Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Olympic cross-country preview: America eager to build on success | Nation World News

When Jesse Diggins and Kikkan Randall won the United States’ first Olympic gold medal in cross county skiing in 2018, they turned a page and brought their country next to the Nordic powerhouses of Norway, Russia, Sweden and Finland.

Diggins’ subsequent success proved that his success was not temporary. She was the overall champion of the World Cup in 2021, while teammate Rosie Brennan was fourth. Randall has since retired.

List of podium finishes and more medals are expected, with Diggins and Brennan leading the US team at the Beijing Games in February.

“All I can do is feel confident in the work I’ve done and feel confident knowing that I know how to work hard,” said Diggins after recently finishing the Tour de Ski in Europe. “So for me going to the next Olympics, and every race between now and then, I know that when I cross the finish line, I’ll have everything I have.”

Norway’s Marit Björgen, who won five medals in Pyeongchang and a total of 15 medals in her career, more than any other Winter Olympian, retired after the 2018 Games. Her former teammate, Therese Johog, has won three Olympic medals and is set to join that number. Heidi Weng from Norway too will definitely be in the mix.

Sweden’s top medalist in 2018 Stina Nilsson has turned to biathlon, but the team has continued to dominate the World Cup circuit this season. Maja Dahlquist has been hard to beat in the sprint race while Abba Anderson and Frida Carlsen have collected medals in the distance race.

Russia’s Natalia Napriyeva is showing strong form after taking gold in the six-stage FIS Tour de Ski, which started in Switzerland, moved to Germany and concluded with a climb up an alpine ski slope in Italy on January 4.

The team of sister and brother Kirtu and Ivo Niskanen from Finland along with Krista Permakoski have shown they are among the best classic skiers in the world.

rising star shines

Norway’s Johannes Hosflot Klebo was a rising star when he won three gold medals in Pyeongchang. He has dominated the World Cup this season and will return to defend his Olympic title. Klebow’s teammates, Eric Vallance and Paul Golberg, will likely be in the mix.

Klebo’s longtime rival, Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov, who won two silver medals and a bronze in 2018, was just behind Klebo in the overall World Cup standings in early January and will undoubtedly vie for gold in China.

The Russian Federation team runs deep with talent, with seven of their skiers sitting in the top 15 in the World Cup standings in early January. Fourth in those standings was Finland’s Niskanen, who won gold in the 50-kilometer classic ski race in Pyeongchang and finished the Tour de Ski in third place.

Others to watch out for, especially in the sprint race, are France’s Richard Jouve and Italy’s Federico Pellegrino.

Several US men’s cross country ski teams retired after Pyeongchang and a new batch of hungry, strong skiers have achieved impressive results at the World Cup this season and can be expected to be in the mix in Beijing.

covid cancellation

It is unlikely skiers will have a chance to recover their fitness in the race for the World Cup leading up to the Olympics, as organizers canceled events in the coming weeks due to the spread of COVID-19.

First, the French Ski Federation and national authorities canceled the races at Les Rousses which were scheduled for January 14–16. The International Ski Federation also said that the cross country and Nordic combined races in Slovenia, scheduled for January 21-23, have been canceled due to the pandemic.

“100% protection cannot be guaranteed in the current epidemiological situation,” said Dr. Irena Grmek Koस्nik, COVID-19 coordinator at the Planica Organizing Committee.

unknown location

The Nordic ski race will be held at the Zhangjiakou competition area in the mountains, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Beijing. The Chinese team has trained on site, but no other country has seen the trails, meaning everyone will ski them for the first time in late January.

Normally, preview races are held at Olympic venues a year before the event, but the pandemic has meant no international races were held in Beijing in 2021. The lack of race time on the trails would be an equalizer for most countries.

Adding to the challenge – the site stands at an elevation of 1,665 meters (5,462 ft), which is near the height limit for Nordic venues and comparable to Soldier Hollow, the site of the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics. Higher altitude means less oxygen, which makes running more difficult.

Unlike some of the hot and wet events held in Europe so far this season, temperatures are expected to be particularly cool. But it’s unlikely that snow will be a factor, said Jim Steinberg, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Utah who has provided weather support for various Winter Olympics.

“The biggest meteorological threat to the sport is the cold surge and the associated wind and dust,” he said.

nordic format

Some countries were still holding the Olympic Trials in early January – the number of spots in some cases depends on the World Cup standings – but when the Olympics come around 300 athletes will medal in cross country in 12 events between February 5–20. Will ask In both classic and skate (or freestyle) techniques.

The first race is the skiathon for the women and then the men. It tests the skiers’ abilities in both classic and skate. Racers set out on classic skis and cover a distance of approximately 7.5 kilometers for women and 15 kilometers for men. After this, they go to the stadium and immediately switch to skate skis and go back to run the same distance until the end of the first leg.

The sprint race will take place in freestyle with competitors attempting to qualify for the top 30 spots. This is followed by the fast and physical quarterfinal and semifinal heats where six skiers race at a time. The last six racers compete for medals.

There will also be a team sprint race, but unlike the event won by Diggins and Randall four years earlier, this bar will be in classic technique.

Women will participate in the individual race of 10 kilometer and men in the race of 15 kilometer. They will also race in the team relay and end the Olympics with the longest distance races: the 50-kilometer mass start freestyle for men and the 30-kilometer mass start freestyle for women.

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More Associated Press Winter Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/winter-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Nation World News Deskhttps://nationworldnews.com
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