A look at 20 Olympic sports events for the first half of 2020, before the granddaddy in Tokyo opens July 24 …
1. Youth Winter Olympics
Jan. 9-22, Lausanne, Switzerland
The third edition of the Youth Winter Games, for athletes ages 14-18. The U.S. roster of 96 athletes is here. Past U.S. Winter Youth Olympians included Chloe Kim and Jack Eichel. Traditional Olympic sports are joined by non-Olympic events such as monobobsled, women’s Nordic combined and ski mountaineering.
2. U.S. Figure Skating Championships
Jan. 23-26, Greensboro, N.C.
Nathan Chen will be favored to become the first man to win four straight national titles since Brian Boitano in 1988. Alysa Liu, who last year became the youngest female champion in history at age 13, can become the first woman to repeat since Ashley Wagner in 2013. But Liu, unlike Chen, is not old enough to qualify for March’s world championships.
3. Winter X Games
Jan. 23-26, Aspen, Colo.
The biggest annual event for snowboarders and freeskiers. Expect Gus Kenworthy to begin his return to competition in earnest since announcing his switch to Great Britain. Chloe Kim is sitting out this season. Shaun White is also not on the invite list, having said he’s taking a break from snowboarding before a Beijing 2022 run.
4. World Single Distance Speed Skating Championships
Feb. 13-16, Salt Lake City
Expect world records to fall. Every current men’s mark in an Olympic distance, and all but one on the female side, was set at the 2002 Olympic oval. Brittany Bowe, the reigning world champion and world-record holder at 1000m, leads the U.S. charge.
5. World Luge Championships
Feb. 15-16, Sochi, Russia
Russia would be in danger of being stripped of host rights if it had not appealed its ban from the World Anti-Doping Agency. Instead, the 2014 Winter Games venue will produce at least one first-time champion given the absence of German stars Natalie Geisenberger (pregnancy) and Tatjana Huefner (retirement).
6. World Bobsled and Skeleton Championships
Feb. 17-March 1, Altenberg, Germany
Germany won all but one event at the 2019 Worlds at Whistler, B.C. The U.S. team will be without triple Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor (pregnancy), but should feature two-time Canadian Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries, who switched representation before this season.
7. U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials
Feb. 29, Atlanta
The top three male and female finishers make the team for Tokyo. Galen Rupp, the Rio bronze medalist, is a favorite despite having raced just once since 2018 Achilles surgery and having recently lost his coach, the now-banned Alberto Salazar. The women’s field shapes up as deeper, though it recently lost its biggest name with the retirement of four-time Olympian Shalane Flanagan.
8. World Short Track Speed Skating Championships
March 13-15, Seoul
South Korea, while facing competition at recent Olympics, returned to dominating at worlds the last two years, sweeping the women’s golds in March 2018 and then the men’s golds last season. However, last season’s top male skater, Lim Hyo-Jun, was banned for this season after pulling down the pants of a male teammate in front of female skaters.
9. World Figure Skating Championships
March 18-21, Montreal
Top storylines: Nathan Chen putting his undefeated-since-the-Olympics record on the line against Yuzuru Hanyu, whom he has outscored in five straight programs. And a potential Russian women’s medals sweep, not seen in one discipline for one nation since Kristi Yamaguchi, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan for the U.S. in 1991.
10. Alpine Skiing World Cup Finals
March 18-22, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
The last races of the calendar often determine season-long champions, but Mikaela Shiffrin has made a habit of mathematically clinching titles well before that. Same story this season. Shiffrin leads the overall standings by nearly 300 points (a win nets a skier 100 points) and appears well on her way to a fourth straight crystal globe. More likely at stake for Shiffrin in Cortina: discipline titles in giant slalom and perhaps super-G and downhill.
11. Olympic Baseball Qualifying Tournaments
March 22-26, Arizona
April 1-5, Chinese Taipei
The last two chances for the U.S. to qualify for the first Olympic baseball tournament since 2008 (and the last one until, at least, 2028). The Americans failed in their first opportunity at the global Premier12, beaten by Mexico. In late March/early April, USA Baseball must navigate roster selection with Major League Baseball clubs finalizing minor-league, season-opening rosters at the end of spring training. Just which players will be made available is unknown.
12. World Women’s Hockey Championship
March 31-April 10, Nova Scotia, Canada
The U.S. captured the last nine top-level international tournaments dating to 2015 (Olympics, worlds, Four Nations Cup), but last year’s world title came in controversial fashion after a Finnish overtime goal was waived off. Canada, whose streak of four straight Olympic titles ended in PyeongChang, last year failed to reach the world championship final for the first time.
13. U.S. Olympic Wrestling Trials
April 4-5, Penn State
Only one wrestler per weight class can qualify for Tokyo. The most high-profile matchup should come on the men’s side, where 2012 Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs and 2018 and 2019 World champion Kyle Dake are expected in the 74kg division. Another storyline: Can Helen Maroulis, who in Rio became the first female U.S. Olympic wrestling champion, come back from her January 2018 concussion and a blown-out right shoulder?
14. World Men’s Hockey Championship
May 8-24, Switzerland
The U.S. last won a standalone world title in 1933 and last reached a final in 1950. Perhaps the Americans can take underdog motivation from 2019 World champion Finland, which became the first title team without NHL players since at least 1993. As for NHL players returning to the Olympics in 2022? No public progress has been made at the Olympic cycle midpoint.
15. French Open
May 24-June 7, Paris
Roland Garros carries Olympic ramifications once every four years. This year, it will be the last tennis tournament in the one-year Olympic qualifying window. The likes of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are all but assured places in Tokyo. But the race is on to see who will qualify for the U.S. women’s singles team of four, with Serena Williams in pole position. Coco Gauff ranks fifth so far but with fewer than half the points of fourth-place Madison Keys. Venus Williams (ninth) and Sloane Stephens (11th) need big first halves of 2020.
16. U.S. Olympic Diving Trials
June 14-21, Indianapolis
The top two per individual event and each winning synchronized event pair are in line to qualify for Tokyo, provided the U.S. qualifies remaining quota spots at the FINA World Cup in April. David Boudia is the headliner. The four-time Olympic platform medalist switched to the springboard after a February 2018 concussion and was fifth at last summer’s worlds.
17. U.S. Open
June 18-21, Winged Foot
The U.S. boasts 11 of the world’s top 17 male golfers, but only four of them can go to Tokyo. The U.S. Open is the last Olympic qualifier in golf’s two-year window, after which the world rankings determine the field. Tiger Woods, for all his success in 2019, is ranked fifth among Americans in Olympic qualifying and currently the world’s top golfer to miss the cutoff. If Woods plays his traditionally limited schedule this winter and spring, he may need a significant result (even a win) at Winged Foot.
18. U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials
June 21-28, Omaha
The top two per individual event qualify for Tokyo, plus extras in the 100m and 200m freestyles for relays. Star watch: Katie Ledecky, likely to add the 1500m freestyle to her trials slate as it debuts at the Olympics, and Caeleb Dressel and Simone Manuel, who could each try to make the team in seven Olympic events when including relays (including the new mixed-gender medley relay).
19. U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials
June 25-28, St. Louis
USA Gymnastics re-combined the men’s and women’s trials to the same weekend, three weeks after the national championships in Fort Worth, Texas. This should be the last domestic competition of Simone Biles‘ career. The top two all-arounders automatically qualify for the four-woman Olympic team. For the men, the top all-arounder combining scores from nationals and trials also qualifies automatically.
20. U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials
June 19-28, Eugene, Ore.
The top three per individual event (in most cases) qualify for Tokyo. World champions Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles are both expected to go for the 100m-200m double. Allyson Felix, the nine-time medalist, eyes a fifth Olympic team (her first as a mom) and to break Michael Johnson‘s record as the oldest Olympic 400m medalist.
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