The best all-rounders in ski jumping and cross-country skiing don’t just fight for medals at the World Championships. There is much more at stake for Nordic Combined in Planica and in the years to come.
Nathalie Armbruster could actually look forward to a great career without any worries. At just 17, she is already the best German in her sport.
Armbruster is in second place in the overall World Cup, her World Championships debut is on Friday and she is one of the medal favorites. The problem is: Armbruster is Nordic combined. For her and her teammates, the World Championships in Planica, Slovenia, is not just the sporting highlight of the season. It is also the stage to promote the continued existence of their discipline at world level.
The International Olympic Committee has rejected the hoped-for inclusion of the women’s combination in the 2026 Olympic program. And not only that: the IOC fundamentally questions the Olympic future of the combination, and the men also have to worry. This is an existential threat to the discipline as a competitive sport.
“A punch in the face”
“This IOC decision was a slap in the face for all of us. It’s a childhood dream that died,” says Armbruster. “It makes us incredibly angry.” But she is not giving up the fight for the Olympic debut of her discipline: “I’m trying to fight with all means to ensure that we’re there in 2030.”
The traditional sport for the best all-rounders in ski jumping and cross-country skiing has been part of the men’s Olympics since the first Winter Games in 1924. The women’s combination is a fairly young discipline, a World Cup has only been held since the 2020/21 season. However, the same applies to men and women: Without the Olympics as the largest possible stage, the attractiveness of the sport for young people would decrease enormously. In addition, the financial cuts would be great. A further development of the sport would be almost impossible.
In order for the combination to have a chance of still being at the Winter Games in 2030, the field of participants must become more diverse and spectator interest must increase. The combination is dominated by Norway, Germany, Austria and Japan. In most other nations, interest is low. The ratings and the associated income are correspondingly low there.
Geiger sees “advertising platform”
Olympic champion Vinzenz Geiger also sees the World Championships, where the first combined medals will be awarded on Friday, as an “advertising platform” for his sport. The 25-year-old hopes for a long-term effect. “It’s a major event in a brilliant place. I’m confident that it will look good,” says the man from Oberstdorf. For the first time at a World Championships, men and women will compete together in a mixed competition in the picturesque valley of the Schanzen.
“In mixed, the women can show themselves on a new level. It was maybe a bit bumpy two years ago, but you will see a difference there,” says Geiger and adds: “Maybe the IOC will see that. I think that we because we definitely have a platform where we can show the IOC how quickly such a sport can develop.”
Athletes from other disciplines repeatedly emphasize how important it is for the German team to continue the combination. Ski jumping ace Karl Geiger described the impending Olympic exit as “a bottomless cheek”. For many later specialists, the combination in adolescence serves as basic training on skis. Therefore, the representatives of the other Nordic sports also supported a small symbolic act at the beginning of the World Championships: Also to draw attention to the importance of Nordic combined, the crossbowmen and violinists carried the German flag at the opening ceremony in Planica.
I am Pierce Boyd, a driven and ambitious professional working in the news industry. I have been writing for 24 Hours Worlds for over five years, specializing in sports section coverage. During my tenure at the publication, I have built an impressive portfolio of articles that has earned me a reputation as an experienced journalist and content creator.