Saturday, February 1, 2014

2014 Olympics Preview: Cross Country Skiing


Skiathlon: Men's, Women's
Individual (Classic): Men's 15km, Women's 10km
Individual Sprint (free): Men's 15km, Women's 10km
Mass Start: Men's 50km, Women's 30km
Relay:  Men's 4 x 10km, Women's 4 x 5km
Team Sprint (Classic)


Cross-country skiing is for Scandanavian countries what running is for African countries like Ethiopia and Kenya. It more or less evolved from an efficient means of transportation to being a sport they could dominate the world in. While Downhill skiing is all about speed, Cross-Counrty skiing is about precision and technique. There are two different types of skiing technique, the "classic" and the "free". In "Classic", the skis are parallel and the course features tracks carved by machines so that the skier does not have to plow through fresh snow. The "Free" technique does not have machine-carved tracks and the foot movement is more akin to ice skating. Most events have a designated technique that the skiers will use. However, in the "Skiathlon", the first half of the race is done with the Classic technique then skiers have a pit stop to change skis and finish the race freestyle. In the Relay races, the first two skiers use the Classic technique and the last two use Free.


As should be expected, Norway, Sweden and Finland have dominated Cross-Country skiing. Norwegian Petter Northug won Gold in the Mass Start and Team Sprint along with a Silver in the Relay and Bronze in teh Classic Sprint in Vancouver. His primary competition will be from Swede Dario Cologna who won gold in the Freestyle in Vancouver. On the women's side, Norwegians have been similarly dominant, led by Marit Bjorgen who has 7 Olympic medals to her name, with 5 of them (3 Golds) coming in Vancouver.

US Hopefuls

The US has only won one medal in the history of Olympic cross-country skiing, in 1976. Kikkan Randall is the most decorated women's cross-country skier in US history and won the World Cup Sprint title in 2012. This will be her fifth Olympics and she is America's best chance for a medal in Cross-Country.


Norway's dominance continues with Sweden and Russia also gathering medals. Italy and Estonia have also had success recently in cross-country events. 

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