Cross-country skiing

Go the distance and become a para cross-country skiing instant expert

Here's everything you need to know to instantly become a para cross-country skiing expert as Canada competes at the Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Everything you need to master this endurance sport

Canada’s Brian McKeever will compete at his fifth Paralympics when he hits the course in Pyeongchang. (Dmitry Lovetsky/The Associated Press)

Para cross-country skiing was contested at the first Paralympic Winter Games in 1976. The sport — which along with biathlon forms the para-nordic discipline — has evolved and expanded since those first Games in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden to incorporate a wide variety of distances and events.

Here's everything you need to know to instantly become a para cross-country skiing expert as Canada competes at the Paralympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea:

How the events work

Events range from relatively short sprints and middle-distance races to longer hauls and relay events.

For the individual events, athletes are divided into three categories depending on their classification: standing, sitting and visually impaired. Relay events are open to athletes in all three categories.

Guides and equipment

Skiers in the visually impaired classification compete with a guide who skis with them. The guide communicates with the skier throughout the course to help them navigate.

Athletes in the sitting classification compete in sit-skis, which are specially designed chairs on top of two skis. Competitors can also use poles.

Canadian contenders

Several Canadian athletes compete in both cross-country and biathlon events as part of the para nordic discipline. That leaved the door open to cross-country talisman Brian McKeever and breakout biathlete Mark Arendz joining forces in an open relay event.

There is precedent for it; the duo won a historic bronze with Emily Young and McKeever's guide Graham Nishikawa at the world championships last February.

Brian McKeever, Graham Nishikawa, Emily Young and Mark Arendz won bronze in the cross country open relay on Wednesday. 2:29

There are 20 medal events at the Games in Pyeongchang (nine men's events, nine women's and two mixed). Canada won four gold medals at the Sochi Games; Chris Klebl took home top prize in the 10-kilometre sitting event, while McKeever earned three golds with guides Erik Carleton (two) and Nishikawa (one).

McKeever owns 10 Paralympic golds — along with two silvers and a biathlon bronze — dating back to his Paralympic debut in Salt Lake City in 2002. The 38-year-old can surpass alpine skier Lana Spreeman as Canada's most decorated Winter Paralympian with a podium in Pyeongchang.

Here are the 14 members of Canada's para nordic team:

  • Brian McKeever, Canmore, Alta.
  • Cindy Ouellet, Quebec City
  • Mark Arendz, Hartsville, P.E.I.
  • Sebastien Fortier, Quebec City
  • Yves Bourque, Becancour, Que.
  • Chris Klebl, Canmore, Alta.
  • Brittany Hudak, Prince Albert, Sask.
  • Collin Cameron, Sudbury, Ont.
  • Ethan Hess, Pemberton, B.C.
  • Natalie Wilkie, Salmon Arm, B.C.
  • Emily Young, North Vancouver, B.C.
  • Derek Zaplotinsky, Smoky Lake, Alta.
  • Russell Kennedy, Canmore, Alta.
  • Graham Nishikawa, Whitehorse

With files from the Canadian Press

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