Is there any other winter sport that requires as wide a spectrum of skills as Nordic Combined? As another season beckons winter athletes hoping to strike gold at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, it’s time to look in detail at the top contenders for the podium.
On 26 November, the 2021/22 Nordic Combined season begins in Ruka (Finland), which has been a regular host of Nordic combined World Cups and other major tournaments throughout the year.
Here are the top athletes to look out for over the upcoming season.
Will German athletes once again dominate the men’s competition?
It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that German athletes have dominated Nordic combined over the last four years. Out of the top five athletes in the 2020/21 overall ranking, three were from Germany: Vinzenz Geiger (2nd), Fabian Rießle (4th) and Eric Frenzel (5th).
Not only this, Germany outdid Norway by 470 points to claim the top spot in the Nations Cup standings, showing their class across the board.
Frenzel is one of the most decorated Nordic combined athletes of all time and the three-time Olympic gold medallist will be hoping to land on top of the podium for the third consecutive Games when he competes in the Chinese capital next February.
His young compatriot, Geiger, will be looking to win a first-ever individual gold medal after topping the podium in the Team Large Hill competition at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games. The 2021 World Championship Team Hill silver medallist will be one to watch out for throughout the season, particularly at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.
Norway is the most successful nation in the Olympic history of Nordic combined but failed to win a single gold at the Pyeongchang 2018 Games. However, the country's young star, 24-year-old World Champion Jarl Magnus Riiber, will be hoping to spoil the German party in the new season.
Riiber, the winner of two gold medals and two silvers at the 2021 World Championship, outshone Geiger and Japan’s Watabe Akito to claim the top spot in last year’s overall standings. It will be a tough task for anyone to beat Riiber this season, as the athlete possesses an enviable mix of youth and elite-level experience.
However, don’t count out Watabe, who will be one of the most seasoned competitors at the Olympic Winter Games. Watch out for some titanic battles for gold in the individual large hill, particularly at the main event on the calendar, Beijing 2022.
The team event could also see a battle for supremacy between the two most successful nations in the sport’s Olympic history – Norway and Germany. While Norway have the bragging rights in terms of overall medal count, their European rivals dominated the team event last season and at Pyeongchang 2018. With the presence of the mighty Riiber in their ranks, Norway will be hoping to knock defending champions Germany off their Olympic perch.
And don’t rule out Austria and Japan in the team events, as they look to challenge the traditional powerhouses of the sport.
All eyes on Geraghty-Moats and Hansen
The inaugural women’s Nordic combined World Cup was held in the 2020/21 season and produced some spectacular moments of skiing and jumping from the world’s best athletes.
Even though the women’s competition will not be a part of the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, we can expect some thrilling contests at the World Cup and World Championships. The USA’s Tara Geraghty-Moats is one of the most talented Nordic combined athletes in the world and her rise over the last two years has been nothing short of meteoric.
She has competed at international events in biathlon, cross country, ski jumping and Nordic combined, producing her best results in the latter. The first-ever winner of the women’s Nordic combined World Cup is sure to be a strong favourite when the new season kicks off.
With her win at the Worlds in Germany in 2021, teenage sensation Gyda Westvold Hansen stunned the world by becoming the first-ever Nordic combined World Champion, outshining compatriots Mari Leinan Lund and Marte Leinan Lund.
The Norwegian trio poses a serious challenge to the domination of Geraghty-Moats, who will be looking to win her first-ever World Championship medal this season.
Nordic combined 2021/22 schedule
- 25-28 November 2021: Ruka (Finland) – World Cup
- 2-5 December 2021: Lillehammer (Norway) – World Cup
- 10-12 December 2021: Otepaa (Estonia) – World Cup
- 16-19 December 2021: Ramsau (Austria) – World Cup
- 18-19 December 2021: Ruka (Finland) – Continental Cup
- 6-9 January 2022: Val di Fiemme (Italy) – World Cup
- 14-16 January 2022: Klingenthal (Germany) – World Cup
- 21-23 January 2022: Planica (Slovenia) – World Cup
- 27-30 January 2022: Seefeld (Austria) – World Cup
- 5-17 February 2022: Winter Olympic Games Beijing 2022