A comeback for the women in cross-country

2008-02-12

Former gold medallist and mother-of-two, Bente Skari, provides important contributions during Ski-VM’s strategy meetings, but she has more than one (ski) leg to stand on: In the autumn of 2007, she was assigned the position as Norway’s first woman race administrator, a job to which she has great expectations. She is also part of a strategy project run by the Norwegian Ski Federation, whose goal is to promote more women leaders and trainers. 

A race administrator has many duties; everything from planning and attending meetings and events to preparation work so that the organisers have everything under control and in turn can fulfil their duties, both in regards to people and equipment. When Bente Skari was offered the position, she was initially unsure as to whether she should accept. Today she is confident that she made the right choice. 

“I have an interest for sports in general and for cross-country skiing in particular, but being a trainer has not appealed to me at all. I think it is too demanding, you have to get really involved, and I don’t believe I can give as much as a trainer should. But I think events are fun, and when they asked me to become a race administrator I thought it sounded exciting and challenging. I believe I will learn a lot from this”, says Skari. 

Norway’s first female race administrator has been learning from race administrator Hermod Bjørkestøl, and is most definitely qualified for the job, not least because she knows the sport so well from her time as an active skier. 

“To become a race administrator you must have an interest in cross-country skiing and have a certain background, either as a Technical Delegate (TD), trainer or have held some form of political office in the ski-world, so that you know something about international ski politics. This experience I gained from being a skier. But I also have to be a TD as well as race administrator to be up to date on regulations and goings-on”, says Bente Skari.

The Ski Federation’s women’s project

2008 will be a hectic year for the former Olympic medallist. On the 8th of January, Skari will be race administrator for the World Cup in cross-country at Holmenkollen. She will also be the TD for the Norwegian Cup, and assisting TD at the Tour de Ski in the CzechRepublic. She also believes it is important that more women dare to go for executive positions within the ski sport after they have stopped competing, in spite of having a family. 

“In the autumn of 2006, the Norwegian Ski Federation started a project which involves promoting more female executives and trainers within the cross-country sport. This group is comprised of Guri Hetland, Kristin Felde, chief of sport for cross-country Åge Skinstad, coordinator Per Nymoen, and myself. Much of what we have arrived at through group-work about why women do not get involved to the same degree as men are factors such as children, family – and financial concerns. Sports are to a large degree based on voluntary work, evening and weekend work, and this is not what women want. If we are to get the women back into sport management, many of them believe that the right financial conditions must be present, that they are able to get time off work, and that it is challenging from professional point of view”, Skari believes. 

She is also convinced that women can learn something from men when it comes to relaxing and not be so conscientious and “proper” when it comes to looking after family and home. To illustrate the difference between the sexes in this area, she provides the following example – somewhat exaggerated, so as to make the point: 

“If girls see a job ad with 10 requirements they have to fulfil, they refrain from applying if they cannot fulfil all 10. In comparison, men will apply if they fulfil only one!” 

Even if Bente Skari believes it is important for women to be more visible in executive positions, she also wants to stress the importance of women not getting the positions just because they are women, but because they are competent! 

“When Åsne got the position as the general manager for Ski-VM, it was not because she is a woman, but because she is competent. So it is important to include women, but they must be there because they are qualified, not because they are women!” 

A few facts about Bente Skari:

▪  Born in Oslo, 10th September 1972

▪  Lives in Nittedal, married to Geir Skari and mother to Filip and Oda

▪  Dominated international women’s cross country 1999-2003

▪  Has, among others, a gold medal at 10k classic from the 2002 Winter Olympics and 14 World Cup wins in one season

▪  Has completed a 2-year professional sports education course and international TD course

▪  Assigned the position of race administrator autumn 2007