What is Nordic Combined?
Nordic Combined is a winter sports discipline in which the athletes compete in both, ski jumping and cross-country racing. It is not to be confused with Alpine Combined in which the athletes compete in downhill and slalom ski racing. Nordic Combined has been called the “decathlon of skiing” because it requires a skier to use two totally opposite muscle types: explosiveness and strength for takeoff in ski jumping, then swiftness and endurance for cross-country skiing.
The discipline was added to the FIS World Cup calendar in 1983. The International Ski Federation also stages a World Championship every second year.
Where does Nordic Combined come from?
Nordic Combined is a comparatively old ski discipline and has existed in Norway since early times. The Norwegian army is credited with holding Nordic ski competitions as early as 1767. The first civilian event took place in Tromsø, in the far north of Norway, in 1842, but competitive activity started to take place more generally in the 1860s. The first major competitions took place in Oslo at the first Holmenkollen Ski Festival in 1892 which is still held until today. Nordic Combined acquired a huge popularity and standing in Norway, and was looked upon as the premier event in the sport of skiing. Nordic Combined reached international recognition from the first Winter Olympics in 1924 onwards and has been an Olympic discipline ever since.
How does Nordic Combined work?
As the name says, Nordic Combined is about finding the best "ultimate winter athlete", the best man on skis who is able to unite the explosiveness needed for the takeoff in ski jumping with the endurance needed to be a fast cross-country skier. Competition formats and ways to hold a competition have varied greatly over the years, from starting with the cross-country part first and having the jumping competition afterwards in the first days until the broad variety of formats today. Im general, the results from one type of competition have always been converted and taken with the athletes into the other competition, be it on the same day or two successive days.
Which different kind of competition formats does Nordic Combined have?
Formats and variations currently used in World Cup
The Individual Gundersen competition starts with one competition jump from a normal or large hill. For the Individual Gundersen events, the starting order in the scored jump is based on the reverse order of the current FIS world cup standings, which means that the competitor who is ranked highest in those standings will start last. Competitors without any world cup points will be drawn in groups, and will start before those competitors with points.
Later on the same day, the cross-country race takes place. The starting order is determined from the intermediate ranking after the ski jumping part. The winner starts at 00:00:00 and all other athletes start with time disadvantages according to their jumping score (15 points behind = 1 minute of time disadvantage) in a 10 kilometre cross-country race in free technique in this pursuit type of race. The first athlete to cross the finish line is the winner.
Final Individual Gundersen
As a variation of the Individual Gundersen method, this competition pays tribute to the old, traditional format of Nordic Combined, consisting of two jumps and 15 kilometres of cross-country skiing in free technique. The run-down is the same as in a regular Individual Gundersen competition. Usually this format is held as a highlight as the final competition of a season or in other season highlights like the Nordic Combined Triple and only the Top 30 athletes from the World Cup overall ranking are permitted to take part.
Nordic Combined Triple
The Nordic Combined Triple was introduced in the season 2013/14 as a new World Cup highlight for Nordic Combined, similar to the Four Hills Tournament in ski jumping or the Tour de Ski in cross-country skiing. It features three different events on three days and one overall winner who is awarded extra World Cup points and Prize Money. The program is as follows:
Day 1: 1 jump & 5 km Individual Gundersen
Day 2: 1 jump & 10 km Individual Gundersen (Top 50 from Day 1's competition)
Day 3: 2 jumps & 15 km Final Individual Gundersen (Top 30 from Day 2's competition)
The athletes take their results with them from day to day. The time behind after the race on Day 1 will be calculated in ski jumping minus points (1 second of time behind = 4 points of disadvantage), then the competition takes place on Day 2 and after the race, the time behinds will again be converted into minus points for the ski jumping on Day 3. The first athlete to cross the finish line on Day 3 is the Triple winner.
The Team Event has been held in numerous different ways since its introduction into the competition programs in the 1980s. In today's form, one team consists of four athletes who have one competition jump each. The total score of all four athletes determines the time disadvantages for the start of the ensuing cross-country race (45 points behind = 1 minute of time disadvantage). Every team members skis 5 kilometres in free technique in a relay race. Again, the first team to arrive at the finish line is the winner of the competition.
For the Team Sprint, teams consist of two athletes each. In the ski jumping part, every athlete makes one competition jump like in the Individual Gundersen or Team Event formats. The total score once again determines the time behind for the start of the successive cross-country race (30 points behind = 1 minute of time disadvantage). In the free technique cross-country race, each athlete skis a total of 7,5 kilometres but in alternating laps of 1,5 kilometres which makes the race very demanding physically, almost like interval training. The team to arrive first at the finish line wins the competition.
Included in the rules but currently not used in World Cup
In the biathlon-inspired Penalty Race, the ski jumping part is held exactly as in an Indivdual Gundersen competition. The point difference in the total score is not calculated into time behind for the 10 kilometre cross-country part but into penalty laps of 150 metres. (0,1-4,9 points behind the jumping winner = 1 penalty lap, 5.0-9.9 points behind = 2 laps, …). The jumping winner gets zero penalty laps and is allowed to start 10 metres and 10 seconds ahead of the field, the rest of the field follows in a mass start.
The penalty laps can be taken at any time during the race which gives team tactics a new importance (e.g. strong skiers with a lot of penalty laps from the jumping part can still ski at the very head of the field for a long time, pulling their more successful teammates from jumping forward before taking all laps at the end of the race).
The mass start is the only format in which the cross-country part takes place before the ski jumping. All competitors start into a 10 kilometre cross-country race in free technique at the same time. The final cross-country times are then converted into points for the ski jumping part (1 minute of time behind = 15 points). The winner is awarded 120 points and the for the other athletes, the points corresponding to the times behind from the race are deducted.
After that, two competition rounds of ski jumping take place but without the usual scoring of jumping style judges, though falls or failing to set a Telemark landing results in point deductions. The first round of the jumping competition is in reverse order of the cross-country results, i.e. the winner of the cross-country race gets the last start number for Ski Jumping. The winner of the event is determined in a points-based system.
Generally, the Sprint worked in the same way as an Individual Gundersen competition, but it only consisted of one jump and 7,5 km of cross-country skiing.
In the Hurricane Sprint, the differences after the ski jumping part were not calculated in seconds or penalty laps but metres behind. Only the jumping winner will ski the distance of 7,5 kilometres, the rest of the field was given respective distances behind based on the "official speed" of a cross-country skier being 6 m/s: This meant, competitors started 24 metres behind for every points they were back after jumping.
Which competition series does Nordic Combined have?
On FIS level, Nordic Combined competitions are held in a World Cup and a Continental Cup tour. The best athletes compete in the World Cup, featuring approximately 12 different venues on the Northern hemisphere each winter between November and March. Next to titles like Olympic Champion or World Champion it is one of the sport's biggest achievements to win the overall World Cup title.
The Continental Cup takes place at the same time as the World Cup but in different venues. It is the "second league" of Nordic Combined and features a lot of younger athletes who are working towards World Cup.
During the summer, there is a compact Summer Grand Prix, usually taking place in the last week of August with about three different venues. The Summer Grand Prix was introduced in the beginnings of the 2000s and has steadily grown in importance ever since.
Below Continental Cup, there is currently only one international competition circle, the OPA Cup, also called Alpen Cup. It is a competition series for athletes from the countries around the alps and also crowning an overall winner at the end of one season which usually spans summer as well as winter competitions. Other international competition circles are in the process of being created.