Winter Olympics 2018: A beginner's guide to cross-country skiing ahead of the Pyeongchang Games

Cross-country skiing is one of the toughest as well as the most physically exhausting events in Winter Olympics. In cross-country skiing, skiers use ski poles and strength to propel themselves across long and flat courses.

Skiers propel themselves forward by using the classic technique (one ski forward at a time and parallel to each other) or by a side skating motion (free technique).

Ahead of the Pyeongchang Games, here is all you need to know about cross-country skiing:

Olympic sport since: 1924 (men's), 1952 (women's)

Categories and how are they different

Individual Start

In this event, individual skiers start out separately in intervals of 30 seconds and the winner is adjudged to be the skier who takes the least time in finishing the course and not the skier who crosses the finish line first. The men's individual course is 15 km long and skiers can either use the classical technique or the side skating technique. Women use the side skating technique in a course which is 10 km long. Watch out for Indian skier Jagdish Singh who is one of the participants in this event.

India's Jagdish Singh competes on February 20, 2013 during the Men's Cross Country 10 km qualification race of the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships at Val Di Fiemme Cross Country stadium in Cavalese, northern Italy. AFP PHOTO / PIERRE TEYSSOT / AFP PHOTO / Pierre Teyssot

India's Jagdish Singh will be participating in the individual Men's Cross Country 15 km event. AFP


Skiathlon combines the two skiing techniques over a 30 km course for men and 15 km for women. All skiers start together and for the first half of the course, they employ the classical technique while the side skating technique is used for the second half.


The shortest and quickest among all cross-country skiing events, the event is competed on a 1.4 km long course for men and 1.2 km course for women. Like track events in athletics, sprint involves qualifying heats with the top 30 skiers making it to the quarter-finals. The top two in each quarter-final then proceed to the semi-finals and then the finals. Here, skiers use the classical technique.

This is how the event looks like:


Team Sprint

This event consists of two skiers from the same nation. The first skier completes two laps of the sprint course before passing on to his teammate who skis the next two laps. The team which first completes 12 laps wins.

Mass Start

The longest event at the Olympics, all skiers start together with the first to cross the finishing line winning. Skiers use the classical technique to ski and the course is 50 km long for men while it is 30 km long for women.


The men's 4 x 10 km race and women's 4 x 5 km race begins with a mass start. For the first two legs, skiers should use the classical technique while for the final two legs, skiers use the side skating technique. The first team to cross the finish line wins.

Days of events: 10 to 25 February

Medals at stake: 12

Contenders: The Nordic nations of Norway, Sweden and Finland have been the most successful nations in the Olympics with 257 of the 451 medal being won by the trio and they are expected to sweep medals across all disciplines. Russian athletes participating under the Olympic flag are also expected to put up a tough fight.

Updated Date: Feb 08, 2018 18:02 PM

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