Energetic consequences of race strategy and race tactics in winter sports

Injury and illness surveillance of elite athletes - The Norwegian Olympic team experience

Kathrin Steffen

Dr. Kathrin Steffen 1,2

1 Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway

2 Norwegian Olympic Training Center (Olympiatoppen), Oslo, Norway

In my talk, I focused on what is available in the literature and what has been previously presented on para athletes´ health. Solid injury and illness surveillance data exist from numerous Paralympic Games since 2012, as well as from a few prospective National monitoring programs.

Most of my talk presented the Norwegian health screening and monitoring program. It s an ongoing program since 2011 and consists of an annual health screening and athletes´ weekly monitoring of injury and illness cases. The program aims to target best clinical care of the athlete to provide optimal training and competition conditions. I presented the program´s clinical benefits and exemplify those by presenting data collected since the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

To shortly summarize the current situation on health surveillance and monitoring, injury and illness risk seems higher for Paralympic athletes compared to their Olympic counterpart, and higher for winter than for summer sports. Para athletes might be more vulnerable to certain illness by the nature of their underlying co-morbidities, rather than the (winter) sport itself. For long-term success of ongoing health monitoring programs, athletes, medical staff and coaches all should see direct benefits (e.g. fewer health incidents, more and more effective training days throughout the year). Good monitoring data inform risk management at both an individual and a group level.


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The impact of the arms in para alpine slalom skiing

Marie Lund Ohlsson

D. Steffensen 1, Mikeal Swarén 2,3, Jonas Danvind 4, Marie Lund Ohlsson 1

1 Swedish Winter Sports Center, Department of Health Science, Mid Sweden University, Östersund, Sweden

2 Swedish Unit of Metrology in Sports, Department of Sports, Fitness and Medicine, Dalarna University, Falun, Sweden

3 Swedish Olympic Academy, Stockholm, Sweden

4Sports Tech Research Centre, Department of Quality Management and Mechanical Engineering, Mid Sweden University, Östersund, Sweden

In para-alpine skiing the rules says that athletes which are not able to hold and use a pole is eligible to compete. This is sometimes a hard task for classifiers to determine. The aim of this study was to increase the knowledge of the biomechanics in order to inform the development towards evidence classification system. The participants, 1 para-alpine skier (17 year with congential dysmelia left forearm, world cup level) and 10 able-bodied alpine skiers (18,3 ± 1,7 years national junior skiers at national level), performed a slalom course in three different conditions, using 2 poles, one pole and no poles. During these races time and full-body kinematics was measured using 12 IMU sensors (Myomotion, Noraxon Inc., USA). The results showed that reduced number of poles increased the race-time for able-bodied athletes. For able-bodied skiers both arm and leg kinematics was impacted by number of poles. No poles gave a more up-right position and a less dynamic technique. For the para-alpine skier no difference in race-time was shown between 1 pole and 2 pole condition, while the no pole condition was slower. The kinematics for the 1 pole condition was significantly different between the para-athlete compared to the able-bodied group for many body angles, showing a more crunched body position and larger range of motion for the para-athletes. To conclude, the number of poles impact race-time and kinematics of both arms and legs. Also, the balance ability seem to be affected by reduced number of poles.

Using sensor technology to track performance in para XC skiing: time well spent or time wasted?


Julia Kathrin Baumgart, Camilla Høivik Carlsen, Jan Kocbach, Cecilia Severin, Øyvind Sandbakk

Center for Elite Sports research, Department of Neuromedicine and Movement Sciences, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Para cross-country (XC) skiers are divided into three categories for each sex (physically impaired sitting and standing, visually impaired standing) where a time factor is used to adjust for disability-related performance differences within each category. Despite the use of this time factor, differences between the first three ranks are often larger in Para XC skiers compared to able-bodied XC skiers (e.g. ~0.5-14% versus ~0.5-2% during the middle-distance races at the 2010-2018 Olympic/Paralympic Games). In able-bodied XC skiers, sensor technology with accompanying algorithms are increasingly used to track speed and investigate mechanisms related to won or lost time, such as choice of and transitions between sub-techniques and inherent cycle kinematics. In a sitting Para XC skier, a slightly modified algorithm was used to investigate the differences in speed between low intensity (LIT) and high intensity skiing (HIT). The higher speed during HIT was mainly due to an increased cycle rate (60-61 versus 45-55 cycles∙min-1), whereas cycle length was longer only in uphill terrain (3.0 versus 2.6 m). Furthermore, preliminary analyses showed a large time loss for a LW4 skier compared to an able bodied XC skier (~25 sec) especially in the uphill terrain. This was associated with almost twice as many time-consuming sub-technique transitions (16 vs. 9, respectively), particularly between the diagonal stride and kick double poling technique. We speculate that this is related to individual preference, lower speed and/or reduced joint mobility and muscle mass in the left leg of this particular LW4 skier. Overall, these two examples highlight the benefits of, and justify the time spent on these analyses, since we contribute to an increased understanding of Para XC skiing performance. However, further research is required to see whether these methods can distinguish performance differences in specific terrains, sub-techniques or kinematic patterns related to the type and extent of disability – and thereby improve the classification system. Such research requires larger samples of athletes, collected through collaborations between international research institutions while communicating closely with the International Paralympic Committee, sport governing bodies, coaches and athletes.


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The female endurance athlete - research questions and ongoing studies


Boye Welde

School of Sports Sciences, The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway

Sport and exercise participation have moved towards gender equality. However, our current understanding of exercise physiology is mainly developed via research on men, and there is sparse understanding of women’s exercise physiology due to limited consideration for sex-specific differences such as the hormonal regulation of behavioral and adaptive mechanisms. In this presentation, I will present the Female endurance athlete (FENDURA) project where we aim to solve some of these questions and provide scientific basis for optimising long-term training responses and performance development of female athletes in endurance sports and in the prevention of menstrual-related side-effects. Scientific background and preliminary plans for the planned studies will be presented. These are aimed to: 1) Compare the physiological, performance and training development of female world-class competitors in cross-country (XC) skiing and biathlon to those who had similar potential, but did not succeed. 2) Examine how the menstrual cycle (MC) and hormonal contraceptives influence training quality, performance, and possible side-effects in female XC skiers and biathletes. 3) Investigate the effects of periodizing strength and endurance training according to the hormonal fluctuations of the MC on the development of strength and endurance capacity in female XC skiers and biathletes.

Relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S) – practical implications for the youth

Kristin Jonvik

Dr. Kristin Lundanes Jonvik

Sport dietitian and counselor Sunn Idrett & researcher Norwegian School of Sport Sciences

A well-recognized nutritional challenge is the syndrome of low energy availability, low bone mineral density, and menstrual dysfunction, also known as the female athlete triad. The newer term 'Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport' (RED-S), points to the complexity involved, and the fact that male athletes are also affected. RED-S refers to impaired physiological function including, but not limited to, metabolic rate, hormonal (dys)function, bone health, immunity, protein synthesis, cardiovascular health caused by relative energy deficiency.

RED-S represents a considerable challenge in sport, especially in endurance sports and other sports where a low body weight is of importance. The consequences are of the highest impact for the youth that are still in growth and development both physically and mentally. If these young athletes do not have a good support by adults, we can loose talents, joy of sport, health and quality of life along the way.

Healthy Sport (“Sunn Idrett”) is a Norwegian sports initiative to prevent eating disorders and to promote healthy sport environments, and a guiding principle in Norwegian sports is that health is always more important than performance. Healthy Sport aims to spread knowledge about sport nutrition and promote good attitudes and healthy values related to food, body, health and performance. An important action is the establishment of a framework for the Norwegian sport, including the guidelines for training and competitive restrictions for athletes «When do we say stop», which the IOC return to play guidelines are based on. Furthermore, educating athletes, parents and coaches about good nutrition, normal growth and development, and how to create safe food enviroments is of importance in the prevention of RED-S. Also, there is a need to teach parents and coaches about RED-S and guide them in how to identify and how to act if they are worried about an athlete’s health.



Mountjoy, M., et al., The IOC consensus statement: beyond the Female Athlete Triad--Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S). Br J Sports Med, 2014. 48(7): p. 491-7.

Keay and Francis. Infographic. Energy availability: concept, control and consequences in relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S). Br J Sports Med, 2019 Oct;53(20):1310-1311.



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Interview with Jessica Diggins and Matt Whitcomb

Motivation: the dark side and the bright side

Henrik Gustafsson

Henrik Gustafsson

Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden

Becoming a world-class athlete requires many years of deliberate, high quality training. Many athletes at the elite level have been described as having a “fire burning” for their sport, probably a necessity to be able to tolerate the required high levels of training for a number of years. This strong motivation or even passion for their sport might also be a possible risk of burnout. One of the main risk factors are perfectionistic strivings, especially in combination with an ego oriented motivational climate.  Burnout is often defined by three main symptoms. First, emotional/physical exhaustion, which is the central symptom of burnout, and is related to stress associated with intense training and competitive demands. Second, reduced sense of athletic accomplishment is manifested in a perception of low ability with regard to performance and sport skill level. Finally, sport devaluation manifests itself in a loss of motivation, with the athlete ceasing to care about his or her previously beloved sport. Although tentative estimates, research indicate that might be a serious problem with an estimated prevalence of 1-12% and severe burnout symptoms around 1-2%. For prevention, supporting psychological needs (autonomy, competence and relatedness) might be effective. Furthermore, ego involving motivational climate induced by coaches, peers, and parents is likely to affect burnout symptoms and therefore educational interventions can potentially be useful. Although there are no studies of treatment in athletes suffering from more severe symptoms the findings from other areas show the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) based interventions for stress reduction and to alleviate burnout symptoms.  

Energy system contribution in XC skiing: theoretical framework and practical application for sprint and distance skiing

Thomas Losnegard

Thomas Losnegard

Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway

Energy system contribution during cross-country (XC) skiing races is dependent on several factors, including the race duration, track profile, and sub-techniques applied, and their subsequent effects on the use of the upper and lower body. During both sprint (≤1.8 km) and distance races (≥10 and 15 km, women and men, respectively) a high aerobic turnover interacts with subsequent periods of very high work rates at ~120 to 160% of VO2peak during the uphill sections of the race. The repeated intensity fluctuations are possible due to the nature of skiing, which involves intermittent downhills where skiers can recover. Thus, the combination of high and sustained aerobic energy turnover and repeated work rates above VO2peak, interspersed with short recovery periods, distinguishes XC skiing from most other endurance sports. The overall annual training of elite skiers, both in sprint and distance skiing, has been widely studied over the last decades. Moreover, several studies have demonstrated that male and female world-class skiers are among the endurance athletes with the highest VO2max. Accordingly, world-class performance has been associated with maximal values above 70 and 80 mL·kg−1·min−1, in female and male skiers, respectively. However, an important but unsolved question is how to optimize training to enhance the recovery of the energy reserve during intermittent exercise, which is possible whenever the O2-demand is lower than the “critical power”. This ability is probably a prerequisite for achieving a World class level, and potentially be a significant principle in a tapering process leading up to important competitions.



Practical and scientific experiences from optimizing the sport-specific development of endurance transfer athletes

Rune Talsnes

Rune Kjøsen Talsnes 1,2, Tor-Arne Hetland 2 and Øyvind Sandbakk 3

1 Department of Sports Science and Physical Education, Nord University, Bodø, Norway.

2 Meråker High School, Trøndelag County Council, Steinkjer, Norway.

3  Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway

Aiming for cross-country (XC) skiing success at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, China has developed a talent transfer program where endurance athletes from different summer sports (e.g. running, rowing and kayaking) have been transferred to XC skiing by utilizing Norwegian coaching and training methods. In this presentation, we will 1) describe how we coached and systematically monitored these athletes in order to optimize their performance-development and 2) show scientific data describing the factors underlying successful talent transfer in XC skiing.

Twenty-four endurance transfer athletes (15 runners and 9 rowers/kayakers; 15 men and 9 women) were measured for performance, physiological and technical capacities in both sport-specific and general modes at baseline (pre), after three (mid) and 6-months (post) of XC ski-specific training. In addition, training characteristics were monitored, different training responses classified (high vs. low responders), and qualitative assessments of their Norwegian coaches performed.  

Sport-specific performance in treadmill roller-ski skating and double-poling ergometry improved significantly from pre-post (13% and 8%), whereas no changes occurred in treadmill running. These changes were coincided by large improvements in submaximal gross efficiency (0.6%-point), cycle length (13%) and upper-body, one-repetition maximum-strength (~12%). Runners improved roller-ski skating performance more than kayakers/rowers (16% vs. 9%). High responders were also able to simultaneously improve their maximal/peak aerobic capacity (6-7%), which was further associated with higher training loads, greater perceived effort during sessions and lower incidents of injury and illness. Qualitative assessments revealed that higher motivation and a stronger coach-athlete relationship among high responders contributed to more individually optimized training and recovery routines, in comparison to their lower responding counterparts.

Here, the process of transferring endurance athletes to XC skiing were systematically coached and monitored in order to improve adaptations and performance-development. Simultaneously, this provided an opportunity to scientifically examine talent transfer in XC skiing, which lead to a unique collaboration between research and practice in optimizing athletes sport-specific development.


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Practical and scientific experiences from optimizing the sport-specific development of endurance transfer athletes

Liselotte Ohlson

Liselotte Ohlson

The Swedish Sports Confederation, Stockholm, Sweden

This presentation is based on practical experience and knowledge from the field, mainly from more than 300 dialogues, meetings with focus on elite sport development with different sport federations, members of the Swedish Sports Confederation. From darts to football.

To support the federations and their national teams have we asked them, and supported them, to describe their sport or discipline in a profile of demands and also in a long-term athlete development plan. Through the years our processes and templates have developed, so have also the work together with the Swedish Olympic and the Swedish Paralympic committee. So now we work more than ever together, and we have a common plan for all sports and disciplines to work with: Plan for development – towards world class and medals.

The sport federations and their national teams have done a great job and developed in many ways, not at least in producing evidence-based documents. So, what is the problem? Many coaches in clubs and sport schools have never seen or red the documents, or they have not attended any courses for coaches in many years. If they have read the plans and documents, they have either not understood them or they have neglected them. So, with all fantastic work sport federations have done to find out more about development of athletes in an evidence-based matter, implementation and the compliance is very low.

There is an ongoing job within the Swedish Sport Confederation to support our member federations to create and establish new ways of training and competitions, and that is not only to increase the number of participants, it is also a major question for future elite sport. We have great knowledge in many sports with evidence-based documents on how to train in different ages, the importance of progression and so on. But if we don´t use the knowledge, we will not be successful in this change. We need to improve implementation and compliance. We need to do what we know!

How to bring science and sports practice together: a case project


R.C.M. Mulder 1, B. Rykkje 2

1 Center for Elite Sports Research, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway

2 Skøytelandslaget, Norges Skøyteforbundet, Oslo, Norway

In long-track speed skating, the performance of an athlete is determined by finish time. Coaches therefore use a lot of their time manually timing their athletes during training sessions to get an indication of performance. An experienced stopwatch user provides relatively accurate timing results, but generally cannot log data and give split times of all athletes during a training session.

Purpose: The purpose of this case-project was to make an automatic stopwatch for long-track speed skating, so that the coach has access to real-time data and can spend more time coaching. In addition, this makes logging of training sessions possible.

Methods: A web-based application was developed using output data of a transponder timing system (MYLAPS). All data was stored in a cloud-based solution in compliance to GDPR regulations.

Results: A web-based application that gives coaches and athletes a fully customizable stopwatch that can track all athletes during a training session. The end user can select the desired starting point on the track and the distance that needs to be timed. All timing data can be logged to monitor training session.

Conclusions: The described case-project delivered a fully operational, accurate automated timing system that can be used by sports practice and scientists.

Practical applications: This newly developed system gives sports practice a tool to improve the quality of training sessions, by giving the coach more time to coach on for example technique. In addition, it offers scientists with a timing system that can be used to perform research projects.


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