Cross-Country Skiing Preview

Over the past decade the U.S. Cross-Country Ski Team has dramatically elevated its profile through podium results at world championships and world cup events. A decade ago the U.S. was ranked 17th in the world. Today, the U.S. consistently competes against the best in the world and is among the top-six nations in the sport.

The success of the U.S. team has come from consistency and stability, with veteran stars like Kikkan Randall and Andy Newell helping to foster a new group of stars every season. In the past five years, eight different current U.S. athletes have had top-three finishes in world championships and world cup races, with several more earning podiums in team events.

The U.S. women are led by world champion Jessie Diggins, who was fifth in the season-long world cup standings in 2016, matching the U.S. women's record, and won an additional two medals at the 2017 World Championships in Lahti, Finland. She also matched the U.S. mark of fifth in the Tour de Ski stage race in 2017. With Diggins, teammate Sadie Bjornsen won her first world championship medal in the team sprint and is a threat in classic events. Veteran Kikkan Randall returned for the 2017 season after taking a year off to give birth to her first child to win a world championship medal in the sprint. The most decorated skier on the U.S. Ski Team cross country team, Randall has been to four Olympics, has three overall world cup sprint titles and three world championship medals. The U.S. women have also been on the podium in three of the last four 4x5-kilometer team events in the last few seasons. Sophie Caldwell, who in 2014 recorded the best U.S. women's Olympic finish ever with her sixth in the freestyle sprint, won her first world cup – a classic sprint – in 2016.

Simi Hamilton continues to lead the U.S. men, scoring two sprint podiums in 2016 and another in 2017. Newell remains a threat in sprint with Erik Bjornsen – Sadie Bjornsen’s brother – making waves as a top distance skier.

Storylines

  • Jessie Diggins leads the U.S. team with 13 world cup podiums and four world championship medals. She’s also the team choreographer, designing the dance moves that have led the cross country team to create viral videos year after year.

  • Simi Hamilton continues to lead the U.S. men, scoring two sprint podiums in 2016 and another in 2017. Newell remains a threat in sprint with Erik Bjornsen—Sadie Bjornsen’s brother—making waves as a top distance skier.

  • Veteran Kikkan Randall is one of a number of athletes on the world cup tour who are now bringing a baby along. During the 2016-17 season, Randall and her husband, Jeff Ellis, followed the entire world cup tour with assistance from family and friends from November through March. Some event organizers have even addressed the new situation by furnishing baby rooms at the finish.

Athletes To Watch

Erik Bjornsen
Since his world cup debut in 2013, Bjornsen (Winthrop, Washington) has established himself as a consistent top sprint finisher and a very capable mid-distance racer who is at home with both classic and freestyle technique. In his Olympic debut in 2014, he combined with teammate Simi Hamilton to finish an impressive sixth in the classic team sprint. His sister Sadie Bjornsen is also on the U.S. Ski Team.

Sadie Bjornsen
Bjornsen (Winthrop, Washington) came out of the cross-country rich Methow Valley in Washington. In her first major international championship event in 2011, she teamed with Kikkan Randall for a top-10 classic team sprint finish at world championships. The next season, she and Randall teamed up for a freestyle team sprint world cup podium. Since then she has established herself as one of the most consistent performers in both freestyle and classic technique with more than 20 top-10 world cup finishes, breaking through on the 2017 Tour de Ski with her first podium finish and then winning her first world championship medal with teammate Jessie Diggins in 2017. She has been a vital member of the U.S. women's three world cup podium relay teams, skiing a classic leg. Her brother Erik Bjornsen is also on the U.S. Ski Team.

Sophie Caldwell 
Descended from one of America's foremost cross-country ski racing families, Caldwell (Peru, Vermont) recorded the best American women's Olympic finish with her sixth-place performance at the Sochi 2014 Olympics in the freestyle sprint. She came back two years later to record a classic sprint stage win in the Tour de Ski. She has a strong history of top-10 world cup sprint finishes in both freestyle and classic technique.

Jessie Diggins 
Diggins (Afton, Minnesota) came out of a somewhat untraditional ski racing background as a successful high school racer. Since finding her way to the international tour, she has raised eyebrows with her outstanding results. In 2013, she teamed with Kikkan Randall to win the freestyle team sprint gold medal at the world championships in Italy. At the 2015 World Championships, she won silver in the 10-kilometer freestyle. And at the 2017 World Championships, she captured two medals – a silver in the sprint and a bronze in the team sprint. She won stages at the Tour de Ski in both 2016 and 2017, and matched the U.S. record of fifth with her 2017 tour ranking. She also finished fifth in the season-long FIS Cross-country World Cup in 2016, matching the American mark set by Kikkan Randall.

Simi Hamilton 
Hamilton (Aspen, Colorado) made his mark with a surprise win in a Tour de Ski freestyle sprint in 2013. At the Sochi Olympics in 2014, he and Erik Bjornsen combined to finish sixth in the classic team sprint. Since 2014, he’s added three sprint podium to his resume.

Andy Newell 
A three-time Olympian and five-time world championship team member, Newell (Shaftsbury, Vermont) has played a pivotal role in the growth of the U.S. Cross-Country Ski Team over the past decade. His 2006 freestyle sprint podium in China was the first for an American man in more than 20 years. With three world cup podiums and more than 40 top-10 finishes, he will be looking to earn his fourth Olympic berth in 2018.

Kikkan Randall 
Team USA’s first modern day cross-country star, Randall (Anchorage, Alaska) made her Olympic debut at Salt Lake City in 2002. Since then, she has transformed the sport and inspired a generation of cross-country ski racers. She became the first American woman in nearly 30 years to win a world cup title in 2012 – finishing first in the sprint and fifth overall – and went on to win three season-long world cup sprint titles. She was also the first American woman to have success in the Tour de Ski. She took the 2016 season off for the birth of she and husband Jeff Ellis' first child, a son named Breck. She rejoined the world cup tour for 2017 and posted strong results in the January 2017 Tour de Ski before capping off her comeback by winning her third world championship medal in the sprint.

Ida Sargent 
An Olympian and three-time world championship team member, Ida Sargent (Orleans, Vermont) has been a strong and consistent performer in sprint and distance. Since her debut on the World Cup for the 2011 season, she has recorded nearly 20 top-10 World Cup finishes in both classic and freestyle technique and podiumed at the classic sprint test event in PyeongChang in 2017.

Liz Stephen 
A successful veteran and three-time Olympian, Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, Vermont) has made her mark in distance racing, becoming one of the most successful American athletes on the Tour de Ski. Four times she has finished second in the final Tour de Ski hill climb up Alpe Cermis. In 2015, she finished fifth overall in the Tour, marking the best American Tour finish ever. She has collected nearly 30 top-10 world cup finishes – including placing second in a 10-kilometer freestyle in Rybinsk, Russia, in 2015, and at the Olympic test event skiathlon in 2017 –  and has skied a critical freestyle leg in the Team USA’s four world cup team event podiums in the last few years.

Qualification

In order to be considered for selection, cross-country skiers must be ranked in points below a specified maximum on the Olympic FIS Points List as of Jan. 22, 2018, which aggregates points from all levels of FIS competitions. The number of quota spots for the U.S. team will be determined by the International Ski Federation on Jan. 22, 2018, with a maximum team size of 20 (maximum 12 men, maximum 12 women) based on the Olympic FIS Points List.

Click here to view the complete 2018 Olympic selection procedures for cross-country skiing.

Selection

The Olympic selection procedure for cross-country skiing was approved by the U.S. Ski & Snowboard board of directors and the U.S. Olympic Committee in the summer of 2017. Criteria includes selection from world cup results during the Olympic season of 2017-18 along with race finishes on the U.S. Ski & Snowboard SuperTour and at the 2018 U.S. Cross-Country Ski Championships.

Click here to view the U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s 2018 Olympic selection criteria.

Editor’s Note: This selection process overview is designed to provide general information only and should not be relied upon by athletes attempting to make the U.S. Olympic Team. The selection process is formally governed by selection procedures published by each National Governing Body. Athletes and other individuals interested in the selection process should contact the appropriate NGB to obtain the full selection procedures, or to seek clarification of the process.

Key Dates

Feb. 22-March 5

2017 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships

Lahti, Finland

November-January

2017-18 FIS Cross-Country Ski World Cup Tour

Various

January 2018

2018 U.S. Cross-Country Ski Championships

TBD

Jan. 22, 2018

FIS determines final national team quota spots