The Olympics are Com­ing

Things I Know and Things I'm Won­der­ing About

SkiTrax - - Sasseville Report - By Jack Sas­seville

The2017-18 ski sea­son is fast ap­proach­ing, and with it comes the 2018 Olympic Win­ter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. I have plenty of ques­tions about this up­com­ing sea­son, one of which has al­ready been an­swered.

Will Teresa Jo­haug be at the Olympics? Not as a racer. The Court of Abi­tra­tion for Sport (CAS) has ruled to lengthen her sus­pen­sion for dop­ing to 18 months, so she will not be able to race at all this win­ter. It seems a harsh sen­tence for what was likely an hon­est mis­take, but this is one of the short­est sus­pen­sions that have been given for this type of dop­ing. How­ever it hasn’t seemed to hurt her pop­u­lar­ity or earn­ing power in Nor­way. The next ques­tion is how good will she be when she comes back in 2019?

Can Alex Har­vey win a medal? Af­ter a gold medal at the World Cham­pi­onships in Lahti, Fin­land in the 50km last year, I think that he has as good a chance as any­one. How­ever, the Cana­dian team needs to learn from the hard lessons of the Sochi Games so that they can prop­erly back him with team, wax­ing and coach­ing sup­port.

Can Jessie Dig­gins win a medal? She has as good a chance as Har­vey to win a medal to be­come the first Amer­i­can fe­male Olympic med- al­ist. It may hap­pen in an In­di­vid­ual event, but also in the Team sprint.

Will Martin John­srud Sundby fi­nally win a gold medal at a ma­jor event? The clock is tick­ing for him. He is fo­cus­ing all of his train­ing on the 15km. Can he do what Od­dvar Bra did in 1982 and get the mon­key off his back? I give him a 50-50 chance.

Will the Swedish men be healthy for the Olympics? They seem to be the sick­est team on the cir­cuit. Is it over­train­ing, poor im­mune sys­tems or are they too pre­oc­cu­pied with health and has it be­come a self-ful­fill­ing prophecy?

Is this the last year for Marit Bjo­er­gen and Kikkan Ran­dall? So far, they have been able to travel with their ba­bies, but soon these kids will be too old to keep on the road. Both women are in their thir­ties and will be at­tend­ing their fourth Olympics.

Will there be any other Cana­di­ans in the top 20 be­sides Har­vey? Ex­cept for team events, it hasn’t hap­pened very of­ten in the past cou­ple of years. Who­ever does it will have to give a peak per­for­mance.

Can Martin Four­cade again dom­i­nate in biathlon the way that he did last sea­son? Biathlon is a very un­pre­dictable sport. One missed shot can cost a place on the podium. He has done it be­fore so I be­lieve that he has the men­tal skills to do it again.

Can an Amer­i­can or Cana­dian biath­lete win a medal? Af­ter some great per­for­mances in the past cou­ple of years, it looks pos­si­ble. How­ever, it will take per­fect shoot­ing per­for­mances for this to hap­pen. Ev­ery Olympics some­one comes out of nowhere to win a medal – why not some­one from North Amer­ica?

Will the Rus­sians be at the Olympics? Yes, be­cause the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee and the In­ter­na­tional Ski Fed­er­a­tion do not have the po­lit­i­cal will (guts) to do what is right and keep them out. Will they be dop­ing? Prob­a­bly. Will they be caught? Prob­a­bly not. (See the doc­u­men­tary Icarus for more de­tails.)

Will Pet­ter Northug re­bound from a ter­ri­ble sea­son? I think so. He has had some de­cent re­sults in roller­ski races this sum­mer, and looks lean and fit. He is the type of ath­lete who is mo­ti­vated by re­venge and re­demp­tion, so af­ter a hor­ren­dous year last year, he will chal­lenge for podium places in Fe­bru­ary. Though I don’t think that he, or any­one, can match what he did in 2015 in Falun, Swe­den.

Fi­nal ques­tion for now – what will the snow con­di­tions be like in Pyeongchang in Fe­bru­ary? Like at the Sochi Games, the ski trails are in an area that does not usu­ally get much snow and is very warm. It will be man-made snow for sure. This will af­fect the wax­ing and the re­sults for ev­ery­one. The teams that get the wax­ing right will give their skiers a chance to suc­ceed. Sadly, you can be in the best shape of your life and fin­ish well down the re­sults list if your wax­ing team misses the wax. This is the case in ev­ery race, but with the pres­sure of the Olympics and the un­cer­tain and un­usual snow con­di­tions in a place that is new, it will be even more of a fac­tor.

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