A quick guide to the 2020/21 Ski Jumping World Cup season

The World Cup season commences on 21 and 22 November in Wisla, Poland, with reigning overall champion Stefan Kraft headlining the event.

By Sanjeev Palar

The world's best ski jumpers will be back in action on 21 November when the 2020/21 FIS Ski Jumping World Cup season gets underway in Wisla, Poland.

Ski jumping's governing body the International Ski Federation (FIS) have had a challenging time putting together a calendar for the season given the widespread effects of the Covid-19 pandemic which cut short the previous season.

However, a tentative calendar is in place which includes highlights like the Ski Flying World Championships in Planica in December (postponed from last season), the Four Hills Tournament, the Nordic World Championships in Oberstdorf, and the Raw Air Tournament in Norway.

Around 65 athletes from 17 different nations are set to compete in the opening round and here's a a quick guide to who to watch out for this season.

Back pain will not hamper Stefan Kraft

Stefan Kraft is arguably the best ski jumper from Austria.

The 27-year-old has won the overall World Cup title twice in the last four seasons and claimed 21 career World Cup wins, and there's no reason to believe that the reigning champion is about to stop soaring high anytime soon.

However, the two-time world champion was sidelined this summer with problems in his back. Excessive tension in the muscles forced him to ease up on his strength training, which could have an impact on his fitness later on in the season.

But if his opponents were hoping that this has put a dampener on his hopes, they'd be disappointed to hear that Kraft is in an optimistic mood ahead of the season opener.

"I certainly want to be one of the best ski jumpers again and fight for victories and medals at the many major events." - Stefan Kraft to Austria Press Agency

The first weekend should give us a clearer picture of his fitness as he tries to emulate the victory he had here in Wisla back in 2015.

The potential title contender

Karl Geiger is one of the men Germany will look to to dethrone Kraft.

The PyeongChang 2018 silver medallist has been rising up through the overall World Cup finishing order over the past five seasons, from 30th to 18th, 14th, 10th, and second last season.

Although he only has six individual wins to his name, if the 27-year-old continues his year-on-year improvement, the two-time world champion will be a serious contender for the overall World Cup title.

Strong German line-up

The competition within the German team is close and newly-crowned national champion Markus Eisenbichler will also be eager to kick start his season on a strong note.

The four-time world champion has never finished higher than seventh overall, but a strong showing during the recently-concluded nationals has boosted his confidence going into the start of the season.

Also on the squad is reigning Olympic champion Andreas Wellinger.

The golden boy who clinched three medals in PyeongChang suffered a cruciate ligament rupture in June 2019 and is now about to make his comeback.

The Bavarian is keen to get back to competition and has resolved to return to his best.

"I can hardly wait... I want to get back to the top," he said to eurosport.de.

Japan's Kobayashi Ryoyu in the mix

Japan's Kobayashi Ryoyu shot to fame during the 2018/19 season when he notched up thirteen World Cup events and won all six possible titles in the World Cup season: the overall title, ski flying title, Four Hills Tournament, Raw Air, Planica7 and Willingen Five.

The world championship medallist, who just turned 24 years old on 8 November, will be looking to carry on his birthday celebrations into the race weekend in Wisla.

In just two short seasons Kobayashi has racked up sixteen World Cups victories and has stood on the podium 29 times.

Seen as the successor of Japanese jumping greats like Kasai Noriaki and Funaki Kazuyoshi, Kobayashi has already etched his name in the history books by becoming the first Japanese and non-European to win the overall title.

Can he cement his place in history by repeating the feat this season?

Poland's charge led by Kamil Stoch and Dawid Kubacki

Kamil Stoch was the last Polish jumper to clinch the overall title during the 2017/18 season.

The three-time Olympic champion will commence his 17th full season in the sport, looking to build on his 36 World Cup victories and 71 podiums.

The 33-year-old clinched victory here in 2017 and is certainly on the list of favourites for the overall World Cup title, alongside compatriot and training partner Dawid Kubacki.

Kubacki, together with Stoch, were part of the Polish team who clinched team bronze at PyeongChang 2018.

Two-time world champion Kubacki enjoyed a run of 10 podium finishes last season which included three victories.

He will be hoping to pick up where he left off last season although he has admitted keeping his focus will be slightly more difficult this year.

The 30-year-old is expecting the arrival of his first child around Christmas, and has mentally prepared himself for the possibility of not being around during the birth given that the season will be in full swing.