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Weather Claims Oberstdorf Sprint

By Tom Kelly
January, 3 2018
oberstdorf wind rain
Heavy wind and rain forced cancelation of the fourth stage of the Tour de Ski. (Getty Images/AFP)

Severe weather has forced the International Ski Federation to cancel stage four of the Tour de Ski in Oberstdorf, Germany. A huge rainstorm with strong winds and lightning descended on the German community during the women's classic sprint qualifying, which did run to its conclusion. The men's qualifying and both men's and women's heats were canceled.

The results of the women's sprint will be used for FIS points but not for either World Cup or Tour de Ski rankings. The sprint will not be rescheduled and the Tour will have only six stages, not seven. The classic sprint was the final Olympic selection race for a top-eight finish for the U.S. skiers.

In women's qualifying, Jessie Diggins (Afton, Minn.) was second with Ida Sargent (Orleans, Vt.) ninth. Rosie Brennan (Park City, Utah) was 21st. Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash) finished outside the top 30.

The team woke to a wet but calm morning with a forecast of heavy rain and win at about start time for women’s qualifying. The storm rolled in as planned and played a factor in the qualifying race with wind, rain and hail impacting athletes. Some banners and inflatable displays were blown away by the wind.

As the men’s qualifying was set to begin, coach Jason Cork reported a strong microburst with debris blowing onto the course and trees falling onto the test track. Thunder and lightning accompanied the storm. Much of the on-course fencing was damaged between the women’s and men’s qualifying rounds.

“We’re grateful for the decision by FIS and the organizing to cancel the race in the interest of safety,” said U.S. Ski Team Coach Matt Whitcomb. “This is the first time I’ve seen lightning at a World Cup and it created stress for our staff and the athletes.”

The Team’s new wax truck got a lot of use as athletes gathered to weather the storm and ride stationary bikes.

One skier who may have gotten a break is Sophie Caldwell (Peru, Vt.). Caldwell, who has won the Oberstdorf classic sprint in the past, was sick and did not start. Because of the cancelation, she will still be able to continue in the Tour de Ski if she chooses.