Every sport needs a poster boy or girl and thanks to Swiss twins Thomas and Robin Bussard ski mountaineering has got two for one.
The only new sport at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games concluded on Tuesday morning with the host nation winning a high-octane mixed relay race at Villars Winter Park amid a chorus of cowbells. A huge Swiss crowd demanded the team’s autographs on the finish line.
“They are rock stars. I want their autograph myself,” said Samantha Paisley (USA), whose team finished sixth, about the Bussards, who also finished first and second in the men’s individual race earlier in the week.
“It is pretty crazy and wild here. I cannot believe I am signing autographs like a famous person,” Robin said. “This event has been very well supported and it shows how much people enjoy watching skimo and how much people in Switzerland love the Olympic Games.
“This is a very spectacular sport to watch. The reaction has been incredible. Tonight we will be dancing and celebrating.”
The Bussard brothers were joined by Thibe Deseyn and Caroline Ulrich in the Swiss team as they won the boy-girl-boy-girl mass start event involving two uphill and two downhill sections. France got silver and Spain got bronze.
As well as enjoying the wild atmosphere, the athletes were full of optimism about skimo’s chances of using the YOG springboard to become a full Olympic sport at the Milan and Cortina 2026 Olympic Winter Games.
“I think anyone trying to sell the idea of skimo will be so happy with this week,” Paisley said. “It’s been brilliantly organised. And it is such a challenging, competitive and physically demanding sport.”
Thomas Kaehr (SUI), president of the International Ski Mountaineering Federation, is the man tasked with the job of making skimo at Milan-Cortina 2026 a reality. “IOC President Mr Bach came to watch yesterday and I think he was quite delighted about what he saw here,” Kaehr said. “He got a very good impression of everything so we feel positive.
“Skimo is a very sustainable sport and that is important. We don’t need any infrastructure, we don’t need artificial snow. It is very green. We can only be an enrichment for the Olympic Games.”
The next step is to pitch ski mountaineering to the Italian Olympic Committee as a new element of their programme, according to Roberto Cavallo (ITA), general manager of the ISMF. “Then the executive board of the IOC will need to decide, probably at the IOC session in Beijing 2022,” he said.
“We have had beautiful competition, it is growing. We have 38 nations in our federation. It is also a very clean sport. I believed ski mountaineering could be very good for the Olympics.”
Whatever the future holds, Switzerland and its superstar twins can celebrate a glorious week of action at sunny Villars.