This weekend, on November 17th and 18th, the 2018/19 Viessmann Ski Jumping World Cup season will kick-off in Wisla (POL).
Despite the very mild temperatures in southwestern Poland, the organizers were able to get the HS 134 hill ready for the two competitions (team on Saturday, individual on Sunday) over the past couple of days. This means that the official training and the qualification can take place as planned on Friday at 4 pm CET and 6 pm CET. The excitement is already huge.
The start after a long break is always exciting because nobody how he sill stack up against the competition. Will the usual suspects, like superstar Kamil Stoch, Richard Freitag, Andreas Wellinger and Daniel Andre Tande come out on top, or will an underdog like Japan's Junshiro Kobayashi last year, surprise everyone?
Everybody will know more after the three days of Wisla because as it will be the first chance to see the world's best ski jumpers compete against each other.
And it will be a long and exhausting season with a total of 33 World Cup competitions at 18 venues. In addition, there will be the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Seefeld (AUT).
Kamil Stoch (POL)
The Polish top jumper claimed his second overall World Cup title last winter. With a third one this season, Stoch could become the fourth ski jumper to win the overall World Cup three or more times. The others who could achieve that so far were his fellow countryman Adam Malysz (4 overall titles), Finland's Matti Nykaenen (4) and Andreas Goldberger of Austria.
Stoch could become only the second Polish athlete to defend the overall World Cup title. Adam Malysz even defended it twice, 2001/02 and 2002/03.
Richard Freitag (GER)
Richard Freitag ended last season in second place of the overall World Cup, 373 points behind Stoch. The 27-year-old could become the fourth German to win the overall World Cup. The German winners so far were Severin Freund (2104/15), Martin Schmitt (1998/99 and 1999/2000) and Jens Weissflog (1983/84).
Freitag was in a neck-and-neck-race with Stoch last winter for a long time, but in the end, Freitag came in clearly behind the Pole.
Daniel Andre Tande (NOR)
The Norwegian was third in the overall World Cup of the past two years. This season, Tande could be the fourth overall World Cup winner from Norway, after Anders Bardal (2011/2012), Espen Bredesen (1993/1994) and Vegard Opaas (1986/1987).
The 24-year-old Ski Flying World Champion was on the podium in a World Cup event 18 times so far (5 x 1st; 9 x 2nd; 3 x 3rd).
Stefan Kraft (AUT)
Kraft took the overall World Cup title 2016/17. With another win, he would be the fifth Austrian to claim this title more than once. Andreas Goldberger (3), Thomas Morgenstern (2), Armin Kogler (2) and Gregor Schlierenzauer (2) are the others.
Last winter Kraft was on the podium eight times, but the 25-year-old could not celebrate a win. The Austrian ski jumpers could not claim a single victory during the course of the entire last winter, which only happened in 1988/89 and 2000/01 before.
But of course, there are other contenders for top results:
For example Olympic champion Andreas Wellinger (GER) and the two Norwegians Johann Andre Forfang and Robert Johansson are close to the very top. Ryoyu Kobayashi, the younger one of the Kobayashi brothers from Japan, is capable of being among the best. And the athletes, who gained attention during the summer are now also potential winners in winter: Evgeniy Klimov (RUS), Daniel Huber (AUT), Karl Geiger (GER) and Kilian Peier (SUI).
The Ski Jumping fans can expect an extremely exciting 2018/19 winter season. Let the show begin!