A Brief Primer on All Those Nordic Sports


Perhaps it’s the metric system, or perhaps it’s the spandex onesies, however Americans have some hassle greedy the several types of Nordic snowboarding. It will get complicated, as a result of “Nordic” snowboarding is an umbrella time period for 4 totally different disciplines: cross-country, biathlon, ski leaping, and Nordic mixed. This month, the U.S. workforce has good possibilities to medal throughout the board, so that you’ll wish to concentrate. Consider what follows a complete cheat sheet, so you’ll be able to pretend your method by way of any Olympic viewing occasion.

Cross-Country Skiing

Kikkan Randall skate snowboarding in 2012 on the Cross-Country World Cup. (Cephas/Wikimedia Commons)

Practiced as a type of transportation since as early as 600 B.C., cross-country skiing is the 1 the place athletes race up and downhill on a pair of no-edged carbon toothpicks at distances from 1.5 to 50 kilometers. Cross-country snowboarding contains 2 strategies: skate and classic. All rivals race in each disciplines. Skate snowboarding, by which athletes transfer throughout a large groomed path in a lateral skating movement, was invented in the 20th century and popularized by American skier and Olympic silver medalist Bill Koch. Classic snowboarding is the place athletes keep in groomed tracks and use sticky wax on the bottom of their skis to achieve traction on the snow and propel themselves ahead.

Cross-country competitions characteristic sprints, particular person distance, mass-start distance, and workforce relays. Sprints start with a person qualifying spherical and proceed by way of the day with 3 extra heats. Distance races make use of jockeying and group race techniques that make the occasion really feel such as you’re watching a Tour de France stage in 20 minutes. Cross-country skiers are identified for his or her dramatics, usually collapsing on the end line. Racing for minutes (or hours) at practically all-out cardio capability will try this to you.

Important Vocabulary

  • A-climb: A hill on the course with a 9 to 18 % grade and as much as 200 meters lengthy. Sprint programs are required to have not less than considered one of these hills; distance programs might have as much as 4.

  • Individual begin: A race the place rivals begin 15 to 30 seconds other than each other and race the entire course just about alone. (The race the place all rivals begin collectively is known as a mass begin.)

Key Athletes: The entire U.S. women’s team, Ingvilg Flugstad Oestberg (NOR), Simi Hamilton (USA), Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (NOR), Dario Cologna (SUI).


(Christian Bier/Wikimedia Commons)

Biathlon combines cross-country snowboarding and goal taking pictures. Perhaps higher often known as “the one with the gun,” biathlon originated as a tribute to Ullr, the Norse god of snowboarding and searching, and finally grew right into a navy coaching approach. Biathletes skate ski with a .22-gauge rifle on their again round a race loop, stopping within the stadium to shoot 5 targets earlier than going out to do one other loop.

Biathlon competitions characteristic dash, distance, and relay occasions. During the taking pictures part of the race, for each missed goal, athletes should ski a 150-meter penalty loop or have penalty time added to their closing outcomes. The title of the sport in biathlon is stress-free sufficient to precisely shoot a gun in the course of one of many hardest endurance actions on the planet. That means these athletes haven’t solely insane cardio capability but additionally a pointy eye and mad respiration strategies.

Important Vocabulary

  • Biathlon: Pronounced bi-a-thlon, not bi-ath-a-lon. It’s OK—the athletes have trouble with spelling and pronunciation, too.

  • Clean: To hit all 5 targets with none misses in a single taking pictures stage.

  • Prone: The lying-down shooting position.

Key Athletes: Susan Dunklee (USA), Rosanna Crawford (CAN), Kaisa Makarainen (FIN), Tim Burke (USA), Martin Fourcade (FRA), Johannes Thingnes Boe (NOR).

Ski Jumping

(Ailura/Wikimedia Commons)

Mounted on heelless bindings on a pair of ten-foot boards, ski jumpers tuck down a steep, icy monitor, reaching as much as 60 miles per hour earlier than launching into flight (or not, for anybody who recollects the Wide World of Sports’ “agony of defeat”). In air, athletes assume a V place earlier than touchdown in a telemark approach to the cheers of judges and followers.

Competitions are structured in rounds, which usually embody 2 jumps. A jumper’s rating is decided by a mixture of distance jumped, approach, and wind issue. Ski leaping is all about timing. Athletes are cued on when to tuck by their coaches, who’re watching the wind. They should time their explosive leap at simply the proper second on the in-run to effectively launch into the air, after which learn their touchdown at precisely the proper level to land as safely as doable. The complete leap takes about ten thrilling seconds.

Important Vocabulary

  • Okay-point: The par of the hill, or how far a median athlete jumps. For instance, a Okay120 hill has a Okay-point of 120 meters, which suggests the athletes ought to have the ability to leap that far.

  • Jumping swimsuit: The highly regulated piece of fabric that athletes put on in-flight. Jumping fits should all be made from the identical cloth, be formfitting to a precise measurement, and conform to 4 pages’ price of requirements in order to not give any athlete an aerodynamic benefit.

  • In-run: That steep, icy monitor that jumpers velocity down earlier than flinging themselves ahead into the air. The in-run is angled at roughly 38 levels, which is how athletes can attain speeds as much as 60 miles per hour earlier than takeoff.

  • 2014: The first 12 months ladies have been allowed to compete on this occasion within the Olympics.

Key Athletes: Sarah Hendrickson (USA), Michael Glasder (USA), Maren Lundby (NOR), Kamil Stoch (POL), Richard Freitag (GER).

Nordic Combined

(Granada/Wikimedia Commons)

At some level in historical past, the Norwegians requested what have been the 2 hardest sports activities on the planet and determined to place them collectively. Nordic mixed marries ski leaping (which favors light-bodied, explosive athletes) with skate snowboarding (which favors muscle-bodied endurance athletes) to create essentially the most exhausting oxymoron on earth. Both the leaping and ski-racing parts of the competitors are held on the identical day, with athletes leaping within the morning, after which suiting (or, moderately, spandexing) as much as race within the afternoon. Scores from the morning jumps are labored into an algorithm that spits out a begin checklist with decided time disadvantages. The winner of the leaping portion will get to start out the ski race first, after which one another competitor begins behind him* after an allotted variety of seconds based mostly on the time algorithm. First particular person to the road wins.

*Note: It is all the time a “him.” Women’s Nordic mixed has but to be acknowledged on the World Cup degree.

Important Vocabulary

See: cross-country snowboarding, ski leaping.

Key Athletes: Bryan Fletcher (USA), Taylor Fletcher (USA), Jan Schmid (NOR), Johannes Rydzek (GER).

(Editor references)

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