What's it all about?
Imagine going for a jog through a beautiful forest. Now add some snow, skis and ski poles. And now pretend it’s a race against other people, and the fastest person gets a shiny gold medal. That’s what para cross-country is all about.
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The sport: Para cross-country skiing is all about endurance and speed. It's a bit like the marathon running of the Winter Paralympics.
The events: Para-cross country includes a range of events of varying distances. Examples are the sprint, the 10 kilometre middle-distance and the 20 kilometre long-distance. Plus both mixed relay and open relay.
The equipment: Depending on their classification, you'll see skiers on sit-skis, skiing with a guide, or using skis with one or two poles. (See pictures below.)
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: Depending on the event, either the fastest time or the first skier across the finish line wins.
The athletes: A physically demanding sport, para cross-country requires a lot of endurance, strength and focus.
Did you know? Para cross-country got its start at the 1976 Paralympic Games in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden.
Things to watch for
- Standing skiers are in a sports class of athletes with leg or leg and arm impairments.
- You might see them ski with just one ski, just one pole or no poles at all.
- They wear lightweight boots that attach at the toe, leaving their heels free for more flexibility.
- Sit skiers are in a sports class of athletes with an impairment that affects both of their legs.
- They use a sit-ski to race — which is basically a seat attached to a single ski.
- Sit skiers rely heavily on their upper body strength to race.
Skiers With Guides
- Athletes who are blind or have low vision can ski with a guide.
- The guide skis in front of the athletes and gives them directions as needed.
- The directions are given via headsets, used by both the skier and the guide.
Canadian cross-country skier Brian McKeever has won 17 medals, including 13 gold, the most of any Canadian paralympic athlete.
Cross-country is the oldest type of skiing. In the snow-covered North, people would ski to hunt and gather firewood in the winter.
Athletes are divided into three categories depending on their functional ability: sitting, standing and vision impaired.