2022 Winter Olympics: Cross-Country Skiing
The sport of the Vikings
Originally, the sport of cross-country skiing was simply one half of the Nordic combined event made popular by the Norwegian ski festivals of the late 1800s.
Separate cross-country-only competitions gained popularity quickly, and two men's events were included at the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924. Cross-country skiing is one of seven winter sports that have been contested at every Winter Games. The first women's cross-country event, however, was not added until the 1952 Games in Oslo, Norway. The range of Olympic cross-country was expanded to include freestyle in 1988, and mass start in 2002.
The competitors at Beijing will compete in twelve different cross-country events.
- Men's events: classic sprint, free sprint, 50km mass start classic, 4x10km relay, 15km free, and 15km+15km skiathlon.
- Women's events: classic sprint, free sprint, 30km mass start classic, 4x5km relay, 15km free, and 7.5km+7.5km skiathlon.
There are two styles of cross-country skiing at the Olympics.
- Classical: similar to ski-exercise machines, skiers use a straight stride and must stay within predetermined parallel tracks.
- Freestyle: reminiscent of speed skaters; skiers push off with each ski on each stride; this type of skiing is much faster than classical.
The sprint competition is a single-elimination tournament that begins with 16 skiers grouped into four heats. The top two finishers in each heat advance. The process is repeated until there are four semifinalists competing for the three medals.
The skiathlon is a classical race followed by a freestyle race.
In the mass start event skiers start simultaneously, lined up in an arrow format, with the best-ranked skiers positioned at the arrow's point. The women's event is 30 km and the men's event is 50 km. The first athlete across the line wins. It is not uncommon for 10 skiers to be fighting for the line, often resulting in a photo finish.
The relay is similar to those run in track and field. Except instead of passing a baton, skiers must simply touch their teammate with their hand to initiate the next leg.
The Beijing Games
The cross-country events will be held at the National Cross-Country Center in Hebei Province. The cross-country events will begin on Feb. 5 with the women's skiathlon, and will conclude with the women's 30km mass start classic on Feb. 20.