Olympic Sports >> Cross-Country


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The Competition


Athletes race along a pre-defined course of varying length and contours skiing either the classical style or freestyle depending on the race. Races can be either individual start race-against-the-clock or dash for the line mass starts depending on the event.

12 Events

6 for men and 6 for women


15km individual - (competitors begin one by one every 30 seconds skiing freestyle), Pursuit - 15km followed by 15km (mass start/classical followed by freestyle), individual sprint (individual start first round freestyle every 15sec then mass start in quartets), team sprint (Mass start/Freestyle), 50km individual (Mass start/Classical), 4x10km relay (mass start/classical and freestyle)


10km (individual start every 30sec freestyle), pursuit 7.5km (mass start - classical) then 7.5km freestyle, individual sprint (individual start first round freestyle every 15sec then mass start/classical), team sprint (mass start freestyle), 30km individual (mass start freestyle, 4x5km relay (mass start, classical then freestyle)


Whistler Olympic Park

Competition dates

Feb. 15, 17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 25, 27 and 28

The Disciplines

15km men and 10km women

A race-against-the-clock using the freestlye. Competitors start every 30 seconds. The winner is the competitor with the best overall time.

Pursuit (men and women - classical then freestyle)

Mass start. Competitors ski a first leg (15km men, 7.5km women) classical, then change equipment for a second leg of 15km (m) or 7.5km (w) this time skiing freestyle. The winner is the first competitor across the finish line.

Sprint (men and women - classical)

Short race (1 to 1.5km). A qualifying round against the clock. Competitors leave every 15secs. The top 30 competitors are then split into 5 quarter-finals of 6 racers with a mass start. The top two in each quarter-final plus the next 2 best times qualify for the semi-finals. The top two advance alongwith the next two best times for a final of 6 skiers.

Team Sprint (men and women - freestyle)

Two team members ski in relay fashion a short course (1 -1.5km) three times each from a mass start. Two semi-finals feature 10 teams each with the three plus the next best four times advancing to the final. The first team across the line wins gold.

50km (men) and 30km (women) - Classical style: Competitors ski classical style

from a massed start. The winner is the first across the line.

4x10km relay (men), 4x5km relay (women) : Four members in each team (first two ski classical, next two ski freestyle) from a mass start. Competitors ski in relay fashion with a tap on the back at the changeover. The first team to get their fourth member across the line wins.

Important Dates

  • Between 6000 and 12000 BC : Rough drawing made of a reindeer and a man on skis
  • End of 19th century: The first races take place in the Norwegian province of Telemark
  • 1892 : Holmenkollen ski festival takes place for the first time.
  • 1924 : Foundation of the International skiing Federation (FIS)
  • 1924 : Cross country skiing appears as an official event at the first Winter Olympics in Chamonix.
  • 1952 : Women compete at the Winter Olympics for the first time, with a 10km race won by Lydia Wideman of Finland.
  • 1954 : First women's world championships are held in Falun, Sweden.
  • 1988 : Freestyle skiing (skating) appears at the Olympics for the first time joining the classical races.
  • 2002 : Sprint races make their Olympic debut at the Games in Salt Lake.


Raisa Smetanina (USSR)

The most successful women's competitor in Winter Olympics history with 10 medals including four gold between 1976 and 1992. The Soviet remains the oldest woman medalist (39 years and 354 days), and was also the first racer to win medals at five consecutive Games.

Ljubov Yegorova (USSR)

Won six gold and three silver medals at just two Olympiads (1992, 1994), putting her among the all-time leaders in Olympic history. Double world champion in 1991, she also won the World Cup overall title in 1993. Her brilliant career was severely tainted when a drugs test carried out after her victory in the 5 km race at the 1997 world championships revealed traces of banned substances

Bjorn Dahlie (NOR)

The most successful racer in the history of the sport, his 12 Olympic medals are a Winter Games record and include eight golds. Nine world titles is also a record and the Norwegian finished in the top three spots 83 times out of 126 races during the 1990s, winning 46 World Cup races and six World Cup crowns.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.