What's it all about?
Have you ever played an endless runner video game? One where you go up and down hills and change speeds? That’s sort of what cross-country skiing is like. Except luckily for the athletes, it’s not endless.
How it's played
The sport: Cross-country skiing is all about long distance and endurance. Think of it as the marathon running of the Winter Olympics.
The events: Men and women compete in six different categories: skiathlon, mass start, sprint, team sprint, relay and individual. (See pictures below.)
The equipment: Just a good old pair of cross-country skis and skiing poles. Maybe a hat and gloves too, because it can get cold.
The strategy: In cross-country skiing skiers can use two different techniques. The classic technique (forward strides) and the freestyle technique (side-to-side skiing).
The points: For skiathlon, mass start, sprint and relays, the first athlete across the finish line is the winner. For the team sprint, it’s the first team to complete six laps. And for the individual event, the fastest time wins.
The athletes: Cross-country skiing is demanding! It’s a full-body sport that uses all your muscles. Skiers need to have a lot of endurance and lung capacity, as well as strong legs.
Did you know? Cross-country skiing was one of the original Winter Olympic sports, going all the way back to Chamonix, France in 1924.
Things to watch for
- In skiathlon, skiers must use a combination of freestyle and classic techniques.
- They begin the race using the classic technique. Once they pass the first leg they change skis and switch to freestyle.
- The clock doesn’t stop ticking when they switch skis, so they’ve got to change fast.
- For Beijing 2022, skiers in the sprint event will use the freestyle skiing technique.
- The top 30 skiers in the qualifying round advance to the quarterfinals.
- There are five quarterfinals, then two semifinals. Win all those to compete in the final for a medal.
- The mass start is the longest cross-country event.
- For Beijing 2022, the mass start will be a freestyle technique event.
- Skiers line up in the shape of an arrow, and the top ranked skier gets to start at the tip.
Cross-country is the oldest type of skiing. In the snow-covered North, people would ski to hunt and gather firewood in the winter.
All of Canada's Olympic medals for cross-country skiing have been won by women.
Men have been competing in cross-country skiing at the Olympic Games since 1924, but women didn't compete until 1952.