A record-breaking 184 elite athletes of 30 nationalities will compete in the 2020 Skyrunner® World Series. This year, the official circuit opens its doors to a host of young talent and new names eager to take on top skyrunners at the world’s most competitive and technical racing circuit.
If all goes to plan, considering the current situation, the 2020 season kicks off in Japan with the Mt Awa Skyrace® on April 19th, visiting 12 countries before finishing with the pinnacle event, the SkyMasters. As in 2019, there will be one single ranking system. All 184 confirmed elite athletes will do three or more races of the circuit in the running for the overall title. (See below for full list of confirmed athletes)
Following its success in 2019, the series’ competitive field has more than doubled in quantity and quality. The upcoming season will feature an even deeper field of elites with many new names who will bring an exciting and unpredictable dimension to the circuit. Albert Jorquera, Skyrunner® World Series representative and athlete manager explains the developments in the elite lineup as a result of the 2019 season:
“When we introduced the single ranking in 2019, the main goal was to make it less predictable and more thrilling. As well as big names, there were a number of standout performances from many young skyrunners. In contrast to previous years, there weren’t specific nations or teams dominating the series; it was a global and open competition. This year we received more elite requests to participate in the circuit than in any other year, and not just pro-skyrunners, but athletes from new countries and other sports too. This shows that the interest in the sport is growing and many are choosing it as their next challenge.” said Jorquera.
International New Faces
The new names to look out for this season include Swiss national ski-mountaineering champion, Marianne Fatton; second-place female at the 2019 Skyrunning North American Championships, Bailey Kowalczyk (USA); 2019 European Mountain Running Champion, Jacob Adkin (Great Britain); and three-time OCR World Champion, Lindsay Webster (Canada) who placed sixth at the 2019 SuperSky Race, Livigno SkyMarathon®. After getting a taste for the circuit, Webster will compete in four races this year and looks forward to facing her new challenge.
“After competing last year and having such an amazing experience, I wanted to go all-in for the title. Learning the strengths and weaknesses of your competition is a huge part of racing, and I’ve never raced against any of these athletes before. I think I can still learn a lot from the world’s best skyrunning women.” said Webster.
Almost all of the top athletes who dominated the 2019 season are coming back for more. Hillary Gerardi (USA); 2019 newcomer, Elena Rukhlyada (Russia); Holly Page (Great Britain); and last year’s third-place finisher, Elisa Desco (Italy) are just a few of the big names in the female field. The two women likely to be on everyone’s radar are 2019 female breakthrough athlete, Johanna Åström (Sweden), and the 2019 SkyMasters champion, Denisa Dragomir (Romania).
“I have so many positive memories from my first year in the circuit. The Skyrunner World Series is the ultimate combination of challenging yourself and being in fantastic nature, so this year I really want to push my limits further and try to reach my full potential.” – Åström, winner of the Tromsø Skyrace® and the Matterhorn Ultraks «EXTREME».
“Winning the SkyMasters last year has given me the confidence I needed to compete for the 2020 overall title. My race calendar is a mixture of fast and technical races. I know the level in the women’s field will be even higher than last year, but I am aiming for top positions in all races.” – Dragomir, 2019 SkyMasters champion.
In the men’s field, eight of the top ten men from last season will return for more sky-high action. These include Zaid Ait Malek (Spain); 2019 newcomer Daniel Antonioli (Italy) and Jonathan Albon (Great Britain), third in the 2019 overall ranking.
The big headliners for 2020 will, again, be defending champion Ruy Ueda (Japan) and his number one challenger and second overall in 2019, Oriol Cardona (Spain). The two stars will go head-to-head at three races of the circuit, Hochkönig Skyrace®, Skyrace® Comapedrosa, and Gorbeia Suzien. Both are more than ready to face off for round two.
“After winning the 2019 series, I have more confidence than before, but I’m trying not to let the pressure of being the defending champion affect me. I’m looking forward to competing against Oriol again. After last year, I’m definitely aware of him and I’m prepared to challenge his downhill.” – Ueda, 2019 champion.
“I expect another battle between Ruy and I. We are both young athletes with a lot of room for improvement, so this year we will be in even better shape and be even stronger than last season. In 2019, any of the top five leading men could have won the circuit by winning the final race. For me, that makes the SWS more like a championship than a circuit, which is so interesting and exciting to be a part of.” – Cardona, second overall in 2019.
The Year of the Youth
The goal of the series is not only to expand the competitive field but to develop new talent. With an influx of young runners participating in the circuit, a “Youth of the Year” prize has been introduced to showcase the up-and-coming generation of skyrunners. The end-of-season award will be presented to the best male and female runners 23 and under.
Promising young athletes in the running include 2019 19th overall, Théo Detienne (France); 2019 Tromsø Skyrace® 10th female, Johanna Gelfgren (Sweden); and Nico Molina, Spain’s next big thing.
With so many top runners and new names in the series, the overall outcome is impossible to predict. The battle between the top skyrunners and up-and-coming athletes will create an exciting season for racers and fans alike on the most beautiful mountain race courses the world has to offer.