Though it seems like the last Olympics just ended, it's already time to look ahead to the next. The Beijing Winter Games begin on Feb. 4, less than six months after the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Summer Games wrapped up their run.
The countdown kicks into high gear starting this weekend. The U.S. women's hockey team plays archrival Canada on Friday, launching the teams' pre-Olympic tour. The first U.S. Olympic trials for the Beijing Games, in mixed doubles curling, begin Tuesday in Eveleth, Minn. The figure skating and Alpine skiing seasons start this weekend, and US Speedskating opened its long-track World Cup selection process Thursday.
Following unprecedented success by Minnesota athletes at the Tokyo Olympics, a new crop of contenders with state ties will make bids to pursue medals in Beijing. They won't have to wait long; the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Games is just 100 days from Wednesday.
Trials start in Minnesota
Curl Mesabi in Eveleth will host the Olympic trials for mixed doubles curling after a late change of venue. The event was to be held in Irvine, Calif., but USA Curling moved it to Minnesota last month to reduce travel for athletes and allow for tighter measures to control COVID-19. Round-robin play begins Tuesday, with playoffs on Saturday followed by the semifinals and finals on Sunday.
Most of the 10 teams have Minnesota ties. Tabitha Peterson of Minneapolis and Joe Polo of Duluth won the 2020 U.S. title and were the world bronze medalists in 2016. Chris Plys of Duluth and Vicky Persinger are the reigning national champions. The Duluth pair of John Shuster, skip of the gold medal-winning men's team at the 2018 Olympics, and Cory Christensen were U.S. champs and world bronze medalists in 2019.
The winners will have more work to do before they can get to Beijing. The U.S. has yet to secure an Olympic berth in the event, so the trials victors will have to finish in the top two at the final qualifier in December to claim a spot at the Winter Games.
Tickets to the trials are available through www.universe.com.
Drop the puck
Earlier this month, the U.S. women's hockey team began its residency program in Blaine. The 23-person Olympic roster will be chosen from a group of 28 players who have moved to the Twin Cities to train together at the Super Rink.
The U.S. and Canada remain the world superpowers in women's hockey, and the teams will play each other nine times during the run-up to the Olympics. The series, called the "My Why'' tour, starts Friday in Allentown, Pa., and continues Monday in Hartford, Conn. The tour includes a Dec. 20 game at Xcel Energy Center.
The U.S. team includes six Minnesota natives and 10 current or former players from the Gophers, Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota State Mankato. In addition to the My Why tour, the team will play three games against Russia next month in Northern Ireland. The Olympic roster is expected to be announced on Jan. 1.
Speedskating season starts
Two athletes with Minnesota connections are in US Speedskating's long track national training program, training in Utah in hopes of making the Olympic roster.
Macalester student Conor McDermott-Mostowy competed at the World Cup level last season and earned four medals at last spring's U.S. championships, including gold in the men's 1,000 meters. Giorgia Birkeland, a Mahtomedi High School graduate from White Bear Lake, was 11th overall in the 2020 world junior championships. Three-time Olympian Maria Lamb of River Falls, Wis., also is competing this season.
The U.S. team for fall World Cup events will be selected at a qualifying event that began Thursday in Kearns, Utah. The Olympic trials are Jan. 5-9 in Milwaukee.
Other key dates
U.S. Alpine skiers begin the World Cup racing season this weekend with men's and women's giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria. Minnesota's top Olympic contender, Paula Moltzan of Lakeville, is a slalom specialist and Buck Hill Ski Racing Team alumna. The first World Cup women's slalom of the season is Nov. 20-21 in Levi, Finland.
- Figure skating's Grand Prix season starts with Skate America, held Friday-Sunday in Las Vegas. U.S. women's champion Bradie Tennell withdrew because of a foot injury, but five-time U.S. men's champ Nathan Chen will compete. The Olympic team will be named after the 2022 U.S. championships, Jan. 3-9 in Nashville.
- Finland also is the site of the World Cup opener for cross-country skiing. Jessie Diggins of Afton, the reigning World Cup overall champion, is expected to begin her pursuit of a third Olympic berth Nov. 26-28 in Ruka. Diggins won a gold medal in the team sprint at the 2018 Olympics, becoming the first American to win Olympic gold in the sport.