triathlon coach and scientist, who we recently interviewed on Dailyskier.com

Akimov’s new project, Zihi, is an AI/ML -powered endurance sports training platform, that claims to deliver just that: tell an athlete when things start going awry:

“The lack of proper analysis of training load or individual physiology reaction to the training affects not just elite athletes but committed amateurs too. There is no excuse not to harness the science into your training…”

We have absolutely no doubt that coaches who worked with Oestberg and Franchi are highly skilled specialists who know their business. The question is, was it enough? And why cross-country skiing on the whole is so slow in adopting the newest, cutting-edge performance- and behavior analysis tools, compared to other sports?

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