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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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Sadie Maubet Bjornsen becomes first U.S. cross-country skier to lead women’s World Cup

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For the first time, the world’s top-ranked female cross-country skier is an American.

Sadie Maubet Bjornsen claimed the yellow bib awarded to the World Cup overall standings leader by placing third and fourth in the opening races of the season in Finland the last two days.

No American woman previously led the standings at any point in a World Cup season, according to U.S. Ski & Snowboard. Bill Koch won the men’s title in 1982.

Maubet Bjornsen, a two-time Olympian who got married in July, finished third in a classic sprint (by one hundredth of a second) on Friday. Then she was fourth in a 10km classic race on Saturday, missing the podium by 1.3 seconds.

She earned 83 World Cup points for those results, eight better than Russian Natalya Nepryaeva, last season’s No. 2 skier in the overall standings. There are still more than 30 races left this season, which runs through March. Maubet Bjornsen is better at classic races, and seven of the next eight races are freestyle.

Maubet Bjornsen was 14th in last season’s standings, 1,069 points behind champion Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg of Norway. Four different Norwegians combined to win the last six World Cup overall titles.

Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins, who teamed to win the U.S.’ first Olympic cross-country title in PyeongChang, are the only American women to finish a season in the top three of the standings. Randall was third in 2013; Diggins second in 2018.

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Diggins finishes third at opening stop of Tour de Ski

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Olympic gold medalist Jessie Diggins notched her first World Cup podium finish of the 2018-19 season, placing third in a freestyle sprint in Toblach, Italy. Sadie Bjornsen, who was the fastest woman in qualification, placed sixth.

The race marked the opening event of the Tour de Ski, an annual cross-country skiing competition where athletes race seven times in three countries over nine days. In addition to earning World Cup points at each stop, athletes also compete for the overall Tour de Ski title, which comes with 400 additional World Cup points.

Sweden claimed the top two spots on the women’s sprint podium, with Stina Nilsson finishing well ahead of the rest of the field and Ida Indemarsdotter placing second. Full results are here.

In a post-race interview, Nilsson reiterated her plan to only compete at the first four stops of the Tour de Ski. A number of top international athletes are not participating in the grueling multi-stage competition at all, including current women’s World Cup leader Therese Johaug of Norway. The 2019 World Championships, the most important cross-country skiing competition in a non-Olympic year, begin on February 20 in Austria.

On the men’s side, Norway’s Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo finished first in the sprint, while France’s Richard Jouve and Lucas Chanavat placed second and third, respectively.

The Tour de Ski continues in Toblach tomorrow with the women’s 10km and men’s 15km freestyle races.

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