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Audi FIS Ski World Cup Val Gardena / Gröden
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Rainer Senoner: "We wanted to rekindle the enthusiasm for our races”

Rainer Senoner's first term of office as president of the Saslong Classic Club will soon come to an end. In the following interview, the 53-year-old gives insights into the first four years as president of the Gardena/Gröden World Cup Committee, looking back on rewarding but also some less pleasant moments and stating his goals for the next term - provided he will be re-elected by the members of the Saslong Classic Club on 25 June.

Rainer Senoner, what is your take-way from your first term?
RS: I knew in the spring of 2016 that I was taking on a great challenge and had a rough idea of what was in store for me. Nevertheless, some tasks have emerged that I had not necessarily expected. For example, the balance sheets had to be cleaned up - a challenge we mastered. What we certainly did well was the handling of the two major events - 50 years World Cup in Val Gardena/Gröden in 2017 and the 50th anniversary of the 1970 Ski World Cup in December of last year. It was very nice to have the many ski legends with us here in Val Gardena/Gröden and to think back to old, glorious times.

The World Cup Committee has had to cope with double duty at every edition in the past four years...
RS: Yes, that's true, because in 2018 we also had two women's races after our classics. We accepted these two races practically overnight. When Val d'Isère had to cancel, the FIS approached us and within a very short time we had to decide. It was a very big challenge, also from a financial point of view, but we were able to offer great races all the way to the end. And Nicol Delago’s climb onto the podium on her home track was of course the famous icing on the cake.

How was the cooperation of your board?
RS: The cooperation of the board was characterized by a great harmony and extreme enthusiasm for our World Cup classics and skiing in general. This is evidenced by the fact that all resolutions were passed unanimously. We have been able to implement many new ideas. Four years ago, our primary goal was to rekindle the local enthusiasm for the Ski World Cup in Val Gardena/Gröden - in our valley and in all of South Tyrol. These races do not belong to me as president, they are not the property of the board or the organizing committee - the World Cup in Val Gardena/Gröden belongs to everyone. I think that we have succeeded in getting this message across to the outside world. The enthusiasm for the World Cup is once again very, very strong with the communities of the Val Gardena/Gröden valley, among the local tourism operators, our partners and last but not least the local population.

What was the biggest challenge?
RS: The biggest and most important task was the conversion of the entire organizational structure. We have drawn up precise job descriptions including what has to be accomplished before, during and after the World Cup races. Our goal is to ensure that the World Cup in Val Gardena/Gröden can take place independently of any one individual and that the tasks can therefore be completed in the best possible way independently of one person.

On the other hand, is there anything you would do differently from today's point of view?
RS: The last four years have been at a very steep learning curve for me. As an athlete, I have made many decisions from my gut. Maybe sometimes it would be better to sleep on it and react less impulsively. But in sports, quick decisions are essential.

One of these decisions was the cancellation of the downhill race in December 2019. How much did it affect you then?
RS: The cancellation was very painful because from the beginning of December until the beginning of the World Cup week we had perfect weather conditions all over the area and were extremely well prepared. But unfortunately nobody is immune to a heat wave like we experienced in mid-December. At the same time, I would like to stress that it was almost a miracle that we were able to hold a downhill training and the Super-G under such unfavorable conditions. Therefore, I would like to thank the FIS and team around race director Markus Waldner and of course my whole team once again for the excellent work.

How has the World Cup in Val Gardena/Gröden, and skiing in general, developed over the past four years?
RS: As already mentioned, you can feel the positive support from the population, the community, the institutions and tourism everywhere in Val Gardena/Gröden. What I would like to see is another local athlete competing at the top in the near future. We saw with Nicol Delago how good it is for our event when a local rushes to the podium. On the other hand, as far as skiing as such is concerned, it has become even more professional in the last few years. It's all very short-term and difficult for the athletes to ski consistently at a very high level. And unfortunately it has to be said that in skiing money is increasingly ruling, too.

Should you be re-elected on 25 June - what are your goals for the future?
RS: Together with the board of directors I would like to continue on the path we have embarked on and work on improving our organizational structure. At the same time, I will continue to work to ensure that the Val Gardena/Gröden races remain on the FIS calendar. Many people think that this is a matter of course. But it is not. Year after year, we have to give our best, stay involved and prudent so that this will be the case going forward. Another thing that has to be done in the near future is to negotiate contracts with our partners so that we can continue to finance our races.