Here is a quick overview of all the cross-country events, equipment and competition at the Sochi Games.
Cross-country skiing has been contested at every Winter Olympics since the 1928 Chamonix Games. It involves skiing over various distances and terrains in two different techniques in the quickest time possible.
The classical skiing technique utilizes a kicking and gliding motion along a course with a prepared track. The freestyle technique utilizes a faster, skating motion along a smoothed course.
There are 12 events on the 2014 Olympic program, six each for men and women. The allowed technique is indicated in parentheses.
- 15km (classical)
- Individual sprint (freestyle)
- Team Sprint (classical)
- Skiathlon (15km classical + 15km freestyle)
- 50km Mass Start (freestyle)
- 4x10km Relay (legs 1 & 2 in classical, 3 & 4 in freestyle)
- 10km (classical)
- Individual sprint (freestyle)
- Team Sprint (classical)
- 15km Pursuit (7.5km classical + 7.5km freestyle)
- 30km Mass Start (freestyle)
- 4x5km Relay (legs 1 & 2 in classical, 3 & 4 in freestyle)
Embedded owg_slideshow: The faces of cross-country
In cross country skiing, an athlete skis distances from about 1 kilometers (km) to 50 km. There are twelve events, six for men and six for women. For each gender, three races are contested in the classical technique and three in the freestyle (skating) technique. Classical, the slightly slower of the two techniques, may be used in freestyle events, but not vice versa. Three types of starts are utilized: interval, mass and heat. All event finals, except two, involve races to the finish line against actual co-competitors. The interval start races (men's 15km, women's 10km) involve races against the clock. Times are clocked to the tenth-second.
In the individual event (men's 15km, women's 10km), each skier starts at a 30-second interval. Team coaches, who are situated along the course, inform their skiers of their positions and leads/deficits. The individual is the only cross-country event completely governed by a race against the clock. (The qualification round of the sprint is also decided by time, before changing to heat competition in later rounds.) The individual normally takes 32-35 minutes for men and 23-26 minutes for women.
Skiathlon (classical + freestyle)
The skiathlon event (men's 30km, women's 15km) tests how well a skier masters the classical and freestyle techniques in one race. Since 2006, the skiathlon has taken place on one day, in one continuous race. After a mass start, each competitor skis half of the race in the classical technique, using skis and poles specially made for classical skiing. At the midway point, he/she quickly enters a changeover zone where he/she changes to freestyle skis and poles. The "pit stop" normally takes about 30 seconds. Then, he/she resumes the second half of the race in the freestyle technique until the finish line. The skiathlon normally takes 75-80 minutes for men and 42-45 minutes for women.
Individual Sprint (freestyle)
The Sprint takes place in a qualification round followed by a series of heats. In the qualification round, each competitor starts at a 15-second interval and skis one loop of 1.25 (women) / 1.8 km (men), in a race against the clock. The skiers with the top 30 qualification times advance to one of five quarterfinal heats of six skiers each. The start of each race -- from the quarterfinals forward -- changes from interval to heat, where the skiers race against each other. The top two finishers in each quarterfinal heat, plus two "lucky losers" with the best times, make one of two semifinal heats of six skiers each. The women and men's competitions are held at the same session, interchanging between rounds.
Of all of the cross-country events, disqualifications happen most frequently in the Sprint. The most common reasons for disqualification are illegal use of freestyle technique and illegal obstruction of competitor. False start disqualifications (after one "free pass" to the field) are extremely rare.
The individual sprint is the fastest of the six cross-country skiing events. The speed of the racers in this event is approximately 20 mph.
Team Sprint (classical)
The team sprint is contested between national teams of two skiers. Only one team is allowed per nation. Each team member skis a sprint loop of 1.25 km (women)/ 1.8 km (men) three times, then changes over to his/her teammate with a pat on the back in a designated zone, for a total of six loops. There are two semifinal heats. The top five teams in each heat qualify for the final. A team may not change the members of its team at any point.
Relay (classical + freestyle)
A relay event (men's 4x10km, women's 4x5km) consists of two legs conducted in the classical technique followed by two legs conducted in the freestyle technique by four different skiers from one nation. Like the team sprint, only one relay team is allowed per nation. A mass start sends the first skier of each team on his/her way. After each leg, the skier changes over to his/her teammate with a pat on the back in a designated zone. There is no equipment changing, as each team member is already equipped with classical or freestyle skis and poles for his/her leg. The first anchor leg member to cross the finish line is the winner. Traditionally, gamesmanship has been displayed in the men's relay, in particular between rivals Norway and Italy.
Mass start (freestyle)
The "ski marathon" (men's 50km, women's 30km) first used a mass start instead of an interval in 2006. The race is conducted as a series of loops. Separation between the contenders and pretenders does not usually occur until the last few loops of the race. The mass start normally takes 2:00 to 2:10 for men and 1:25-1:35 for women.
Embedded video_content_type: The marathon of the Winter Games
Cross-country skiers wear skis bound to each ski boot by bindings that allow for free foot and ankle movement. In each hand, skiers hold ski poles that help propel them forward.
There are two skiing techniques in cross country. Classical and freestyle (skating) each use a different set of equipment.
The skis used in the classical technique are longer (185-210 cm long) than freestyle skis. They have two types of wax applied to the bottoms. Kick wax is applied to the "kick zone" (45-60 cm from the heel to above the toe, depending on snow conditions) to add grip for levels and inclines. Glide wax is applied above and below the "kick zone" in the "glide zone" to add gliding speed on levels and declines.
Freestyle skis are shorter (170-200 cm long). Only glide wax is applied to freestyle skis, along the entire length of each ski.
The difference in pole length is the reverse of ski length. Freestyle poles come to chin-level from the ground, while classical poles are about 10 cm shorter.
Embedded video_content_type: Carnage at the finish line
* Length (minimum): height of skier, minus 100mm
* Width at binding (minimum): 40mm
* Tip, shovel curvature (minimum): 30mm
* Tail width (minimum): 30mm
* Both skis must be constructed the same way, and be of the same length
* No flexibility restrictions
* Mass (minimum): 750g per pair
* Two poles of equal length must be used
* Length: (minimum) skier's hip (maximum) skier's full height
* No weight restrictions
* Grip, strap, shaft, basket, tip
Bindings & boots
* No restrictions
Equipment changes during the race
Poles may be changed during any competition. One or both skis may be changed if the ski(s) or the binding(s) is broken or damaged. Equipment failure must be proven to the race jury after the competition. Waxing, scraping or cleaning of the skis during competition is forbidden, except in classical technique competitions.