We're just one year removed from the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, and the next ice-and-snow Olympics seem a long ways off (three years, to be exact). While they don't get as much attention during these in-between times, Minnesota's elite skiers, curlers, biathletes and skaters are working as hard as ever.
The long-term goal is the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy. In the meantime, there are other gold medals to chase at national championships, world championships and elite-level international competitions. Here's what some Minnesota-connected athletes have been up to lately in selected winter Olympic sports.
Paula Moltzan (Prior Lake) reached a new peak last season when she made the U.S. team for the Beijing Olympics, finishing eighth in women's slalom. She's built on that success. Among U.S. Alpine skiers, only superstar Mikaela Shiffrin has had a better season than Moltzan.
A former Buck Hill racer, Moltzan is among the World Cup leaders in women's slalom (eighth), giant slalom (10th) and overall (13th). She finished second to Shiffrin in a Dec. 29 slalom in Semmering, Austria, tying the best World Cup placing of her career. Moltzan has been particularly fast lately, cracking the top 10 in seven of her past nine World Cup races.
Another Buck Hill alum, Isaiah Nelson (Wayzata), made his World Cup debut in October, finishing 45th in the first run of a giant slalom.
The world championships are Feb. 6-19 in Courchevel Meribel, France.
After winning a pair of medals at the 2022 Olympics, Jessie Diggins (Afton) has made more history this season. Her victory in a 20-kilometer freestyle last month in Davos, Switzerland, marked her 14th career triumph in an individual World Cup race — the most of any American.
Diggins currently sits in fourth place in the World Cup overall standings. This season, she's had some home-state company at World Cup events. Alayna Sonnesyn (Plymouth) and Zak Ketterson (Bloomington) have competed regularly on the circuit, with both racing the prestigious Tour de Ski. Sonnesyn has a season-best 24th place in a freestyle sprint, while Ketterson's top finish has been 17th in a classic sprint.
The world championships are Feb. 22-March 5 in Planica, Slovenia.
As always, USA Curling's national teams are rich with Minnesotans. The state has 11 representatives on the four teams and six mixed doubles pairs playing in top-level events this season.
Five-time Olympian John Shuster (Chisholm) returns with his 2022 Olympic lineup, including Chris Plys and John Landsteiner (Duluth). Tabitha Peterson (Eagan), the 2022 U.S. Olympic women's skip, has added Cory Christensen (Duluth) to her roster, which also includes Peterson's twin sister Tara (Eagan). Team Shuster is 18th in the World Curling Federation rankings, while Team Peterson is 11th.
The other U.S. men's team — including skip Korey Dropkin (Duluth) and Mark Fenner (Bemidji) — is ranked 11th. Leah Yavarow (Bemidji) and Lexi Lanigan (Duluth) are part of the second women's foursome, 36th-ranked Team Sarah Anderson. In mixed doubles, two-time Olympian Aileen Geving (Duluth) is paired with Shuster.
The national championships are Feb. 5-11 in Denver, followed by world championships for women (March 18-26 in Sandviken, Sweden) and men (April 1-9 in Ottawa, Canada). Another athlete with Minnesota ties — former Vikings defensive end Jared Allen — will be chasing a title in his new sport. Allen has qualified for the U.S. curling championships as part of a team skipped by Jason Smith, a 2010 Olympian from St. Paul.
When the World Cup long track speedskating season began in November, three athletes with Minnesota ties were named to the U.S. roster: 2022 Olympian Giorgia Birkeland (White Bear Lake), Greta Myers (Lino Lakes) and Conor McDermott-Mostowy (Macalester College). Birkeland has been on the podium, helping the U.S. to a bronze medal in the women's team pursuit last month in Calgary.
Myers had a strong meet at the U.S. championships earlier this month in Milwaukee, winning the women's 5,000 meters and placing second in both the 3,000 and the 1,500. Birkeland was on the winning threesome in the women's team pursuit and was second in the mass start, while McDermott-Mostowy finished in the top three in four events.
The world championships are March 2-5 in Heerenveen, Netherlands.
Three Minnesota biathletes are representing the U.S. in World Cup events this season. 2022 Olympians Jake Brown (St. Paul) and Paul Schommer (St. Scholastica) are ranked 62nd and 63rd in the men's points standings, respectively. Vaclav Cervenka (Grand Rapids), one of the top Americans in the junior ranks for the past several years, has joined them on the U.S. team for the first three World Cups of 2023.
Two Minnesota women — Amanda Kautzer (Plymouth) and Margie Freed (Apple Valley) — are currently competing on the IBU Cup circuit. The world championships run from Feb. 6-19 in Oberhof, Germany.