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Cross country skiing race is the most exciting endurance event of the Winter Olympics when athletes compete in the snow on usually flat terrain with the use of ski poles, skis, and their strength.
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 Olympic Games 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-style category was later added in the 1952 Oslo, followed by several other events.
Cross-country skiing started with only two major events and has evolved in the Winter Olympic Games since its debut. In 1956, 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 separate cross-country race events at the first Winter Olympic Games. This competition was held on 2nd February 1924. It was a classical race for men only, and Thorleif Haug from Norway won the category.
50 km Event
The 50 km event is the longest and oldest in cross-country skiing, and all cross-country 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 – when only the toe is secured to a shorter ski – 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-country skiing techniques: classic style and freestyle – or skating style.
It first became part of the Winter Olympics of 1936 as a classical event, and 64 cross-country 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 use two different skiing techniques. They start off with the classic technique and halfway through the race, the skiers switch to freestyle skiing 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 ski events for three Winter Games between 1992 and 1998.
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 medals, 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.
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 men’s 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 Olympic cross-country skiing race for women, added in 1952 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.
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.
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 classic-technique 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 wins. 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.
Women’s Team Sprint Event
The women’s Team Sprint 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 ski 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 ski 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.