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Deer Valley Hosts Visa Freestyle International

By U.S. Ski & Snowboard
January, 8 2018
Deer Valley Resort celebrates the 20th-anniversary edition of the Visa Freestyle International this week. (U.S. Ski & Snowboard)

The world’s best moguls and aerials skiers are taking flight over Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah this week for the 20th-anniversary edition of the Visa Freestyle International. Athletes will compete in two single mogul World Cup events Jan. 10 and 11, followed by aerials on Jan. 12. With only two weeks of Olympic selection events remaining, the pressure is on for U.S. Ski Team athletes to land those coveted podium finishes to qualify for the 2018 Olympic team.

2017 World Championship bronze medalist Jaelin Kauf (Alta, Wyo.) is currently the only U.S. moguls athlete that has met objective Olympic qualifying criteria following first and second place World Cup results in December. Kauf has podiumed in dual moguls the past two years at Deer Valley Resort. There are no dual moguls on the schedule this year, but Kauf is carrying plenty of momentum and is hungry for more top finishes.

The U.S. women’s moguls team has qualified anywhere from four to six athletes into the final rounds at World Cups this season. Tess Johnson (Vail, Colo.), Olivia Giaccio (Redding, Conn.), Morgan Schild (Rochester, N.Y.) and Keaton McCargo (Telluride, Colo.) are all familiar faces in finals this season and fully capable of taking the next step to secure their Olympic spots.  

On the men’s side, Troy Murphy (Bethel, Maine) has one of two podium spots needed to make the Olympic team after landing his first World Cup podium last month. The door is still wide open for other U.S. athletes to land top results, and a competition on American soil with a hometown crowd is a huge motivator. As always, a strong international field will play a role in determining who gets the top spots this week.

2015 overall aerials World Cup champion Kiley McKinnon (Madison, Conn.) finished second at last year’s Visa Freestyle International, which was an Olympic selection event for the U.S. team. Her first World Cup victory last week in Moscow gave her the two podiums needed to qualify for the Olympic team. 2017 World Champion Ashley Caldwell (Ashburn, Va.) has one podium this season and will be in the hunt, along with the U.S. men’s squad, for top results before their last Olympic select events in Lake Placid, N.Y. Jan. 19-20.

NBC Sports Group will feature comprehensive coverage of the Visa Freestyle International with shows airing on NBC, NBC Sports Network and streaming on nbcsports.com. For additional event information, visit usskiandsnowboard.org.

VISA FREESTYLE INTERNATIONAL

Mogul Athletes

Men
Casey Andringa
Joel Hedrick
Jack Kariotis
Troy Murphy
Emerson Smith
Troy Tully
Dylan Walczyk
Brad Wilson
Bryon Wilson

Women
Nessa Dziemian
Olivia Giaccio
Tess Johnson
Jaelin Kauf
Mikaela Matthews
Keaton McCargo
K.C. Oakley
Morgan Schild
Avital Shimko

Aerials Athletes

Men
Mac Bohonnon
Alex Bowen
Jon Lillis
Eric Loughran
Nick Novak
Nik Seemann
Zach Surdell

Women
Ashley Caldwell
Kiley McKinnon
Morgan Northrop
Madison Olsen
Madison Varmette
Winter Vinecki

Visa Freestyle International Schedule
*subject to change

Jan. 10
Men and women’s moguls qualifications + finals

Jan. 11
Men and women’s moguls qualifications + finals

Jan. 12
Men and women’s aerials qualifications + finals

HOW TO WATCH
All times EST
*subject to change

Jan. 10
8:45 p.m. – Moguls finals #1 – nbcsports.com

Jan. 11
8:00 p.m. – Moguls finals #1 – NBCSN (next day coverage)
8:45 p.m. – Moguls finals #2 – nbcsports.com

Jan. 12
8:30 p.m. – Moguls finals #2 – NBCSN (next day coverage)
9:45 p.m. – Aerials finals – nbcsports.com

Jan. 13
2:30 p.m. – Aerials finals – NBC (next day coverage)
 

Toyota U.S. Grand Prix Returns to Snowmass

By U.S. Ski & Snowboard
January, 8 2018
Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Snowmass Jan. 10-14
Toyota U.S. Grand Prix returns to Snowmass Jan. 10-14. (U.S. Ski & Snowboard)

Halfpipe and slopestyle skiers and riders kick off their first competition of 2018 this week with the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Snowmass Jan. 10-14. The event is the penultimate Olympic qualifying event of the season, providing athletes with the opportunity to achieve top finishes before teams are named at the end of January.

Snowmass marks the second of three stops on the Grand Prix tour in the 2017 / 2018 season. The resort previously hosted one of the first snowboard halfpipe Olympic qualification events and a snowboard big air exhibition event in 1998. Although Mother Nature hasn’t been the most cooperative so far this season, the mountain operations team at Snowmass have built world-class park and pipe venues for the international field of competitors to showcase their talents.

“The teams here at Snowmass have been working around the clock to build-out a solid course in the anticipation of hosting skiers and riders from around the world as they continue to make their way to the Olympics,” says Deric Gunshor, director of event development, Aspen Skiing Company. “In such an important Olympic year, we look forward to putting on a seamless event as well as watching five days of exciting and top-notch athletic competition.”

U.S. Freeski Team slopestyle skiers have just one qualifying event checked off after last month’s Dew Tour in Breckenridge. Sochi bronze medalist Nick Goepper (Lawrenceburg, Ind.) was the lone American athlete to achieve one of two podium finishes needed to objectively qualify for the Olympic team. Maggie Voisin (Whitefish, Mont.) also has a first-place finish from a qualifying event last season in Mammoth Mountain but did not land on the podium at the Dew Tour.

The Grand Prix at Snowmass will include two slopestyle events on Jan. 12 and Jan. 14. Athletes including McRae Williams (Park City, Utah), Sochi slopestyle silver medalists Gus Kenworthy (Telluride, Colo.) and Devin Logan (West Dover, Vt.) will be in the hunt. Snowmass also marks defending Olympic gold medalist Joss Christensen’s (Park City, Utah) return to competition after suffering a knee injury in May.

“I’m super excited for the Snowmass events; it’s been really hard sitting on the sidelines,” said Christensen. “I’m healthy and ready to get back in the start gate. I hope I can get a good result this week before we head into the last qualifying events.”

Halfpipe skiers are heading into their fourth of five Olympic qualifying events. Olympic Champion Maddie Bowman (S. Lake Tahoe, Calif.) has achieved minimum U.S. qualifying criteria with two podium finishes so far. David Wise (Reno, Nev.), Aaron Blunck (Crested Butte, Colo.), Taylor Seaton (Avon, Colo.), Maddie Bowman (S. Lake Tahoe, Nev.), Kenworthy, Logan and Aspen locals Torin Yater-Wallace (Basalt, Colo.) and Alex Ferreira (Aspen, Colo.) each have one of the two podiums needed. Olympic spots could very well be secured in the halfpipe skiing finals on Friday, Jan. 12.

Olympic Champion Jamie Anderson (S. Lake Tahoe, Calif.), Chloe Kim (Torrance, Calif.) and Chris Corning (Silverthorne, Colo.) have all confirmed their nominations to the 2018 U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team. There are a host of other athletes across halfpipe and slopestyle snowboarding in the running for the final spots, including Olympic Champions Kelly Clark (Mammoth, Calif.) and Shaun White (Carlsbad, Calif.), Ben Ferguson (Bend, Ore.), Jake Pates (Eagle, Colo), Julia Marino (Westport, Conn.) and young guns Maddie Mastro (Wrightwood, Calif.), Hailey Langland (San Clemente, Calif.) and Red Gerard (Silverthorne, Colo.). Finals for slopestyle will take place on Jan. 12 followed by halfpipe on Jan. 13.

"I’ve actually never competed at Snowmass, so I’m excited to ride at the Grand Prix,” said White. “I heard the pipe is great and I think it’s going to be a great competition this close to the Olympics.”

NBC Sports Group will feature comprehensive coverage of the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Snowmass with shows airing on NBC, NBC Sports Network and streaming on nbcsports.com. For additional event information, visit usskiandsnowboard.org/grandprix.

TOYOTA U.S. GRAND PRIX - SNOWMASS

Event Schedule
*subject to change
Jan. 10: Halfpipe skiing + slopestyle snowboarding qualifications
Jan. 11: Halfpipe snowboarding + slopestyle skiing qualifications
Jan. 12: Halfpipe skiing + slopestyle snowboarding finals
Jan. 13: Halfpipe snowboarding + slopestyle skiing finals
Jan. 14: Slopestyle skiing finals (non-World Cup)

HOW TO WATCH
All times EST
*subject to change

Jan. 12
11:15 a.m – Slopestyle snowboarding finals – nbcsports.com
2:45 p.m – Halfpipe skiing finals – nbcsports.com
9:30 p.m – Slopestyle snowboarding finals – NBCSN (Same day coverage)
11:00 p.m. – Halfpipe skiing finals – NBCSN (Same day coverage)

Jan. 13
11:15 a.m – Slopestyle skiing finals #1 – nbcsports.com
2:45 p.m – Halfpipe snowboarding finals – nbcsports.com

Jan. 14
3:00 p.m – Slopestyle skiing finals #2 – nbcsports.com
3:00 p.m. – Halfpipe snowboarding finals – NBC (next day coverage)

Jan. 15
1:30 a.m. – Slopestyle skiing finals #1 – NBCSN

Jan. 16
12:00 q.m. – Slopestyle skiing finals #2 – NBCSN 

Alaskans Take U.S. Titles

By Tom Kelly
January, 7 2018
Tyler Kornfield
Tyler Kornfield outsprints Eric Packer to take gold in the men's 30k classic mass start.

Tyler Kornfield (Anchorage/APU Nordic) and Alaska native Caitlin Patterson (Craftsbury Common, Vt./Craftsbury Green) skied to gold in Anchorage’s Kincaid Park Sunday in the final distance event of the L.L.Bean U.S. Cross Country Championships. Kornfield won his third career gold - first in distance - winning the men’s 30k classic mass start. Patterson took gold in the women’s 20k, picking up her second gold of the week.

The men’s 30k as a battle from start to finish with a pack of eight sprinting to the finish. Kornfield, who grew up skiing the Kincaid Park trails, hung back the first few laps but turned it on for the final circuit to move into contention. He took the win over Eric Packer (Anchorage/APU Nordic) by less than a second. Norwegian Eyvind Romberg Kvaale of Denver University was third overall with American Kris Freeman ( /Caldwell Sport) taking bronze.

“People know me as a sprinter but I’ve been thinking about this race for the last six months,” said Kornfield, who has two national classic sprint titles to his credit. “This was MY race. I knew I had a good distance race in me and I showed it today.”

Kornfield and others remain optimistic on Olympic Team spots based on their distance results. “ knew that the only way I could make it was to win this race. I’ve known I’ve had the ability within myself but wasn’t able to put it together on a given day. But I know this course like the back of my hand and I  knew where I had to go.”

If he had one worry, it was teammate Packer. He made his move on the final lap, keeping close watch on Packer and  holding him off at the finish.

The win was a special one for Kornfield coming in front of hometown family and fans. “This means everything,” said Kornfield. “I  put a lot of pressure on myself. This is Anchorage - the pressure should be on us. I was so excited to come up these hills with these crowds all cheering for APU. I’m glad I could make them proud.”

Swede Hedda Baangman of the Univ. of Colorado took the overall win in the women’s 20k in one hour, 55.3 seconds - a 15.9 second margin over Patterson, the top American. Rosie Frankowski (Anchorage/APU Nordic) took silver with Kaitlynn Miller (Anchorage/Craftsbury Green) winning bronze - her second medal of the week.

Action wraps up Monday with classic sprints. Any Olympic selections from the Championships will be announced as part of overall Olympic Team nominations the week of January 22. 

RESULTS
Men’s 30k Classic Mass Start 
Women’s 20k Classic Mass Start 

Olympic Selection Update - Jan. 7, 2018

By U.S. Ski & Snowboard
January, 7 2018
Rosie Brennan qualified for her first Olympic team. (Getty Images/Action Plus - Pierre Teyssot)

Four more cross country skiers clinched their spots on the Olympic Team Sunday following the conclusion of the final World Cup distance event of the selection period. Rosie Brennan (Park City, Utah) qualified for her first Olympic team. Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) is now set for her fifth and Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, Vt.) will make her third appearance. Erik Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.) will join sister Sadie for his second Olympics. All four qualified by virtue of a top 50 ranking in the World Cup distance standings.

Selection Notes
This update is as of the noted date and subject to change through the selection period. Update includes only those athletes who have achieved the top levels of objective selection criteria, which does not guarantee a spot on the team. Final team announcements will be made the week of Jan. 22, subject to USOC approval.

Alpine (selection period runs through Jan. 22)

  • Stacey Cook (top 10 downhill) *
  • Tommy Ford (World Cup ranking GS) ^
  • Breezy Johnson (top 10 downhill) *
  • Ted Ligety (top 5 giant slalom) ^
  • Megan McJames (World Cup ranking GS) ^
  • Laurenne Ross (top 10 super G) *
  • Mikaela Shiffrin (top 3 downhill, top 5 super G, top 3 giant slalom, top 3 slalom) ^
  • Lindsey Vonn (top 3 super G) *
  • Jackie Wiles (top 5 downhill) *

^ Qualified for U.S. Olympic Team
* Achieved objective qualification criteria

Cross Country (selection period runs through Jan. 15)

  • Erik Bjornsen (top 50 World Cup ranking in distance, sprint) ^
  • Sadie Bjornsen (top 8 in designated selection event) ^
  • Rosie Brennan (top 50 World Cup ranking in distance, sprint) ^
  • Sophie Caldwell (top 8 in designated selection event) ^
  • Jessie Diggins (top 8 in designated selection event) ^
  • Simi Hamilton (top 50 World Cup ranking in sprint) *
  • Andy Newell (top 50 World Cup ranking in sprint) *
  • Kikkan Randall (top 50 World Cup ranking in sprint, distance) ^
  • Ida Sargent (top 50 World Cup ranking in sprint) *
  • Liz Stephen (top 50 World Cup ranking in distance) ^

^ Qualified for U.S. Olympic Team
* Achieved objective qualification criteria as of rankings on Jan. 6 (rankings subject to change through Jan. 15)

Freeski (selection period runs through Jan. 21)

  • None have met objective criteria yet
  • Freestyle (selection period runs through Jan. 21)
  • Jaelin Kauf (2 top 3 moguls) *
  • Kiley McKinnon (2 top 3 aerials) *

* Achieved objective qualification criteria

Nordic Combined (selection period runs through Jan. 22)

  • Bryan Fletcher (winner Olympic Trials) ^

^ Qualified for U.S. Olympic Team

Ski Jumping (selection period runs through Jan. 21)

  • Mike Glasder (winner Olympic Trials) ^
  • Sarah Hendrickson (winner Olympic Trials) ^

^ Qualified for U.S. Olympic Team

Snowboard (qualifying through Jan. 21)

  • Jamie Anderson (mathematically clinched qualifying series points in slopestyle) ^
  • Jonathan Cheever (top 3 in designated snowboardcross selection event; leading selection points) *
  • Chris Corning (mathematically clinched qualifying series points in slopestyle) ^
  • Faye Gulini (top 3 in designated snowboardcross selection event) ^
  • Chloe Kim (mathematically clinched qualifying series points in slopestyle) ^
  • Lindsey Jacobellis (top 3 in designated snowboardcross selection event) ^

^ Qualified for U.S. Olympic Team
* Achieved objective qualification criteria

Shiffrin Cruises to 40th World Cup Win

By U.S. Ski & Snowboard
January, 7 2018
Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates her 40th FIS Ski World Cup win Sunday
Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates her 40th FIS Ski World Cup win Sunday in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. (Getty Images/Agence Zoom - Christophe Pallot)

A day after battling for her 39th World Cup victory, Mikaela Shiffrin (Eagle-Vail, Colo.) made it look easy, cruising toward World Cup history with her 40th victory in Sunday’s slalom at Kranjska Gora, Slovenia.

Brushing aside a flu bug, rainy weather, and rough course conditions, Shiffrin opened up a 1.47-second first run advantage and never looked back. Starting last in the second run, she extended her winning margin to 1.64-seconds over Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter, who finished second, and 1.87 seconds over Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener in third.

“I really loved the surface the first run,” Shiffrin said. “It got warmer in the second run and a little bit more of a track, but I actually thought it held up quite well. I had so much fun skiing today!”

Shiffrin is undefeated in 2018, winning the past four World Cup events, including two slalom victories, one giant slalom and a city event win in Oslo, Norway on New Year’s Day. She also won the Snow Queen title for her slalom victory in Zagreb, Croatia on Jan. 3, and following her giant slalom and slalom wins in Kranjska Gora, was awarded the Golden Fox, which goes to the best-combined finisher from the slalom and giant slalom.

“It’s really incredible to be the Golden Fox again,” Shiffrin said. “That one is definitely important to me … to be the best performer in the GS and the slalom through the weekend is really cool. That’s been one of my goals for so long, and it’s really, really an honor. But at the end of the day, it’s just a title and I still have to go back to work tomorrow.”

At 22-years-old, Shiffrin has reached another milestone in her ski racing career, equaling Ingemar Stenmark’s 40 wins before his 23rd birthday. Annemarie Moser-Pröll totaled 41 World Cup victories before turning 23. With four slalom and four giant slalom events remaining before Shiffrin turns 23 on March 13, the door is wide open for her to make World Cup history.

Since her World Cup debut as a 16-year-old on March 11, 2013, in Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic, Shiffrin has racked up some impressive stats, including:

  • 29 World Cup slalom victories
  • 6 World Cup giant slalom victories
  • 1 World Cup alpine combined victory
  • 1 World Cup downhill victory
  • 2 World Cup city event wins
  • 1 World Cup parallel slalom victory
  • 3 World Championship slalom titles
  • 1 Olympic slalom gold medal
  • 57 World Cup podiums

Up next, the women’s World Cup circuit moves to Flachau, Austria Jan. 9 for an evening slalom where a victory would tie Shiffrin with Moser-Pröll’s 41 World Cup victories before turning 23.

“I’ve had some incredible races there … and I’m looking forward to going back there,” Shiffrin said. “The hill is one of my favorites, and when it’s in good condition, it’s really fun to ski.”

RESULTS
Women’s slalom
 

Diggins on Tour Podium

By Tom Kelly
January, 7 2018

In the ultimate display of true grit, Jessie Diggins (Afton, Minn.) bridged a 10-second gap to overtake Krista Parmakoski of Finland on the flanks of Alpe Cermis to become the first American to finish on the podium in the Tour de Ski, taking third. Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.) capped a stellar nine days on the Tour finishing ninth - the first time two Americans have cracked the top 10.

"What a day!" Diggins said. "I’m so happy with this Tour de Ski, and so proud of our team for all the hard work our techs and coaches have put into each and every race, and so proud of my teammates for racing so hard. That’s one grueling race series!"

Heidi Weng of Norway, on the heels of a strong classic race a day earlier, overtook her teammate Ingvild Flugstad Østberg on the steep upper section of Alpe Cermis to claim her second straight Tour de Ski title by 48.5 seconds. Diggins was two minutes, 23 seconds back and put 34 seconds on Parmakoski.

It was a day of many storylines for the American women, who just eight years ago weren't even competing in the Tour de Ski. It was a best-ever individual finish with Diggins' podium, besting the mark of fifth set by both Diggins in 2017 and Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, Vt.) in 2015. Bjornsen's career-best Tour in ninth put two Americans into the top 10, matching Norway and Finland. Stephen put in the fifth fastest time to climb all the way up to 16th. It was also a career-best finish for Rosie Brennan (Park City, Utah) in 24th.

In Saturday's classic mass start, Diggins had dropped one spot in the Tour rankings and was starting 10 seconds back from Parmakoski. On the opening flats, Diggins kept an even pace maintaining the gap distance and keeping the Finn in her sights. As they neared the start of the climb, Diggins began to close the gap quickly coming even with Parmakoski as they began the ascent of Alpe Cermis.

Ahead of them, Weng was doing the same with her teammate Østberg, skiing side by side up the alpine ski area slopes. As they reached the steepest portion, Weng attacked and starting building a gap as Østberg dropped back. As Diggins approached a similar spot, she, too attacked and starting building seconds on Parmakoski. As she wound her way around the switchbacks she continued to build. And when she hit the straighter sections near the top she built more and more margin to solidify her podium position.

"I caught Krista maybe a third of the way on the flats and we traded leads, working together to go faster," Diggins said. "My strategy was just to keep the tempo high, keep my body upright and leaning into the climb, and just keep moving. But on the flat sections where we were weaving around gates, I noticed I was starting to pull away just a little bit, so I would push extra hard each turn and just keep my tempo up, and that’s how I gradually pulled away."

Bjornsen had planned to chase down Anastasia Sedova just ahead of her and then climb together with Sedova and Nathalie von Siebenthal of Switzerland. But the two took off quickly on the wall and Bjornsen skied to the finish on her own, defending her top-10 ranking. 

"Wow, it feels incredible to finish that tour," said Bjornsen, who is having a strong and consistent season, scoring her first ever top 10 in a major stage race. "It feels so good to accomplish the goal I set for myself before the season started! The Tour is such a tough event because you are racing day after day, and you have those amazing, and disappointing races throughout the event. But you just have to stay positive and keep fighting for every second."

Tour skiing is challenging - not just from the arduous physical exertion, but the mental toll. "This tour feels like I had more swings than normal, but my highs were higher than normal so I am happy! I hope to come back one day and fight for the podium like Jessie did this year. She is a true inspiration and makes me believe it can be possible. The feeling of achievement as I cross the line in that final hill climb is like no other feeling in the world. It feels like I have conquered the world."

Brennan is also having a strong season and wrapped up the Tour with the 16th fastest stage time.

“This was a tough tour for me and certainly not what I had hoped for, but I managed to bookend it well,” said Brennan, who did record her best Tour ever. “I am really happy with my opening sprint and with my climb today, the rest was a challenge.” 

As arduous as it is up Alpe Cermis, Brennan looked forward to the hill climb finale. “It is a very nerve-racking race because you just never know what is going to happen out there,” she said. “But I love climbing and I love the feeling of reaching the top.”

Her strong climb came a day after a blood sugar crash left her a bit unsure of herself going into the final stage. “I felt so much better and am really happy with the way I skied today,” she said. “Now, it is time to rest and absorb all the intensity we have had during the Tour.”

“The Tour de Ski has been a great way for me to race into shape for the season,” said Stephen.  “I feel that it has worked that way again this year, as my body seems to be feeling better and better each race. This year’s result in the climb was not what I was gunning for but for where I am at this season, I have to be satisfied with today’s result.”

There was a great sense of pride permeating the entire U.S. Ski Team as athletes gathered at the team's wax truck after the race.

"I’m proud of our team, and honestly every person that finished this event," said Bjornsen. "It’s a tough one, but one of the more rewarding feelings I believe you can find."

As one of the Team’s longtime Tour leaders, Stephen takes pride in where the Team has come. “I am extremely proud of Jessie, as she had her work cut out for her today to get an overall podium and that is something that I know she has wanted to achieve,” she said. “So it was amazing to watch her stand up there today. 

“Sadie skied an incredibly strong Tour too, and I really could not be more proud of the team we had standing on the top of the mountain today. When I retire one of these years in the near future, I will miss these Tour de Ski moments, with our tight little team and the small Tour de Ski World Cup field. It is in these intimate moments with people I care about that are what makes sport so important in my life.”

The Tour de Ski marked the final distance events in the Olympic selection period. Diggins, Bjornsen and Sophie Caldwell (Peru, Vt.) had already qualified via a top eight World Cup finish in an Olympic discipline. Qualifying for the Olympic Team via a top 50 distance World Cup ranking are Kikkan Randall (Anchorage), Brennan and Stephen. It will be the fifth Olympics for Randall, third for Stephen and first for Brennan.

The World Cup tour now heads to Dresden, Germany for a freestyle sprint and team sprint next weekend. Diggins and Bjornsen will sit it out to rest.

RESULTS
Men's 9k Freestyle Pursuit 
Women's 9k Freestyle Pursuit

Men's Tour de Ski Final Standings 
Women's Tour de Ski Final Standings 

Winner of the Day (fastest times)
 

Olympic Selection Update - Jan. 6, 2018

By Tom Kelly
January, 6 2018
Ted Ligety
Ted Ligety's top five finish in Alta Badia, Italy last month has netted him a spot on the 2018 Olympic Team to defend his 2014 Olympic gold medal. (Getty Images/Agence Zoom-Alexis Boichard)

Freestyle skier Kiley McKinnon (Madison, Conn.) became the first freestyle aerialist to achieve objective Olympic selection criteria. McKinnon won Saturday in Moscow for her second top three World Cup finish in designated selection events. McKinnon was second in aerials at Deer Valley last February.

With no remaining giant slaloms in the selection period, Ted Ligety, Tommy Ford and Megan McJames have clinched Olympic Team spots. Ligety has a top five, Tommy Ford a top 10 and McJames the next-best World Cup ranked athlete behind Mikaela Shiffrin.

Olympic Selection Update - Jan. 6, 2018

Selection Notes
This update is as of the noted date and subject to change through the selection period. Update includes only those athletes who have achieved the top levels of objective selection criteria, which does not guarantee a spot on the team. Final team announcements will be made the week of Jan. 22, subject to USOC approval.
 
Alpine (selection period runs through Jan. 22)
Stacey Cook (top 10 downhill) *
Tommy Ford (World Cup ranking GS) ^
Breezy Johnson (top 10 downhill) *
Ted Ligety (top 5 giant slalom) ^
Megan McJames (World Cup ranking GS) ^
Laurenne Ross (top 10 super G) *
Mikaela Shiffrin (top 3 downhill, top 5 super G, top 3 giant slalom, top 3 slalom) ^
Lindsey Vonn (top 3 super G) *
Jackie Wiles (top 5 downhill) *
^ Qualified for U.S. Olympic Team
* Achieved objective qualification criteria

Cross Country (selection period runs through Jan. 15)
Erik Bjornsen (top 50 World Cup ranking in distance, sprint) *
Sadie Bjornsen (top 8 in designated selection event) ^
Rosie Brennan (top 50 World Cup ranking in distance, sprint) *
Sophie Caldwell (top 8 in designated selection event) ^
Jessie Diggins (top 8 in designated selection event) ^
Simi Hamilton (top 50 World Cup ranking in sprint) *
Andy Newell (top 50 World Cup ranking in sprint) *
Kikkan Randall (top 50 World Cup ranking in sprint, distance) *
Ida Sargent (top 50 World Cup ranking in sprint) *
^ Qualified for U.S. Olympic Team
* Achieved objective qualification criteria as of rankings on Jan. 6 (rankings subject to change through Jan. 15)

 
Freeski (selection period runs through Jan. 21)
None have met objective criteria yet
 
Freestyle (selection period runs through Jan. 21)
Jaelin Kauf (2 top 3 moguls) *
Kiley McKinnon (2 top 3 aerials) *
* Achieved objective qualification criteria
 
Nordic Combined (selection period runs through Jan. 22)
Bryan Fletcher (winner Olympic Trials) ^
^ Qualified for U.S. Olympic Team
 
Ski Jumping (selection period runs through Jan. 21)
Mike Glasder (winner Olympic Trials) ^
Sarah Hendrickson (winner Olympic Trials) ^
^ Qualified for U.S. Olympic Team
 
Snowboard (qualifying through Jan. 21)
Jamie Anderson (mathematically clinched qualifying series points in slopestyle) ^
Jonathan Cheever (top 3 in designated snowboardcross selection event; leading selection points) *
Chris Corning (mathematically clinched qualifying series points in slopestyle) ^
Faye Gulini (top 3 in designated snowboardcross selection event) ^
Chloe Kim (mathematically clinched qualifying series points in slopestyle) ^
Lindsey Jacobellis (top 3 in designated snowboardcross selection event) ^
^ Qualified for U.S. Olympic Team
* Achieved objective qualification criteria

 

Schild and Wilson Top Finishers in Calgary

By U.S. Ski & Snowboard
January, 6 2018
calgarymoguls
(FIS)

The U.S. Ski Team qualified six athletes into finals at Saturday’s moguls competition in Calgary, with Morgan Schild (Rochester, N.Y.) and Brad Wilson (Butte, Mont.) posting the top results, both finishing sixth.

Schild made it to her first super final of the season after finishing ninth in Friday’s qualifying rounds and sixth in the final. A few mistakes after the top air in her super final run landed Schild a score of 77.17 and her best World Cup finish of the season so far. Tess Johnson (Vail, Colo.), Olivia Giaccio (Redding, Conn.) and Jaelin Kauf (Alta, Wyo.) all made it through to the finals, finishing ninth, 11th and 16th respectively. Australia’s Britteny Cox claimed her second victory of the season followed by France’s Perrine Laffont in second and Canada’s Justine Dufour-LaPointe in third.

It was also Wilson’s first super final of the season. His qualifying runs were strong, but Wilson was unable to put down a clean run and land a podium spot against a stacked field in the men’s super final. In his first World Cup appearance, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail’s Casey Andringa was the only other U.S. man to make the finals and skied to an impressive 7th place finish right behind Wilson. Mikael Kingsbury landed the win on home turf. Kazaksan’s Dmitriy Reikherd was second and Australia’s Matt Graham third.

The U.S. Ski Team will be back on home soil next week when the FIS Freestyle World Cup tour makes a stop at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah. The Visa Freestyle International will feature two single moguls competitions on January 10 and 11 followed by aerials on January 12.

RESULTS
Men’s moguls
Women’s moguls

McKinnon Lands First World Cup Win

By U.S. Ski & Snowboard
January, 6 2018

With just one skier advancing to the super finals, the U.S. aerials squad ended up with plenty to celebrate when Kiley McKinnon (Madison, Conn.) stomped her super final jump to take home her first career World Cup win in Moscow Saturday. McKinnon has now met objective Olympic selection criteria and is looking good to land a spot on the team headed to PyeongChang in just over a month.

Variable weather conditions made it difficult for athletes to dial in the speed for their jumps on the scaffolding site Saturday night. McKinnon’s first jump - a full, full - qualified her in the seventh position going into finals. She barely made it in to the super finals after scoring an 80.46 on the same trick in finals. But everything came together for McKinnon’s final jump, a triple-twisting double flip called a full, double full. The high degree of difficulty and McKinnon’s flawless execution scored her a 95.52 and the win.

"My strategy was to go out and have confidence in my jumping," said McKinnon. "I have been struggling with that recently and I wanted to prove to myself that I could put a solid jump down. The weather was pretty crazy today with rain and snow, but luckily that cleared for the final rounds. No matter if the weather is good or bad, I always know that my coaches are doing everything they can to dial in the speed for us and they nailed it tonight!

I have been dreaming of a World Cup win for a few years now and, although I have come close a couple times, I had never gotten there. To be able to do it during the Olympic season is really the icing on the cake!"

Belarus’s Aliaksandra Ramanouskaya and Russia’s Alexandra Orlova joined McKinnon on the podium in second and third. World Champion Ashley Caldwell (Ashburn, Va.) competed a triple flip in qualifications, but was unable to land cleanly, finishing 13th and missing out on finals by one spot. Madison Olsen (Park City, Utah) was 20th and Morgan Northrop (Haymarket, Va.) 22nd.

On the men’s side, Nik Seemann (Winter Park, Colo.) was the lone U.S. man to advance into finals. He carried too much speed into his triple-twisting triple flip - a full, double full, full - slapping back on the landing and missing the super finals, finishing 10th. 2014 Olympic Champion Anon Kushnir of Belarus took the win, followed by Russia’s Ilia Burov and Stanislav Nikitin in second and third.

The U.S. Ski Team will be back on home soil next week when the FIS Freestyle World Cup tour makes a stop at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah. The Visa Freestyle International will feature two single moguls competitions on January 10 and 11 followed by aerials on January 12.

RESULTS
Women’s Aerials
Men’s Aerials

 

Diggins Challenging for Tour Podium

By Tom Kelly
January, 6 2018
tds 1-6-18
Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg of Norway leads as Jessica Diggins, Heidi Weng of Norway, Teresa Stadlober of Austria, and Kerttu Niskanen of Finland follow during the FIS Nordic World Cup 10k classic in Val di Fiemme, Italy Saturday. (Getty Images/Agence Zoom - Laurent Salino)

Americans Jessie Diggins (Afton, Minn.) and Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.) continued a strong U.S. Ski Team performance on the Tour de Ski Saturday, setting themselves up for landmark finishes in the prestigious stage race that ends on Sunday. A stage six assault by defending Tour de Ski champion Heidi Weng of Norway also narrowed the gap on tour leader Ingvild Flugstad Østberg who kept the leader’s bib but saw her nearly one minute lead disintegrate to just 1.8 seconds in the 10k classic mass start, setting up a thrilling finale for Sunday’s climb up Alpe Cermis. 

Diggins finished fourth and now stands fourth in the Tour de Ski after six of seven stages, 10 seconds behind Finland’s Krista Parmakoski, who finished second. Bjornsen was 10th and stands eighth. She is 46 seconds ahead of Austrian Theresa Stadlober, who was third.

She went out strong, holding her own against the powerful Norwegian duo of Weng and Østberg, even holding the lead for a time in the first few kilometers. She remained strong in a five-skier lead pack before Weng made a move around 7k. The remaining chase pack of four began to splinter around 8k with Finland’s Krista Parmakoski and Austria’s Theresa Stadlober moving up. Diggins passed Østberg and held on to finish fourth.

“I was really happy with my race today,” said Diggins. “It was so much fun to be in the lead pack for so long in a classic race and to be feeling this good after so much racing in the tour.”

The U.S. Ski Team wax truck once again produced fast skis for Diggins and the team. “I have to give props to our techs for working so hard throughout this entire tour and getting up to the venue hours ahead of the race over and over again to help us out.” 

Diggins’ strategy was to stay near the front of the mass start and out of trouble, especially after breaking two poles in the Lenzerheide sprint a week earlier. ”I faded slightly in that last lap and could’t go with Krista and Teresa but it was so fun to see exactly where the podium was since it’s mass start - seeing where I can improve a little bit for the next time. Always learning and taking notes.”

Bjornsen had a good race but still one that left her wanting for a bit more. “After falling in the last race, I was determined to make up some time that I had lost in my overall tour position. I have been feeling really great on my classic skis and felt like I had some power left in my legs this morning. So my goal was to just go with the leaders as long as possible.”

Unfortunately Bjornsen had a few tactical errors at the start that left her far back in the pack on the first lap.

“Once I was finally finding position again, I got trampled over and fell,” she said. “Once again, I fought my way back to the front after getting stuck behind some traffic, but just burned a few too many jets getting yo-yo'd around today.”

Still poised for her best Tour de Ski finish, Bjornsen has learned a lot about the mental side of the stage race. “When things go great, you can convince yourself you are invincible. When you get rattled a bit, it takes an extra amount of mental power to fight back to where you want. I think that is what got me today.“

If Diggins and Bjornsen remain in the top 10, it will be the first time in history two Americans have finished that high. The American benchmark in the Tour de Ski is fifth, which was achieved by Diggins a year ago and Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, Vt.) in 2015.

“I’m really happy with my overall tour placing,” said Diggins. “To be starting 10 seconds behind Krista is awesome and I’ve been racing better than any other year, for sure. It’s fun to feel strong in sprint and distance, classic and skate. My goal for years has been to become a true all-rounder. It’s fun to finally be getting there!”
 
Diggins knows going into the Alpe Cermis hill climb finale that she’s not a natural-born climber. “But I know how to be a fighter and I know to suffer,” she said. “I’m going to go give that climb everything I’ve got left.”

“Considering the swings of this Tour de Ski, I am thrilled to be fighting for top 10,” said Bjornsen. “I have never done that in a Tour event, so it is a good goal for me when I am pushing myself up that mountain tomorrow with every last bit of energy I have tomorrow.”

Diggins now stands fifth in the overall World Cup standings with Bjornsen eighth.

In the men's field, Paddy Caldwell (Peru, Vt.) was 48th - the lone American man still in the Tour. Erik Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.) and Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, Vt.) withdrew.

The Tour de Ski is set up for a dramatic finale with the 9k freestyle pursuit up the face of Alpe Cermis. Live coverage of the women’s final stage will be live streamed beginning at 5:30 a.m. EST with broadcast coverage at 7:30 a.m. on NBCSN. The men’s stage will stream live at 8:30 a.m. EST and broadcast on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA TV at 1:00 p.m. EST.

RESULTS
Men’s 15k Classic Mass Start
Women’s 10k Classic Mass Start

Men’s Tour de Ski Standings (after 6 of 7 stages)
Women’s Tour de Ski Standings (after 6 of 7 stages)