The traditional Nordic New Year events kick off Saturday with Jessie Diggins, currently third in the World Cup cross-country standings, chasing a repeat of her 2017-18 podium finish.
Ski jumping also takes the holiday spotlight with the Four Hills championships. Sweeping all four jumps was an elusive feat for 65 years, with only Germany’s Sven Hannawald taking the quartet of wins in 2001-02, but it’s happened each of the last two years. Poland’s Kamil Stoch swept in 2017-18, followed by Japan’s Ryoyu Kobayashi last year.
The U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team Twitter account set off a round of head-scratching Thursday when it listed Julia Mancuso among the Tour de Ski competitors. Seeing a four-time Olympic Alpine skiing medalist return from retirement in a completely different skiing discipline would’ve been quite a story, but the same account later confirmed that the skier in question was Julia Kern, not Mancuso.
The Tour de Ski keeps skiers busy through the first week of 2020, with seven races in nine days.
Saturday (Lenzerheide, Switzerland): Freestyle mass start, 15k men/10k women
Sunday (Lenzerheide): Freestyle sprint
Tuesday (Toblach, Italy): Freestyle interval start, 15k men/10k women
Wednesday (Toblach): Classical pursuit, 15k men/10k women (start order determined by previous day’s freestyle race)
Friday (Val di Fiemme, Italy): Classical mass start, 15k men/10k women
Jan. 4 (Val di Fiemme): Classical sprint
Jan. 5 (Val di Fiemme): Freestyle mass start “final climb” — a total of 9k, with the last 3,500 meters up an Alpine skiing course.
The start order for the classical pursuit and the mass start format for the final climb are changes from last year’s event.
Diggins is well-rounded and therefore well-suited to the multistage event. She ranks third in the distance standings this season and took silver in the 10k freestyle in the 2015 world championships, but she’s best known for her sprint success — winning gold in the 2018 Olympic team sprint and the 2013 world championships, each time with Kikkan Randall. She also took silver in the individual sprint final and bronze in the team sprint in the 2017 world championships, this time with Sadie Bjornsen.
Bjornsen is another contender in the Tour, ranking fourth in the overall standings so far this season. Therese Johaug has a big lead overall, followed by fellow Norwegian Heidi Weng and Diggins.
Simi Hamilton is the top-ranked U.S. men’s skier heading into the Tour, sitting 28th overall and 12th in the sprint standings.
In ski jumping, Kobayashi is still the man to beat, winning last season’s World Cup along with his Four Hills sweep. He leads this year’s standings with two wins in the last three events.
NBC Sports Gold will have all events live. The Tour de Ski is also available on the Olympic Channel.
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