The Olympics are Coming
Things I Know and Things I'm Wondering About
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.