Question-marks remain over cross-country skiing Beijing Olympics line-up

The composition of Estonia's cross-country skiing team at the Beijing Winter Olympics, both for men's and women's events and including biathlon categories, remains unclear, with exactly a month to go until the competition starts, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Monday.

There are four places available to women athletes, raising the question as to who will fill these, ERR's sports portal reports.

Cross-country skier Aveli Uustalu's form as been a cause for concern, after she lost out to twin sisters Keidy and Kaidy Kaasiku in last week's 5-km freestyle race.

Head coach Jaanus Teppan said: "The thing about Aveli is that she has been wrestling with all sorts of health problems at this point in the beginning of the season. I was really hoping she had gotten over these. However, there is still time to recover."

Former European sprint biathlon champ Tuuli Tomingas was third in last week's race.

Another woman skier with a question-mark hanging over her head regarding participation in Beijing is Johanna Udras, ERR's sports portal reports.

Meanwhile with the men's team, Teppan said that, based on past experience, there might be a hope for more places than the current three on offer.

At the moment it seams more likely for the men's cross country team to make it to Beijing, than the men's biathlon athletes, he added.

One biathlete who said he would definitely go to the olympics if asked is Raido Ränkel (pictured).

"The same Olympics have been my goal. I hope to get there as a biathlete, but let's just say we've had a pretty hard time in getting there. We would have some pretty hard work to do to get all four biathletes there, but yes, we have been offered this from Jaanus for sure," Ränkel, 31, who took home the domestic championship in the men's 10 km freestyle last week, said.

Teppan said of him that: "Raido has shown that he has the right stuff, but it would make things simpler were he to clinch the Estonian men's competition in a couple of weeks' time."

"The principle is that, basically, yes, the winners will go on to the Olympics, and the remaining places will be filled based on the results at the world championships," he went on.

At the same time, Ränkel cannot take part in test competitions taking place on January 15 and 16, as he will be competiing in a world championship round in Ruhpolding, Germany, where the Olympic places are also in play.

Competitors are also set to take place in Estonia's winter capital in Otepää next week.

The XXIV Winter Olympics in Beijing, China run February 4 to 20.

President Alar Karis announced last month that he would not be attending the games, following announcements from the U.S., the U.K. and other countries, that the event would be subject to a political, rather than sporting, boycott, in protest over  human rights abuses in China in general and in the Xinjiang province in particular.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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