Jessie Diggins
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Jessie Diggins aims for another Tour de Ski podium

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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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Lindsey Vonn and her dog to host Amazing Race-like series

Lindsey Vonn
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Lindsey Vonn and one of her three dogs, Lucy, will host “The Pack,” an “Amazing Race”-like series where dogs and their humans compete in challenges across continents.

The Amazon Prime show filmed earlier this year and will premiere later in 2020. Production included a team of veterinarians and dog experts to ensure “a positive experience for everyone.”

Twelve teams vie for a prize of $500,000, plus $250,000 for the animal charity of their choice.

Vonn, the 2010 Olympic downhill champion and female record holder with 82 World Cup wins, retired after the February 2019 World Championships, four shy of the overall victories record held by Swede Ingemar Stenmark.

She traveled the last few years of her career with Lucy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that she got in Italy in January 2016. Lucy required German, Italian and American passports to accompany Vonn on the ski circuit.

Vonn previously adopted rescue dogs Leo, a brindle boxer to help her through recovery from knee surgery that kept her out of the 2014 Olympics, and Bear.

Vonn’s previous broadcast credits included a 2010 appearance as a secretary on “Law & Order,” two judge spots on “Project Runway” and an episode of “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” in 2016.

MORE: Lindsey Vonn’s mom is tough as nails

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London Marathon mass event canceled; Kipchoge, Bekele still to race

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The London Marathon will not hold a mass participation race of 40,000-plus runners, but will have an elites-only event featuring the fastest marathoners in history on a different course.

Organizers announced that the World Marathon Major, previously rescheduled for Oct. 4 from April 26, will be restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Elite runners, including world-record holders Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei and Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest man in history, will instead race but not on the usual route around London landmarks.

They will run on an enclosed looped in St. James’s Park in a “secure biosphere” without spectator access. Elite wheelchair racers, including past champions David Weir and Manuela Schar, will also compete.

Before canceling, London Marathon organizers planned to use Bluetooth and wideband ranging to monitor every participant’s distance from each other, though they did not specify if the event would have still included more than 40,000 runners.

If a participant spent more than 15 minutes within a specified distance of anyone else, and if somebody had informed organizers they contracted the virus within two weeks after the race, he or she would have been contacted.

“Despite all our efforts, the fantastic support from all of our partners and the progress that has been made on planning for the return of smaller mass participation events that are not on the roads, it has not been possible to go ahead with a mass socially distanced walk or run,” event director Hugh Brasher said in press release.

Four of the other five annual World Marathon Majors this year were canceled — Berlin, Boston, Chicago and New York City. The earliest major, Tokyo, was held March 1 with elite runners only.

Kipchoge, the Olympic marathon champion from Kenya, and Bekele, a three-time Olympic track champion from Ethiopia, were previously announced as headliners for London in the winter, before the pandemic.

Kipchoge lowered the world record to 2:01:39 at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. Bekele clocked 2:01:41 in Berlin last September. They are the only men to ever break 2:02 in a marathon. Kipchoge also clocked 1:59:40 at a non-record-eligible event in Vienna on Oct. 12 instead of racing a fall marathon.

Kipchoge has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

Bekele, the more accomplished track athlete with Olympic golds and world records at 5000m and 10,000m, has been a roller-coaster road runner.

Bekele owns two of the seven fastest marathons in history, recorded three years apart in Berlin. In between, he failed to finish two marathons and, in his last London start in 2018, clocked a pedestrian 2:08:53 for sixth place.

That was more than four minutes behind Kipchoge, who is undefeated in four London starts and has beaten by Bekele by at least 100 seconds in all four of their head-to-head marathons.

The Kenyan Kosgei took 81 seconds off Paula Radcliffe‘s 16-year-old women’s marathon world record on Oct. 13, clocking 2:14:04 to win the Chicago Marathon.

The 2021 London Marathon will also be held in October to give a better chance of holding a mass race than in April.

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MORE: U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials results