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The FIS World Cup Series, FIS Nordic World Ski Championships and at the Olympic Winter Games, include twelve different cross-country skiing events. Ladies compete in the sprint, team sprint, 10km, 15km pursuit, 30km mass start, and 4x5km relay. Men compete in sprint, team sprint, 15km, 30km pursuit, 50km mass start and 4x10km relay. A variety of other distances are contested at Continental Cup, FIS, junior and national level.
Competitors start simultaneously, lined up in rows. The first competitor across the finish wins the race.
Competitors start in intervals of 30 or 15 seconds depending on the event. The athlete with the fastest individual time wins.
A team consists of four athletes, each of whom skis one leg of the race and then tags off to a team-mate. The relay has a mass start.
The sprint begins with individual time trials on the sprint course with a 15 second interval start. The fastest 30 athletes move on to elimination heats. The top two finishers in each quarter-final advance to the semi-final rounds that are held as two heats of four athletes each. The final round consists of one heat of four athletes (two from each semi-final heat).
Team Sprint Events
The team sprint event consists of semi-final and final rounds. In the semi-final heats there are 10 or more teams consisting of two athletes (A and B) who pass the relay to each other three times (A, B, A, B, A, B). The best five teams qualify for the final.
The pursuit events have a mass start and the athletes use both techniques within the same race. During a pit stop at the stadium after half of the race distance has been completed, the athletes change equipment from the classical to free technique.
List of events
The following events feature on the programmes of the FIS World Cup, FIS Alpine World Ski Championships and the Olympic Winter Games. Other distances are held at Continental, FIS, junior and national levels:
* the technique of the single technique events: Ladies sprint, team sprint, 10 km and 30km and Mens’ sprint, team sprint, 15 km and 50km alternate at each edition of the FIS World Ski Championships and Olympic Winter Games
Sport rules and procedures
For the different distances, FIS homologation rules require that the courses have a certain amount of uphills, thus implying challenging and demanding races.
The tracks must be a minimum of four to nine metres wide. For the classical technique, the track must be prepared with one classical track (two parallel grooves) in the ideal line.
In cross-country skiing, there are two techniques. In the classical technique, the skis are prepared with kick wax which creates friction when in contact with the snow and allows the athlete to ski in "diagonal or classical style" along pre-set parallel tracks. In free technique, the skis are prepared with only glide wax and forward motion is created by using the edges of the skis, also called skating. In both techniques, the competitors use ski poles to improve their forward propulsion.
In events with an interval start the starting order is randomly drawn within four groups of competitors. The placing of the seeded group or "red group" of the 30 best athletes is decided at the team captains’ meeting after reviewing the weather conditions. This is done to ensure fair and optimal conditions for the best athletes. The Jury can decide to introduce fifth group for some athletes.
In mass start events competitors start simultaneously lined up in rows according to previous results with the best ones starting in the first positions.
In team sprint events competitors start in two lines according to the total of FIS points of team members.
Relay start positions for FIS World Cup races are based on the Nations Cup standings; whilst at the FIS World Championships or Olympic Winter Games they are based on the results of the major event that took place the preceding season (FIS World Championships or Olympic Winter Games).
Entries for Relays
For relays, team captains may initially enter up to six athletes at the team captains’ meeting. The final composition of the teams must be given by the team captains at the latest two (2) hours before the start.
In races with individual start, a tie of two or more athletes with the same time remains as such. In the mass start, sprint and relay races, a photo-finish (showing the tip of the shoe crossing the finish line) decides the ranking between two or more athletes reaching the finish line at the same time. If the photo-finish cannot decide the ranking, the athletes remain tied.
An athlete or a team overlapped during mass start races has to leave competition immediately, but will be ranked according his/her/its position at the moment of overlapping.
An athlete is disqualified, for example, for using free technique in a classical race or intentionally obstructing another athlete.
The complete rules and regulations for Cross-Country Skiing can be found in the Rules and Publications section
The bindings secure only the toe of the boot to the ski.
Cross-Country boots are similar to running shoes. The boots for free technique are more rigid and have more ankle support than the boots used for classic technique.
For classic technique, the poles should extend to the armpit while standing. Baskets at the bottom of the poles provide a base for a strong push-off. For free technique, the poles are generally longer and stiffer and extend to the chin or mouth of the skier. The baskets and tips are designed like classic poles.
The skis used in cross-country are lighter and narrower than those used in alpine skiing and have long curved tips. The minimum length of skis for the classical events is 10cm less than the competitor's height, while the average length for skating or free technique skis is between 1.70 and 2 metres. The tips of skating skis also curve more.
The wax a skier chooses can often be the difference between winning and losing. Knowing what wax to use is determined by snow and weather conditions. There are two types of wax: glide wax and kick wax, also known as grip wax. Glide wax is used to decrease the friction between the skis and the snow. Kick wax is used to increase friction between the skis and the snow in order to prevent slipping.
Uses stretch fabric hugging the body, similar to a runner’s training clothing. Woollies and thick socks are definitely no longer fashionable.
The traditional ski racing technique. Athletes use a diagonal stride in which both skis stay parallel to each other.
The skating - or free - technique, which was developed in the 1970s, closely resembles the motions of speed skating, where one pushes the inside edge of the ski simultaneously backward and outward at about a 45-degree angle. It is usually faster than classic technique.
Wax used to decrease the friction between the skis and the snow. It is applied to the entire ski in free technique races, but only to the front and rear tips of the skis in classic races.
Also known as kick wax, it increases the friction between the skis and snow to improve traction. It is applied to the middle part of the skis for classic races.
A ski preparation technique in classic skiing used when kick wax is not appropriate for the conditions. Technicians use a wire brush to roughen the base of the skis.
All competitors start together, and the first skier to pass the finish line is declared the winner.
Pursuit events have a mass start and the athletes use both techniques within the same race. During a pit stop at the stadium after half of the race distance has been completed, the athletes change equipment from the classical to free technique.
The first leg of a relay race. Named this way because relay races feature mass starts with everyone bunched together.
A start in which skiers leave at set intervals. The winner is the athlete with the best time.
An uphill climb.