Olympic Cross Country Skiing Events in History

Cross country skiing is the most exciting endurance event of the Winter Olympics.

List of All Olympic Cross-Country Skiing Events in History

  • 1924 Winter Olympics: First Cross-Country skiing contest
  • 1952 Winter Olympics: Women’s Nordic skiing debuts
  • 1956 Winter Olympics: Men’s 30 km and women’s 3×5 km relay race was added
  • 1964 Winter Olympics: Women’s 5 km race was added
  • 1976 Winter Paralympics: Paralympic cross-country skiing debuts
  • 1980 Winter Olympics: Women’s 20 km race was added
  • 2002 Winter Olympics: Sprint and Mass start events in Salt Lake City.

When was Cross-Country Skiing Added to the Olympics?

Although its history goes back to ancient times, cross-country skiing was contested at the first Winter Olympics held in 1924, at Chamonix, France. The events included 18 km and 50 km races, but only men could participate. A women’s 10 km classic category was later added in the 1952 Oslo Winter Olympics, followed by several other events.

Cross-country skiing started with only two events and has evolved in the Winter Olympics since its debut. In the 1956 Winter Olympics, two more events, 30 km for men and 3×5 km relay for women, were included.

Olympic Cross-Country Skiing Events for Men

18 km Classical Event

The 18 km event was one of two cross-country skiing events at the first Winter Olympics. This competition was held on 2nd February 1924. It was a classical race for men only, and Thorleif Haug from Norway won the category.

Thorleif-Haug
Thorleif Haug, 1924, Chamonix

50 km Event

The 50 km event is the longest and oldest in cross-country skiing, and all skiers start together in a single line. Since there is no stagger at the beginning, the first skier to cross the finish line wins the event.

It appeared as a classical race with the 18 km event in the first-ever Winter Olympics of 1924. Norwegian skiers dominated it, and Thorleif Haug won gold, while Thoralf Strømstad and Johan Grøttumsbråten won silver and bronze medals.

This event was then played as a freestyle race from 1988 onwards, but for the last couple of Winter Games, it is held alternatingly held as a freestyle or classical event.

4×10 km Relay Event

The 4×10 km relay event is also a team event, with four members per team. It begins with a mass start, and the team to finish first wins. This event uses both cross-skiing country ski styles: classical and freestyle.

It first became part of the Winter Olympics of 1936 as a classical event, and 64 skiers from 16 nations participated in the event. The 4×10 km relay event has been a regular part of the Winter Games since then.

15 km Event

The 15 km event begins with a staggered start for skiers. Every 30 seconds, one skier starts skiing, and the one with the best time wins, regardless of who crosses the finish line first.

This event became part of the Winter Olympics in 1956 and was contested as a classical race. Between 1992 and 2002 it was held as a freestyle pursuit event.

30 km Event

It is similar to the mass start, but skiers start off with the classical technique. Halfway through the race, the skiers switch to freestyle techniques.

The Winter Olympics first witnessed this event in 1956. It was played freestyle in 1994 and then again as classical in 1998.

10 km Classical Event

The 10 km classical event was first contested in the Winter Olympics in 1992. 110 skiers from 39 nations participated in this event, and Vegard Ulvang from Norway came out victorious.

It was only part of men’s cross-country skiing events for three Winter Games between 1992 and 1998.

Vegard-Ulvang-Albertville-1992
Vegard Ulvang, 1992, Albertville

2×10 km Pursuit Event

The event made it into the Winter Olympics in 2002 as a one-time event, and Norwegian skiers Thomas Alsgaard and Frode Estil won gold, while Swedish skier Per Elofsson won bronze. No silver medal was awarded that year.

30 km Freestyle Mass Start Event

The first 30 km freestyle mass start event was first held in 2002 and won by Austrian skier Christian Hoffmann. The pursuit format was contested from 2006 and won by Yevgeny Dementyev from Norway.

Sprint Event

The individual sprint course is 1.4 km for men, and the competition begins with the qualifying round. It was added in 2002.

Team Sprint Event

Each team in the team sprint event consists of two skiers, with each skier completing three laps of a 1325-meter course. It was first contested in 2006, and the Swedish team won. It became freestyle in 2010 and 2018.

30 km Skiathlon Event

The 30 km skiathlon event was first held at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. It was also part of the last 2018 Winter Games, and probably it will also be at the Beijing 2022 Games.

Olympic Cross-Country Skiing Women’s Events

10 km Women’s Event

The 10 km women’s event was the first-ever cross-country skiing competition for women, added in the 1952 Winter Olympics as a classical race. Finnish skiers dominated it, with Lydia Wideman winning first, while Mirja Hietamies and Siiri Rantanen secured second and third positions.

The event was played in freestyle pursuit format from 1992, before being played as classical from 2002 and again freestyle in 2010.

Lydia-Wideman
Lydia Wideman, 1952

3×5 km Relay Women’s Event

The 3×5 km relay event is similar to the team sprint in format. Each team consists of three skiers. They added the classical event in the Winter Olympics of 1956, and Finnish skiers Siiri Rantanen, Mirja Hietamies, and Sirkka Polkunen won the title.

5 km Women’s Classical Event

The first appearance of the 5 km women’s classical event was at the 1964 Winter Olympics. Soviet Union skiers Klavdiya Boyarskikh and Alevtina Kolchina secured first and third place, while Finnish skier Mirja Lehtonen took second place.

4×5 km Relay Women’s Event

The 4×5 km women’s relay event first became part of the Olympic Games in 1976. Soviet Union team of Nina Baldycheva, Zinaida Amosova, Raisa Smetanina, Galina Kulakova won this category.

20 km Women’s Event

The 20 km women’s skiing event was first contested in the 1984 Winter Olympics as a classical event. Marja-Liisa Hämäläinen from Finland won that title competition. It became a freestyle event from 1988 to 1992.

30 km Women’s Event

The 30 km women’s event follows the 50 km men’s skiing format. It was added in Winter Olympics in 1992 and won by Stefania Belmondo from Italy, while Lyubov Yegorova and Yelena Vyalbe from the Unified Team won silver and bronze.

It was contested as a freestyle race in 2006, classical in 2010, and freestyle again in 2014.

Stefania Belmondo
Stefania Belmondo in 1992

15 km women’s event

The 15 km women’s classical event was also first held in 1992 as a freestyle race.

The event switched to classical format from 1998 until the pursuit format was introduced in 2006.

2×5 km Women’s Pursuit

This event consists of two 5 km races, with classical skiing first followed by the freestyle pursuit. This competition was first held at the 2002 Winter Olympics as a one-time event and won by Beckie Scott, from Canada.

15 km Women’s Freestyle Mass Start Event

All the skiers start simultaneously in this event, and the first one to cross the finish line is crowned the winner. The women’s 15 km freestyle mass start event became a part of the Winter Olympics in 2002. Italian skier Stefania Belmondo won the title.

Sprint Women’s Event

The sprint women’s event has a 1.2 km course for women. It begins with qualifying rounds, and the finishers qualify to quarter-finals, semi-finals, and then finals. The competition was first held in the 2002 Winter Olympics, and Kateřina Neumannová from the Czech Republic won the gold medal.

Team Sprint Women’s Event

The Team Sprint women’s event is a two-lap team event with two members in each team, one for each lap. It was added in the Winter Olympics in 2006 and won by Aino-Kaisa Saarinen and Virpi Kuitunen, skiers from Finland. The freestyle pursuit in this format started in 2018.

15 km Women’s Skiathlon

The 15 km women’s skiathlon was first held at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. A Norwegian skier, Marit Bjørgen, became the defending champion of this event.

Olympic Events in 2022 Winter Olympics

In the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics, cross-country skiing events will be held from 5-20th February in Kuyangshu Nordic Center and Biathlon Center in Zhangjiakou, China. There will be a total of 12 cross-country skiing events, six men and six women categories:

  • 15 km Classical
  • 30 km Skiathlon
  • 50 km Freestyle
  • 4×10 km Relay
  • Sprint Freestyle
  • Team Sprint Classical

Women’s cross-country skiing events in 2022:

  • 10 km Classical
  • 15 km Skiathlon
  • 30 km Freestyle
  • 4×5 km Relay
  • Sprint Freestyle
  • Team Sprint Classical

A maximum of 296 competitors will participate in the games, and only a maximum of 16 athletes (eight men and eight women) will be entered by the NOC (National Olympic Committee).

Cross-Country Skiing Medalists at the Winter Olympics

Since its debut in the Winter Olympics, Norway has dominated the sport with 121 medals consisting of 47 gold, 42 silver, and 32 bronze medals. Sweden, Soviet Union, Finland, and Russia are formidable contenders as well.

Bjørn Dæhlie, with his 12 medals and Marit Bjørgen with her 15 medals, top the list of competitors to win different cross-country skiing events at the Winter Olympics. Marit Bjørgen holds the record for most Olympic medals won by an athlete in Winter Olympics.