Another big weekend of racing awaits! From the World Cup to Olympic Biathlon Qualifiers, there will be plenty of action.
The North American Continental Cup circuit moves from the US, and SuperTour competitions, to Canada, and the NorAm series. Top US and Canadian skiers will be present, and the races are the first Canadian Olympic Qualifiers.
Canadian World Cup team members Alex Harvey, Devon Kershaw, George Grey, Ivan Babikov, Chandra Crawford, Perianne Jones and Sara Renner have all pre-qualified for the Olympics, but Canada is planning on bringing at least 12 athletes, leaving a minimum of five spots available. This weekend’s races are the first of six December races used for Olympic qualifying
US Olympic qualifying is not based on a specific set of races, but every points race counts, and since much of the team will be discretionary, every performance will factor in.
Saturday features a 10/15km freestyle individual start, and Sunday is a freestyle sprint.
The women’s race should be a showdown between US SuperTour leader Holly Brooks (APU) and Dasha Gaiazova (CNT). Gaiazova and Brooks went head-to-head in West Yellowstone, with Brooks coming out on top in 2 of the 3 races. Gaiazova, however, is not listed on the official entry list for this weekend – given the importance of the races, it is likely this is an error.
Brooks won both SuperTour races last weekend in Bozeman, though no Canadians were present.
Several other Canadians to watch include Madeleine Williams, the winner of the skate distance race in West, and Shayla Swanson, who was in the to-5 in two of the West Yellowstone events.
On the men’s side, look for James SOutham (APU/Atomic) to challenge for the victory. Southam won the distance race in Bozeman last week, and appears to be rounding into form after a slow start in West. Leif Zimmermann (BSF/Madshus) is also a threat. Garrott Kuzzy (USST/ CXC Team Vertical Limit) the men’s SuperTour leader, should be ready to go after sitting out the distance race in Bozeman as part of his training plan. Kuzzy is also not not on the confirmed registration list, so it appears there are some errors.
Canadian skiers Sean Crooks and Drew Goldsack will have plenty on the line, and are favorites to podium in the sprint.
World Cup XC
The World Cup has moved on to Switzerland, where it is currently snowing hard, for a pair of freestyle races. The schedule is actually identical to the NorAms – a 10/15km on Saturday, and sprint on Sunday.
The US will start Kris Freeman, Lars Flora, Kikkan Randall, Morgan Arritola and Liz Stephen in the distance race, and all seven athletes (the five from the distance race plus Andy Newell and Torin Koos) in the sprint.
Randall fell in the quarterfinals of last weekend’s freestyle sprint, so will be looking for redemption, while Andy Newell will try to crack the A-Final for the first time this year. It will also be interesting to see what Freeman does in the wake of his 4th place two weeks ago. In the past, Kris has not been able to follow up a top-10 with a second result of that caliber.
Everyone is healthy and ready to go.
The same cannot be said for the Canadians, where unfortunately, Ivan Babikov has come down sick. At this point it appears he will not race.
Canada will still have Devon Kershaw, George Grey, Alex Harvey, and Graham Nishikawa representing in the men’s races, and Chandra Crawford, Perianne Jones and Sara Renner on the women’s side.
Canada is looking to bounce back from a rough weekend in Finalnd two weeks ago. Crawford skied very well last weekend in Dusseldorf, cracking the top-15 in the sprint. The freestyle sprint is her best event, so look for another strong result.
Many distance skiers skipped the Dusseldorf races to train at altitude in Davos. The full field will be back in action.
Petter Northug (NOR) is a favorite in the distance race, and Aino Kaisa Saarinen in the women’s event.
One storyline worth following is that of Hannah Falk, the 20-year-old Swede who won the sprint in Germany.
Justyna Kowalczyk (POL), the defending World Cup Champion, will be back in action as well.
World Cup Biathlon
World Cup Biathlon racing continues in the biathlon mecca of Hochfilzen, Austria. Three races makes for a tough schedule – a 7.5/10km sprint today, a 10/12.5km pursuit tomorrow, and a relay on Sunday.
Tim Burke (USA) will try to repeat his stunning double podium from last weekend, and the men’s team hopes to improve on their solid 7th in the relay.
No predictions for the distance races as results are already in!
World Cup Nordic Combined
The Nordic Combined World Cup was suppsoed to take on the interesting relay format in Harrachov, Czech Republic, but the weekend has been canceled due to lack of snow. An individual event has been added to the Ramsau weekend on the 18th. US skiers have been training in Lillehamar, Norway and head to Ramsau today.
US World Team Qualifying biathlon races will take place at Mt. Itasca. Five races in total, with the first two this weekend. The events at Mt Itasca are the first stage of Olympic selection. Upon conclusion of the Mt Itasca races, up to 4 men and 4 women will be selected based on their best 3 of 5 races to compete at the IBU Cup events in Altenberg, GER in early January. The three races in Altenberg will serve as the final selection for the US Olympic team.
US Continental Cup Nordic Combined takes place in Park City. Skiers will race identical events on both days – a jump on the HS134m jump and a 10km xc race. Competition begins each day with the ski jumping portion of the combined on the big hill at the Utah Olympic Park at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Action then shifts to Soldier Hollow at 2 p.m. for the 10K cross country race. World Champion Todd Lodwick is the favorite.
These races are very important for the US as they can help to secure a bigger Olympic quota. The max is five, and the US is hoping to hit that.
Women’s Continental Cup Ski Jumping moves to Vikersund, Norway for two events. The US looks to crack the podium for the first time this year. Sarah Hendrickson led the team, finishing 6th and 5th last weekend.
The FIS Marathon Series starts with the La Sgambeda in Livigno, Italy.
For the first time there will be a classic race. Classics specialists will fight on a course of 21 kilometers today . The highlight of the weekend will be on Sunday with the 21 and 42km freestyle.
The start list includes the Vasaloppet winners Daniel Tynell and Sandra Hansson. The overall winners from last season, Marco Cattaneo and Jenny Hansson will compete again. Some athletes will use the short freestyle distance to supplement the World Cup in Davos. Rikard Andreasson and Geir Ludvig Aasen plan to race on Sunday after competing in the 10/15km in Davos.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.