Fifteen candidates for the Big Crystal Globe in 2010/11
Justyna Kowalczyk is the defending champion and favorite again. She is good at everything and seems to be in shape all year round. Petra Majdic wishes to challenge the Polish, but has several disadvantages.
Marit Björgen is probably the one that would normally be able to threaten Kowalczyk, but she has chosen to skip the Tour de Ski, and has thus almost "disqualified" herself in the battle for overall victory. There are not so many runner ups for the overall title on the ladies' side. Aino-Kaisa Saarinen is always dangerous, while Anna Haag is perhaps the one that can surprise the most, and jump in.
Whoever wants to win the Big Crystal Globe will have to deliver a good performance in the Tour de Ski, and also score points in both distance and sprint races. In addition, the top results in both classic and freestyle, something that not all the athletes are capable of.
Let's take a look at fifteen candidates for the Overall World Cup victory.
1) Justyna Kowalczyk, Poland
Naturally the biggest favorite. "Perpetual Motion" of Poland. She never seems to be totally out of shape and is good at all distances and in both techniques. Kowalczyk is also defending Tour de Ski victory from last year. With Marit Bjoergen sitting out this year's edition of Tour she will be the favorite again. However. Kowalczyk cannot prevent Majdic taking away too sprint points.
2) Petra Majdic, Slovenia
Favorite in Sprint Cup, she almost won the Tour de Ski last season. The tall Slovenian possesses many good qualities, but there are also some minuses. She is not among best in skating and she is a bit too heavy for the end of the Tour on Alpe Cermis. She has clearly indicated that she wants to invest in a World Cup victory overall.
3) Marit Björgen, Norway
Last season's Olympic Queen would normally bee one of the biggest favorites, perhaps the biggest. But she chooses to sit out Tour de Ski, and with 400 points for the winner, Björgen has almost no chance for the Big Crystal Globe. She is good at all distances and can win anything.
4) Charlotte Kalla, Sweden
Charlotte Kalla returns to Tour de Ski and that will dramatize the situation on the top. She won the Tour in the past and can do it again, even if Kowalczyk and Majdic are tougher competitors now than they were before. But Charlotte is a good sprinter, too. The key in the fight for overall victory is that she collects sprint points and improves results in classic races.
5) Aino-Kaisa Saarinen, Finland
World Champs queen from Liberec in 2009 was a disappointment last winter. Stubborn Finnish fighter got sick at the end of last season and could not fight for overall victory. But "Aikku" is a skater who always wants to win and who rarely gives up. One of the best classic skiers in today's starting field. She often performed well in free sprint even though Björgen and Kowalczyk are better in this technique.
6) Anna Haag, Sweden
Two Olympic silver medal has obviously given much more confidence for Anna, who climbed up on the World Cup podium for the first time at the opening of the season in Beitostolen last season. A real all-round skier, who can strike anywhere and anyway. Two important keys to Anna: To stay healthy and perform well in the Tour. In addition she has to re-fuse the 6th and 7th placements into podium finishes.
7) Kristin Störmer Steira, Norway
"The eternal Four" have been injured during most of the off-season and will probably start late. It is likely that her injury jeopardizes the chance to join the fight for overall victory in the World Cup. Steira has no sprint finish against the best. Many experts wish that she may be a World Championship winner.
8) Marianna Longa, Italy
After her remarkable comeback Longa is now a skier to watch out for. Very all-round and strong. A bit the same type as Anna Haag, but not with the same sharp surge like the Swedish. Longa is good in classic, where she can match with almost anyone. She should be able to fight for a top-10 and possibly even better.
9) Arianna Follis, Italy
The reigning sprint world champion is always dangerous when it comes to free technique, but she is not good enough in classic. It also means that she often falls away prematurely in the pursuit, something that costs her many points. Follis has the routine required and last winter she won the pursuit race from Cortina to Toblach in the Tour de Ski where she rolled over both Majdic and Kowalczyk.
10) Natalia Korosteleva, Russia
Won her first World Cup victory when she won the sprint in the Prague stage of last year's Tour. Then she disappeared and was then just a shadow of herself during the remainder of the season. Korosteleva is perhaps the Russians' best distance skaters with Irina Khazova pregnant, but she does perform better in the sprints than in the distance.
11) Riitta-Liisa Roponen, Finland
Fantastic free technique skier with a sharp finish. But similar to Follis also Roponen has lost in the first part of the double pursuit. Can be dangerous in the final 30 km of the World Champs in Oslo, but not a favorite for overall World Cup victory.
12) Evi Sachenbacher Stehle, Germany
Experienced, tremendous and very all-round, but unfortunately, the performance curve has pointed the wrong direction in the World Cup in recent years for the girl from Reit im Winkl. Despite this fact Evi won Olympic gold in the team sprint together with Claudia Nystad, who retired. Sachenbacher Stehle is strongest in the free technique, a decent sprinter, but she can rarely fight for top position in classic races.
13) Marthe Kristoffersen, Norway
It did not went well with the Norwegian relay team at the Olympics and she became the scapegoat when Norway missed the relay gold medal in Liberec 2009. But Marthe Kristoffersen from Meråker is young and can certainly come back. It's probably too early to talk about total victory, but a place in the top ten when season ends would be a great success.
14) Olga Rotcheva, Russia
Similar to other Russians it was not the most successful season. Olga Rotcheva has routine similar to Olga Savialova, but the pace was not enough last winter.
15) Therese Johaug, Norway
Olympic gold medalist in the relay and a strong finisher of to the season last year. Johaug is the typical classic. In addition she has a way to go. Johaug was third in Lahti's double pursuit last winter after a tough fight with Björgen and Kowalczyk, something that proves that she can.
Contributed by Kjell-Erik Kristiansen, langd.se