By Theresa Fugger
The new Swiss Visma Ski Classics Pro Team, which already used the past season as a test year, will start Season X as a young team with all athletes fighting in the Youth Bib competition, except the team’s biggest star Toni Livers.
All athletes are from the Swiss region Graubünden and belong to the regional ski federation “Bündner Skiverband”. Pro Team Manager and coach Markus Walser has created the Pro Team for one specific reason: he wants to give a new chance and perspectives for young motivated Swiss skiers who don’t manage to take the step to Swiss Ski but still want to compete on an international and professional level.
The Pro Team’s Women
Selina Pfaffli and Carine Heuberger share the same cross-country skiing history. Both were part of the Swiss junior national team until spring 2018. Due to the high density of young talented skiers in Switzerland, they were under a huge pressure and suffered from overtraining. The original goal was to fight the way back through regional training with Markus Walser and participating at FIS competitions. But when they had to show their best side at each individual race in order to be able to compete at the next, they both lost the joy of cross-country skiing. This was when Markus Walser, not only the Pro Team manager but also the coach, realized that a different mindset and a new direction were needed. He took them to some Visma Ski Classics events in Season IX where they immediately retrieved their passion for the sport and consequently decided to only compete in Visma Ski Classics events in the upcoming Season X.
The Boys Club
Similarly, Andri Schlittler, one of the biggest talents in the Swiss junior national team, surprisingly quit his career in summer 2018 due to immense pressure and expectations to follow in the footsteps of the world-famous Dario Cologna. When he heard that Walser was pulling together a professional Swiss Pro Team in Visma Ski Classics, he decided to continue with his passion.
Three further male athletes, Severin Bonolini, Lauro Brändli and Nico Walther, were less fortunate and never really claimed a place in the junior national team. In Switzerland, this means that you have hardly any chance of being selected to compete in Continental Cup competitions or the Junior World Championships. “Through our Visma Ski Classics Pro Team we can give them a chance to compete on an international level without the pressure to fulfil extreme levels”, says Markus Walser.
No place for giving up dreams
All athletes of the team have a similar history, and all are passionate and determined to follow their dream of professional cross-country skiing. Team BSV IBEX is the safe place where they can test their limits, surpass them and develop a cross-country skiing career without selection pressure and accompanied by athletes in the same situation.
Since the spring of 2019, the Pro Team fully focuses on long-distance ski training, which is very much different to the training the athletes are used to, but it is clearly the direction all are aiming for. Markus Walser knows that there is still a long way to the top for the whole team but at the same time sounds very confident: “at the latest in 2-3 years our young athletes will fight for podiums and maybe even this year for the pink jersey.”
There is definitely more to come from this young developing Pro Team while they set the perfect example of how Visma Ski Classics opens its arms to young talented skiers and let them be part of professional long-distance skiing in the fight for the Pink jersey.