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Basics of Cross Country Skiing

Published: 2022-02-05
Basics of Cross Country Skiing
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Cross country skiing has been part of the fabric of the Winter Olympics since the games were founded in 1924. In the Oslo games of 1952 Women’s cross country events were added.  Now 12 events are the norm in contemporary Olympics.

Qualifying for the 2022 games are 296 international athletes.  The International Ski Federation accumulates qualifying points during competition periods which determine qualification.  Each country is allowed 16 athletes, eight for each gender.  No more than 4 athletes per country can compete in a single Olympic event.

The 12 events are broken into six competitions for men and women: individual, sprint, team sprint, skiathlon, relay, and mass start The FIS determines which technique will be used for each event — classical or skate (also known as freestyle).

The two techniques differ this way:  Freestyle generates speed by mimicking the same motion as roller or ice skaters use.  Classical is basically as though walking, but gliding between steps and generating speed by kicking front foot backward and moving back foot forward.

The events include Individual, Sprint, Team Sprint, Skiathlon, Relay, Mass Start

Individual:  Using Classical technique the men will compete for 15 kilometers, while the women will race for 10. Skiers will start in 30-second intervals, with the fastest time — not necessarily who crosses the finish line first — determining the winner.

Sprint: Using a freestyle technique, athletes will compete in a time trial format on a 1.5-kilometer course, with the top 30 from qualifying heats advancing to the quarterfinals. Ten skiers will advance to the semifinals, while the top four in those two heats — as well as the skiers with the fifth- and sixth-fastest times — will move on to the final with a chance to medal.

Team sprint:  A mass start featuring the classical technique with teams of two players skiing 6 laps, two at a time by the team members.  Heats determine finalists.

Skiathlon:  A two-stage combination of classical and freestyle techniques after a mass start.  The first stage is Classical.  The second is Freestyle.  Skis are changed between stages.  Men ski two 15 kilometer stages and women two 7.5 legs.

Skiers compete at mass start in the Men`s 15km + 15km Skiathlon at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games

Relay: Teams of four skiers will complete four laps — the first two in classical technique, the last two in freestyle — with athletes tagging their teammates after skiing each leg. The men will compete at 4x10 kilometers, while the women will race at 4x5 kilometers.

Mass start:   An Olympic marquee event, the mass start is the longest of the cross country skiing events.  A simultaneous start over 50 kilometers for men and 30 for women is held and the winner is the first to cross the finish line.

In most events, officials stationed across the course judge technique adherence. Also track switching, while legal, is not sanctioned on corners as are repeated track changes, especially on hills may incur a violation flag.  Two flags constitute disqualification.