The FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Oberstdorf are on our doorsteps and from 24th February to 7th March, a total of five sets of gold, silver and bronze medals will be looking for new owners.
Five are one more than usual on the Nordic Combined programme during a World Championships and this is because finally the Nordic Combined women will make their highly-anticipated World Championship debut. After debuting on World Cup level in December, the women’s season has been woefully cut short due to Covid-19 pandemic-related cancellations and so the chance to shine on the big World Championship stage is twice as important for the continuous development of the discipline.
26.02.2021: Men’s IG NH 10 km
Defending Champion: Jarl Magnus Riiber (NOR)
The World Championships will open with the men’s normal hill Individual Gundersen event on Friday, 26th of February and here it will be up to World Cup leader Jarl Magnus Riiber (NOR) to defend his Seefeld 2019 maiden title. Seefeld silver medallist Bernhard Gruber (AUT) will not be on start to defend his medal after his health scare and subsequent second heart surgery after the Lahti Ski Games but bronze medallist Akito Watabe (JPN) has made aspirations for medals in Oberstdorf clear. With his strong jumping abilities, he might be a bigger threat for the large hill competition in the second week, though.
As customary in normal hill competitions, the strong skiers needs to be watched. Local heroes Vinzenz Geiger and Johannes Rydzek are out for medals “at home” and have left very positive impressions at the last World Cup competition weekend in Klingenthal two weeks ago, as did their equally fast teammates Fabian Rießle and Eric Frenzel. But also Finland’s Ilkka Herola can contend for the podium if he hits that one crucial ski jump.
27.02.2021: Women’s IG NH 5 km
With no title defender, the women are starting in their World Championship premiere with a clean slate. High up on the list of potential favourites are of course Tara Geraghty-Moats (USA), who has been the dominant athlete in the past few years and also won the women’s World Cup premiere in Ramsau am Dachstein in December.
Her toughest competition will likely be newly-minted Junior World Champion Gyda Westvold Hansen (NOR) who jumps on a really high level and can hold her own in the cross-country race as well. In addition, Japan’s Anju Nakamura has proven to be an athlete who can be in the mix as well, alongside the Leinan Lund sisters from Norway, Youth Olympic Champion Lisa Hirner (AUT) or Jenny Nowak, even though the German has struggled with her shape lately.
28.02.2021 Team Event M NH
Defending Champion: Norway (Riiber, Bjørnstad, Graabak, Schmid)
The Team Event is traditionally a fight between the three big Nordic Combined nations of Germany, Norway and Austria and also the Seefeld 2019 event was no exception: a record number of spectators saw Norway claim a narrow lead over Germany and Austria and a race only decided on the last metres of the race.
The teams from Japan, Finland and the young French team might get a word in on a very good day for the team with Japan and France centring their strength on the jumping hill, with the Watabe brothers and Ryota Yamamoto, as well as Laurent Mühlethaler and Matteo Baud, while Finland will make up a lot of ground on the track with fast skiers Ilkka Herola and Eero Hirvonen.
04.03.2021: Men’s IG LH
Defending Champion: Eric Frenzel (GER)
The men’s large hill Individual Gundersen event in Innsbruck/Seefeld 2019 proved that it is always good to have an eye on the legends of Nordic Combined, even if they do not seem to be in medal winning shape as of late.
Like a phoenixrising out of the ashes, Germany’s Eric Frenzel rose to gold medal fame in Seefeld, stunning top favourite Jarl Magnus Riiber and the other contenders at the biggest event of the season. With Jan Schmid retired and Franz-Josef Rehrl currently injured, the silver and bronze medals will definitely find new owners.
Also here Riiber is the big favourite but Vinzenz Geiger proved he can contend on large hills as well, as did Fabian Rießle. With the large hill giving some advantages to the strong skiers, names like Akito Watabe, Ryota Yamamoto and Johannes Lamparter have to be mentioned, as do Laurent Mühlethaler, Lukas Greiderer and Jens Lurås Oftebro.
06.03. Team Sprint M LH
Defending Champion: Germany (Frenzel/Rießle)
The Team Sprint format does offer room for surprises and successes of the smaller nations, even though Germany, Norway and Austria are the heavy favourites, profiting off the depth in their squads. But the duos from Japan, Finland, France and Italy may pose some dangers for the established medal favourites if things are going their way.
It remains to be seen who takes to the renovated HS 137 large hill and the hard cross-country course best and will be nominated for this two-person team in the end but a close fight could emerge to end the 2021 FIS Nordic Ski World Championships on a high note.