UPDATE: The U.S. cross country selections for the 2015 World Championships can be found here.
As the 2015 FIS Nordic Skiing World Championships in Falun, Sweden, draw near, the U.S. Ski Team (USST) is set to release its cross-country team selections for the event Monday, Jan. 26. Eight athletes have prequalified for the team, leaving several spots open for other American skiers to compete against the world’s best.
How many U.S. skiers will be named to the team? How are they chosen? Who are possible candidates?
In an attempt to answer some of the burning questions surrounding the upcoming announcement, we’ve put together a guide to help you navigate the selection process.
The World Championships in Falun begin Feb. 18 and continue to March 1. For a full schedule of events, including nordic combined and ski jumping, check out the event’s website here. FasterSkier will be on site for the entirety of the competition to provide live updates and the full coverage of the races.
The Selection Criteria:
For the U.S., there are three tiers of World Championships selection criteria. The first is the primary objective criteria regarding World Cup ranking, and is the main route to qualification. However, if there remain starting spots (there are four per race for each team), coaches’ discretion becomes the next avenue for selection. If all starting spots are not filled at this point, the USST will turn to the secondary objective criteria, which relies on U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association (USSA) sprint or distance point lists.
Objective Criteria – World Cup Ranking
- A top 60 overall World Cup ranking as of Jan. 18
- A top 50 sprint or distance World Cup ranking as of Jan. 18
- Defined by criteria ranging from “outstanding results” from past seasons to attitude to cases of injury during the selection period
Secondary Objective Criteria – USSA points
- To fill remaining start spots, further selection is based on the fourth publication of the USSA sprint and distance points list, which is compiled based on races until Jan. 18.
- In the case of a tie in USSA points, athletes will be selected based on either World Cup points earned in either discipline or best USSA result in the 2015 season starting Nov. 29th and ending Jan, 18.
Read the full selection criteria at USSA.org
What will the 2015 team look like?
Based on the objective selection criteria, eight skiers have qualified for positions on the World Championships team based on their World Cup rankings. They include, in no particular order:
- Kikkan Randall
- Liz Stephen
- Jessie Diggins
- Sophie Caldwell
- Sadie Bjornsen
- Ida Sargent
- Andy Newell
- Simi Hamilton
According to USST Head Coach Chris Grover, the U.S. contingent at this year’s World Championships will have a similar size to past years, when teams were in the mid to low teens. The most recent team at the 2013 World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, had 13 members.
With eight skiers selected, there are several more spots to fill by either discretion or secondary objective criteria. It’s hard to predict who, if anyone, will be chosen via coaches’ discretion. The most likely candidate would have been Noah Hoffman, who has been out since November due to a broken fibula from a crash in the opening World Cup in Kuusamo, Finland. However, he is ranked first on the USSA distance points list (see below), meaning that his racing status in Falun likely depends on whether or not he’ll be in shape come mid-February.
“He needs to be cleared by his surgeon to compete. So far it’s looking like it’s gone really well and he will be cleared at the front end for when they expected him to be cleared for competition,” Grover said in a Jan. 18 phone interview. “Obviously our first concern with Noah coming back is his safety and making sure that he’s not rushing it and that he’s actually really physically ready to compete when he comes back.”
According to Grover, the plan is for Hoffman to compete in the Östersund World Cup before World Championships to see where his abilities are.
“That will be our first chance to see what kind of fitness he’s going to bring and then we’ll know whether we need to adjust from there or not,” he said.
Even though the discretionary picks are up in the air, there is one thing for certain: several team members will be chosen via the secondary objective criteria. The only question is who and how many.
“It really depends on what open start spots we have, where we see weaknesses in our start spots, and where potential athletes from the U.S. that have just been racing domestically in this last period could fill in and contribute to good results,” Grover explained. “Five, six athletes that were racing back at nationals should be in there.”
Below are the top five skiers for each gender, excluding those who have prequalified, in the USSA Period 4 sprint and distance lists. Find full lists at My USSA.
6. Rosie Brennan
7. Caitlin Gregg
8. Annie Pokorny
9. Caitlin Patterson
10. Jennie Bender
4. Rosie Brennan
5. Caitlin Gregg
7. Chelsea Holmes
8. Caitlin Patterson
9. Holly Brooks
3. Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess
4. Erik Bjornsen
5. Miles Havlick
6. Ben Saxton
7. Reese Hanneman
1. Noah Hoffman
2. Kris Freeman
3. Matt Gelso
4. Kyle Bratrud
5. Scott Patterson
Notes regarding U.S. World Championships Team Selection
- While some arrangements are still being made, athletes have been informed of their selection.
- In contrast to Olympic quotas, each country is allowed 12 participants of each gender, meaning the USST has the potential to bring 24 skiers. However, it is rare for any country to bring a team that size as each nation can only have four starters in each race.
- According to Grover, the USST believes World Championships should be about performance rather than experience. “We have so many levels of racing that are about gaining experience — the World Junior Championships, the U23 Championships, Europa Cups, Scandinavian Cups — those are all about gaining experience against tougher competition, but when it comes to the World Championships, it really needs to be about performance. Our goal is not to go there and participate, it is to really go there and compete,” he explained.
- There is a possibility that strong performances at Junior/U23 World Championships will warrant a selection after Monday’s team naming. “If we were to have some incredible standout results at the World Junior Championships or at the U23 Championships, we would consider those even after a team naming date,” Grover said.
Lander Karath is FasterSkier's Associate Editor from Bozeman, Montana and a Bridger Ski Foundation alumnus. Between his studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, he is an outdoor enthusiast and a political junkie.