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'Suppliers denied Norway ski wax to help rivals'
A relaxed Knut Nystad with Petter Northug at the press conference on Monday - Photo: Heiko Junge/Scanpix

'Suppliers denied Norway ski wax to help rivals'

Published: 17 Feb 2014 10:43 GMT+01:00
Updated: 17 Feb 2014 10:43 GMT+01:00

Norway's chief ski-wax technician on Monday accused an unnamed supplier of denying Norway's ski team the most technologically advanced new products in order to give its rivals an Olympic edge.

"We have received confirmation that others have things that we have not received," Knut Nystad said in a news conference in Sochi, although he refused to name the offending supplier. 
"There's always been talk that Norway is dominant," he said explaining why the product has been withheld. "Now they have a chance to create alternative winners, which in the long-term is positive for the sport. But it's damn annoying." 
Norway's men's relay team, the favourite before the games started, finished the course in a disappointing fourth place on Sunday, behind Sweden, Russia and France, while the women's team managed only fifth place on Saturday. 
Even Marcus Hellner, who led the victorious Swedish team generously said Sweden's superior waxing had played a part. 
“The waxing is very tough and makes a very big difference on this snow,” he told a news conference. “We have succeeded here with our skis. That’s a big reason for our success.”
Eldar Rønning, one of the Norwegian team, said his skis had become extremely heavy after the first three kilometres -- the same experience the country's women's team reported on Saturday. 
“I think it’s the same as yesterday. The skis were OK for the first two to three kilometres,” he said. "This morning I was feeling OK but after three kilometres the skis felt very heavy. I pressed all the speed out of my skis.”
Nystad called an emergency meeting of technicians and ski personnel on Sunday after disastrous performances in both the men's and the women's cross country relays over the weekend saw him take much of the blame. 
"The way it looks now, it's absolutely a crisis," told Norway's TV2 network after the women came in fifth on Saturday. "This is a tragedy." 
"We were once perhaps the world's best ski-wax team," he said later. "but we are not the world's best ski-wax team now." 
The fact that Norwegian ski star Petter Northug pulled off one of his better performances in the relay --  using different wax from his colleagues and rejecting some of the equipment provided by Norway's technicians - provided further evidence against the technicians. 
"I had good skis, so it went well for me," Northug told NRK. "I heard (from teammates) that it felt wrong." 
Nystad on Sunday said that, with no cross-country races scheduled until the Ladies' Team Sprint Semifinal on Wednesday, he hoped to solve the problem. 
"We now have two days where there is no competition," he said. "Now we're going to start from the bottom up. We're going start at zero again tomorrow and just prepare for the next race," he said. 
Meanwhile, the question of whether the wax can take all the blame for Norway's disappointing performance has become such a huge debate in Norway that the country's Prime Minister has weighed in on the issue, although she stopped short of promising government money for wax research. 
"It's either the skis, the wax, or something else which is not quite right," Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Sunday when asked about the men's relay. 
"No, I do not think it is the treasury's responsibility to fund this," she said. 
At the same time former Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg told TV2 that he had been skiing on waxless skis on Sunday. 
"Today I have been skiing on that kind of waxless skis," he said. "I can really recommend them." 

The Local (news@thelocal.no)

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