SportsBeijing Olympics

Actions

This weekend on the Road to the Olympics: U.S. halfpipe skiers look to secure Olympic spots

This weekend on the Road to the Olympics: U.S. halfpipe skiers look to secure Olympic spots
Posted at 9:15 AM, Dec 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-31 15:43:55-05

The U.S. Olympic team for freeski halfpipe could come into focus after two more selection events, the top slopestyle snowboarders gather in Calgary for a World Cup contest, and Jessie Diggins attempts to defend her Tour de Ski title. Here's what's happening over New Year's Weekend on the road to the 2022 Winter Olympics

Freeski Halfpipe

A pair of men’s and women’s podiums in freeski halfpipe will be awarded this week in Calgary, Canada, the second of three stops on the discipline’s 2021-22 World Cup circuit. Weather conditions are forecast to be frigid, perhaps dipping below zero. Canada Olympic Park, home venue for several events during the 1988 Winter Games, will host.

Both nighttime competitions will simultaneously serve as U.S. Olympic qualification events — the fourth and fifth of six total in freeski halfpipe, ending with the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain. Up to four U.S. athletes per gender can make the team, with nomination hierarchy as follows: the top two Americans in the world rankings, provided they are within the top six overall on January 6; athletes with a top-three finish at one of the selection events; and discretionary selections based on past results or future potential.

The women’s field is headlined by U.S.-born Eileen Gu of China, who won recently U.S. Grand Prix and Dew Tour contests at Copper Mountain. However, the absence of Estonian Kelly Sildaru, who finished on the podium at both events, leaves room to thrive on home slopes for Canada’s Rachael Karker, runner-up to Gu at this year’s world championships, and reigning Olympic gold medalist Cassie Sharpe.

Red-hot Alex Ferriera of the U.S., like Gu, also took home titles from both the Grand Prix and Dew Tour competitions at Copper, and the 2018 Olympic silver medalist and two-time X Games winner plans to compete in Calgary. Notably absent from the men’s field are reigning world champion Nico Porteous of New Zealand and Ferriera’s compatriot Aaron Blunck. Canadian Brendan Mackay, third at both Copper events, could add to the potential host party.

World Cup: Calgary, Canada
Day Event Time (ET), Platform
Thu 12/30 M/W Halfpipe Finals 8:00 p.m., Peacock
Sat 1/1 M/W Halfpipe Finals 8:00 p.m., Peacock

Snowboard Slopestyle

A new year ushers in fresh snowboard slopestyle action as the discipline’s World Cup season gets underway this week in Calgary, Canada. It's the first of six stops through late March, only three of which are scheduled to take place prior to the 2022 Olympics. Canada Olympic Park, the home venue for several events during the 1988 Winter Games, will host the opener. Men’s and women’s finals are Saturday, preceded by two days of qualifying Thursday and Friday.

Last season’s slopestyle crystal ball winners were Austria’s Anna Gasser, the 2018 Olympic gold medalist in big air, and reigning world champion Marcus Kleveland of Norway. American Jamie Anderson has won each of the last two Olympic and X Games titles – and she would’ve added a first world title earlier this year had it not been denied by New Zealand's Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, who poses a real threat to Anderson’s bid to three-peat at the Games. Kleveland will contend with an extremely talented U.S. men’s contingent led by reigning Olympic gold medalist Red Gerard. Earlier this month, Sadowski-Synnott and Gerard won the 2021 Dew Tour contests at Copper.

World Cup: Calgary, Canada
Day Event Time (ET), Platform
Sat 1/1 M/W Slopestyle Finals 12:00 p.m., Peacock

Cross-Country Skiing

The Tour de Ski, an annual multi-stage competition comprising six events over eight days à la cycling’s Tour de France, kicked off Tuesday at Lenzerheide in Switzerland, and after a stop this weekend in Oberstdorf, Germany, concludes early next week at Italy’s Val di Fiemme.

Defending champion Jessie Diggins, the first American to claim the title, picked back up where she left off Tuesday at Lenzerheide by capturing the contest’s yellow bib with an opening-stage victory in the individual sprint freestyle; she then followed up with a 16th-place finish Wednesday in the 10km classical. Wednesday's stage was won by Finland's Kerttu Niskanen, who earned her first World Cup win in seven years.

On the men’s side, entering as the overall World Cup leader, reigning Olympic and two-time world sprint champion Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo of Norway took the sprint-free opener. Kerttu Niskanen’s brother Iivo Niskanen also claimed a Stage 2 victory by winning the 15km classic, while Russian Alexander Bolshunov, last season’s Tour de Ski winner, finished runner-up.

Stages 3 and 4 in Oberstdorf feature mass-start 15km/10km freestyle races Friday and individual sprints in classical technique Saturday. Wrapping things up next week, Stages 5 and 6 at Val di Fiemme begin Monday with mass-start 15km/10km classics and culminate Tuesday with "final climb" variations of Stage 3’s events, mass-start 15km/10km races in freestyle.

Tour de Ski: Oberstdorf, Germany
Day Event Time (ET), Platform
Fri 12/31 Men’s 15km (Freestyle) 6:55 a.m., Peacock
  Women’s 10km (Freestyle) 9:25 a.m., Peacock
Sat 1/1 M/W Sprints (Classical) 6:00 a.m., Peacock
Tour de Ski: Val di Fiemme, Italy
Day Event Time (ET), Platform
Mon 1/3 Women’s 10km (Classical) 6:40 a.m., Peacock
  Men’s 15km (Classical) 8:50 a.m., Peacock
Tue 1/4 Women’s 10km (Freestyle) 5:30 a.m., Peacock
  Men’s 15km (Freestyle) 9:25 a.m., Peacock

Bobsled/Skeleton

The 2021-2022 Bobsled World Cup races through the New Year as competition continues in Sigulda, Latvia after a weekend off. It’s the sixth event of the season.

Sigulda won’t host a four-man race this weekend, but will see double the action in the two-man category. Germany’s Francesco Friedrich, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in both the two- and four-man events, continues to dominate: He has won each World Cup race this season (thrice alongside Alexander Schuller, most recently teaming with Thorsten Margis). Meanwhile, rival countryman Johannes Lochner has earned silver at three out of four competitions.

The women’s competitions are less clear-cut, with Canadian Cynthia Appiah topping the Women’s Monobob World Series rankings. Team USA’s Elena Meyers Taylor, who owns three Olympic medals in the two-woman event, and newly minted citizen Kaillie Humphries, who previously won two Olympic golds and a bronze for Canada, currently place third and fourth, respectively. As for the two-woman race, Germans occupy the top three slots with Laura Nolte (who's second in the monobob standings) in the lead. Humphries and Meyers Taylor currently rank fourth and fifth in the two-woman standings.

Meyers Taylor is only 18 points from the top spot in monobob, and could easily move up the rankings. Unfortunately, Humphries – who's just four points out of third place for the two-woman event – has withdrawn from this weekend's competitions to nurse a hamstring injury. 

Sigulda will also host World Cup events for skeleton. Germany’s reigning world champion Christopher Grotheer leads the men’s standings, while the Netherlands’ Kimberley Bos – a former bobsledder – tops the women’s rankings. No American man or woman has reached the podium at any World Cup event so far this season.

World Cup: Sigulda, Latvia
Day Event Time (ET), Platform
Fri 12/31 Women's Skeleton 2:30 a.m., Olympics.com
    6:00 p.m., Olympic Channel*
  Men's Skeleton 7:30 a.m., Olympics.com
    7:00 p.m., Olympic Channel*
Sat 1/1 Women's Monobob 2:00 a.m., Olympics.com
    6:00 p.m., Olympic Channel*
  Two-Man Bobsled #1 6:30 a.m., Olympics.com
    7:00 p.m., Olympic Channel*
Sun 1/2 Two-Woman Bobsled 2:00 a.m., Olympics.com
    6:00 p.m., Olympic Channel*
  Two-Man Bobsled #2 6:30 a.m., Olympics.com
    7:00 p.m., Olympic Channel*

*Delayed broadcast

Luge

The 2021-22 Luge World Cup hits Winterberg, Germany for men’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s singles, and team relay races this weekend. The location is appropriate, considering Germany leads in three of the four disciplines.

Germany’s Johannes Ludwig, who won gold in team relay and bronze in men’s singles at the 2018 Olympics, now heads the World Cup singles leaderboard. He’s topped three competitions this season — most recently at Innsbruck, Austria, where he scored a personal best time of 1:39.605. Ludwig’s compatriot Julia Taubitz, the 2021 world champion in women’s singles, also leads the rankings for her division. Headed into Winterberg, both athletes enjoy fairly comfortable margins over Austrian runners up Wolfgang Kindl and Madeleine Egle.

After three of six events, Germany is also in the No. 1 position for team relay. Italy edges out Austria here for the second spot by just five points. But team relay provides the best opportunity for the United States at a luge medal — the U.S. currently ranks fourth, with speedsters like Summer BritcherTucker WestJayson Terdiman and Chris Mazdzer (the 2018 Olympic singles silver medalist who’s now competing in singles and doubles, even as he recovers from a broken foot) potentially racing for a spot on the podium.

Atop men’s doubles are Latvian brothers Adris and Juris Sics, who are looking to complete their Olympic medal set after 2010 silver and 2014 bronze in the division. If their World Cup results are any indication, the Sics may be golden at the 2022 Winter Games.

World Cup: Sigulda, Latvia
Day Event Time (ET), Platform
Sat 1/1 Doubles 4:00 a.m., Olympics.com
  Men's Singles 6:30 a.m., Olympics.com
Sun 1/2 Two-Woman Bobsled 3:30 a.m., Olympics.com
    6:50 a.m., Olympics.com

Ski Jumping

In the world of ski jumping, New Year’s is synonymous with one thing: the Four Hills Tournament. For the last 70 years, the sport’s elite male competitors have congregated in Germany and Austria for a quartet of World Cup events spanning the New Year.

Saturday marks the second quarter of the competition, taking place in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Japan’s Ryoyu Kobayashi, who in 2018-19 became just the third man to sweep all four events in the same season, will attempt to repeat the feat after winning the first event in Oberstdorf, Germany, on Wednesday.

In the latest encouraging sign of growth in women’s ski jumping, this weekend marks the first edition of the Silvester Tour, a New Year’s World Cup series taking inspiration from the Four Hills Tournament. Back-to-back days of jumping competition from Ljubno, Slovenia will ring in the new year as Austria’s Marita Kramer will attempt to continue her dominant World Cup season. The 20-year-old has won five of seven competitions to start the season.

Both men’s and women’s events can be streamed LIVE on Peacock.

Four Hills Tournament (Men) / Silvester Tour (Women)
Day Event Time (ET), Platform
Fri 12/31 Men's Large Hill Qualifying 8:00 a.m., Peacock
  Women’s Normal Hill #1 10:00 a.m., Peacock
Sat 1/1 Men’s Large Hill Final 8:00 a.m., Peacock
  Women’s Normal Hill #2 10:00 a.m., Peacock