On October 17, the starting signal for the winter sport season 2020/21 was given in Sölden. It marked the beginning of a season that will probably look like never before due to the corona pandemic: some competitions will take place without spectators on site. The ski-alpine circus separates events for men and women as well as speed and technical disciplines more rigorously than ever before. In ski jumping, fear of entry bans prevails. Other sports such as short track have already cancelled their entire season.
ISPO.om gives an overview of the most important winter sports, their season plans and the top favourites among men and women.
As the first of the major winter sports, the Alpine Ski World Cup started as early as October 17th in Sölden (Austria). The season will end in Lenzerheide (Switzerland) from 17 to 21 March. The highlight of the season will be the Ski World Championship in Cortina d'Ampezzo (Italy) from 8 to 21 February.
In order to keep the number of participants as low as possible in view of the Corona pandemic, the competitions for men and women will be held at different venues wherever possible. In addition, speed and technical events will be held separately.
In the men's event, the top favourites are the Norwegian duo of defending champion Aleksander Aamodt Kilde and Henrik Kristoffersen and Frenchman Alexis Pinturault. Austria has two top racers with Matthias Mayer and Vincent Kriechmayr, Switzerland with Beat Feuz and Mauro Caviezel to compete for the big crystal ball.
US star Mikaela Shiffrin wants to return to the top in the women's race but has to sit out the Sölden Opener due to injury. She has to get past the Italian titleholder Federica Brignone. Slalom ace Petra Vlhova from Slovakia also has a chance. Switzerland has no fewer than four candidates for race wins with downhill specialist Corinne Suter, Wendy Holdener, Lara Gut-Behrami and Michelle Gisin.
The World Cup season starts on November 27th in Kontiolahti, Finland and ends on March 21st in Oslo.
Due to the corona pandemic, the two German World Cups will take place in Oberhof in January. Originally, the second event was to be held in Ruhpolding.
The highlight of the season will be the Biathlon World Championships in Pokljuka, Slovenia, which are planned from February 9 to 21, 2021.
After the end of Martin Fourcade's career, reigning World Cup champion Johannes Thingnes Boe is the sole top favourite in the men's singles. With the World Cup third of the previous season, Quentin Fillon Maillet, as well as Emilien Jacquelin and Simon Desthieux, France still has some top athletes.
In the women's race, the Italian Dorothea Wierer is the top favourite as defending champion. Her pursuers last year were Tiril Eckhoff (Norway), Denise Herrmann (Germany) and Hanna Öberg (Sweden)
The Ski Jumping World Cup starts on November 21st in Wisla, Poland. The final event will be ski flying in Planica, Slovenia, on March 28, 2021 and the Ski Jumping World Cchampionship will take place in Oberstdorf from February 27 to March 6.
The events are to take place if athletes from at least seven of the ten top nations can attend. The teams from Japan, the USA and Canada will spend the entire winter in Europe to avoid entry problems due to the coronavirus.
With his furious second half of the 2019/20 season, Austrian Stefan Kraft has crowned himself World Cup champion. Now he starts into the new season as one of the top favourites. Also the German Karl Geiger, Ryoyu Kobayashi from Japan as well as Four Hills Tournament winner Dawid Kubacki (Poland) are potential World Cup winners. Furthermore, there are veteran Kamil Stoch (Poland), the Austrian champion Gregor Schlierenzauer as well as the Four Hill Tournament's runner-up Marius Lindvik (Norway).
In the women's singles, defending champion Maren Lundby (Norway) as well as her two biggest competitors of the previous season from Austria, Chiara Hölzl and Eva Pinkelnig, are the favourites. The German Katharina Althaus and the Japanese record World Cup winner Sara Takanashi are among the extended circle of favourites.
At Ruka in Finland, the Nordic combiners start the season from 26th to 29th November. Last stop is Schonach in Germany from 19 to 21 March. The World Championship will take place in Oberstdorf from 22 February to 7 March 2021.
In the men's singles a duel between German and Norwegian athletes is expected: Vinzenz Geiger, Fabien Rießle and Eric Frenzel on German and World Cup champion Jarl Magnus Riiber, Jörgen Graabak, junior world champion Jens luuras Oftebro and Espen Björnstad on the Norwegian side were the most successful last season.
In the women's singles last season, Russian Stefaniya Nadymova and US-American Tara Geraghty-Moats were clearly ahead of the competition. Both are the favourites this time as well. Jenny Nowak from Germany and the Russian Anastasia Goncharova are further candidates.
The cross-country skiing world cup takes place on an almost complete scale. The only exception is North America, where there will be no races due to Corona. The start of the season takes place from 27th to 29th November in Ruka, Finland. Last stop is Beijing from March 19 to 21.
In the men's singles, the Russians and Norwegians dominated the last races: Alexander Bolshunov was the 2019/20 overall World Cup winner, followed by sprint specialist Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo, Paal Golberg, Olympic champion Simen Hegstad Krueger and Sjur Roethe, five Norwegians.
In the women's event, too, the two nations are usually the winners: Therese Johaug, the defending champion, is by far the top favourite again this season. With Heidi Weng and Ingvild Flugstad Oesterberg Norway has other top starters. Russia's Natalia Nepryaeva, who was third in the World Cup last season, has probably the best chances to break through the Norwegian phalanx.