What are the chances of summer racing happening this summer?

The news that followed the government up date on Sunday 10 May that the lockdown would continue saw a flurry of discussions across the country regarding how ski racing would respond. Ski racing and its vibrant summer racing scene in the UK is just one of many sports to be hit hard by the Covid19 induced lockdown. Talking with Tim Fawke, CEO of Snowsport England, he explained that the sport was very much in the hands of what the government would let them do. Following the announcement that lockdown would continue, albeit in different states depending on what part of Great Britain you live in, GB Snowsport and the Home Nations announced that racing would not happen until the end of June 2020 at the earliest.

With many armchair debaters saying that now is the time to start relaxing things, skiing is not the only sport battling to try and get back to a normal existence. Financial pressure from broadcasters is putting huge strain on the likes of football, rugby and horse racing to finish their seasons while cricket is looking to start its season. The melting snow saw a definitive but premature end of the winter season.

The summer dry mat season, very popular in Britain, is now in a state of flux. The safety of competitors, organisers and spectators is vital and while other sports are pushing for competition to start asap, many with no spectators, a lot of athletes, some feeling like unappreciated pawns in the bigger picture, are questioning the desire of commerce, government and the die hard fans to start up again so to 'raise the moral of the nation.' One prominent footballer, Danny Rose, took to social media to voice his worries saying: "The Government is saying bring back football to boost the morale of the nation," Rose said in a report in the Daily Telegraph, "I do not give a f*** about the nation's morale. People's lives are at risk. Football shouldn't be spoken about till numbers have dropped massively." Many would argue that this goes for all competitive sport.

But when the go ahead is given, what then? The go ahead does not mean that all is safe. An article circulated by Reuters explained that high end athletes are more at risk than the general public, New research says players at risk of coronavirus spread to lungs, explains that the fitter the athlete the more prone they could be to contracting the virus. While the article focuses on football, the author of the piece, Simon Evans, explained to Racer Ready that it could be applicable to any top level athlete from any sport.

There is no doubt that sport will not be the same as to what it was for some time. So how does summer ski racing adapt?

Dry slope racing is unique in being able to set a course and for the course to not deteriorate with ruts etc the more racers go down it. This said Snowsport England are looking at a number of options that could see a form of racing take place. one idea is that once slopes have opened social distancing means a race is not financially viable with 40 skiers. So, get a dry slope to set a course, mark it with paint. Leave it up for a week. People go along in evenings and race it. Sort all the times out later.

Another idea is that you have a race in waves at a weekend, clubs book a time slot with a set number of slots per hour. The racers turn up, do their 2/3 runs then leave. Post results online afterwards.

It is all a tough call with no racing until early July at the earliest. This does not mean that races will happen straight away. Athletes of all ages will need to train as they will not have been skiing at all for almost four months by then and the muscle memory will have started to wane for many. Maybe the purchase of Skiers Edge and such machines will have gone up in these times!

As for FIS, they too are in the same boat of waiting to see what Governments will allow. Slopes in New Zealand and Australia are already posting that they have snow and are open but for those in Europe, getting there is a non starter at the moment.

When asked what the situation was like for next winter, Jenny Wiedeke, Media Manager for FIS, explained: "In terms of next season, we are monitoring other major sporting events, such as the rescheduled Tour de France to see how they ultimately can operate their events. Additionally, we are always keeping abreast of the various national regulations and travel restrictions, which will ultimately play the most important role in our winter calendar.

"But since this is such a rapidly evolving situation and many things can happen, especially in the next weeks as countries ease their restrictions, we are waiting to see how the new reality looks before we create concrete alternative plans."

These are trying times, that there is no doubt. This is not something that the world has encountered for a long time and will effect sport for sometime yet. An American Medical Director explained to Racer Ready that this could be the new norm for some time yet. Lawrence Richman explained that Covid19 is here to stay for at least a two to three years recurring on s cyclical manner. Like any viral epidemic, almost all will ultimately be exposed with recurrent cycles."

He then added "We have insufficient medication treatment now. There will be a vaccine. I think wearing a mask in public and washing hands consistently a good idea."

Richman continued, "There is little evidence that there is significant contagion outdoors in spacious environments. Indoors appears to be a problem."

Other winter sports like Telemark, Bobsleigh, Skeleton and cross country are all in a similar boat as they try to evaluate what they will be able to do come the new winter season. Innovation in keeping fitness levels at a high level has already been noticeable on social media.

All these options do not take into consideration the state of facilities and the ski racing economy! Facilities will have to provide space and the need for clubs to be able to survive financially is vital.

For the moment it is a case of hurry up and wait for the next status update from governments.

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