Alongside Speed Skating, Cross Country Skiing is one of only two remaining sports that have been a part of every Winter Olympic Games. The sport has long been dominated by the Scandinavian nations and Russia but the Australian contingent are on the rise and will be pushing for our strongest Games results ever in PyeongChang.
Athletes to watch: Brother and sister duo Callum and Aimee Watson made history in Sochi by becoming the first Australian siblings to compete in cross country at the same Olympic Games and they will be aiming to do it again in PyeongChang. Their Sochi teammate Phil Bellingham is continuing to improve, securing some of the best results of his career in early 2017 as the Sprint specialist aims for a top 30 finish in the event in PyeongChang. Barbara Jezserek will be aiming for her third Olympic appearance having previously competed in 2010 and 2014 for Slovenia while Jessica Yeaton had her best season to date which included a 33rd place finish at the 2017 World Championships. Paul Kovacs will be pushing for a debut Olympic berth while the future of the sport in Australia looks bright with the likes of young guns Katerina Paul and Casey Wright pushing up the ranks.
Qualification, Nomination & Selection
Australia will be hoping to qualify two men and three women Cross Country Skiing at PyeongChang 2018. Qualification will be based on the Olympic FIS points list which will be finalised on January 22, 2018. For the full details on qualification
If an athlete has qualified then they will be eligible to be nominated to the Australian Olympic Committee for selection. For the full details on nomination to the Australian Olympic Winter Team
Once nominated the AOC’s Selection Committee will then make the final decision on the athlete’s selection to the Team for PyeongChang 2018.
Competition Format & Events
Skiathlon (30km men, 15km women) (Classic and Freestyle)
The Skiathlon combines both Classic and Freestyle techniques into the one mass start race. The first half of the race (7.5 km for women and 15 km for men) is completed with Classic technique and equipment. Athletes then use dedicated changing boxes in the stadium to switch skis and poles. The second half of the race is raced using Freestyle technique, with the first person across the line the winner. The Skiathlon is often a very tactical race due to the two techniques and short laps (2.5km for women and 3.75km for men).
Individual Sprint Classic (1.5km men, 1.4km women)
The Individual Sprint competition consists of a qualification round and three final rounds. First competitors ski a time trial in 15-second intervals, with the fastest 30 skiers advancing to the finals. The quarter-final, semi-final, and final have six skiers in each heat. The top two competitors from each heat advance automatically to the next round, with an additional two athletes (known as "lucky losers") also advancing on time. Sprint events are high speed and very tactical.
Freestyle Interval Start (15km men, 10km women)
The 10km and 15km Interval Start races are time trials against the clock, with the winner being the competitor with the quickest time. Competitors start every 30 seconds, with the best-ranked skiers starting at the end. Coaches give athletes feedback on their time (known as "splits") during the race, so skiers starting later have more information on their performance.
Relay (4x10km men, 4x5km women) (Classic and Freestyle)
Each team has four skiers, each of whom skis one of the four 5km (women) or 10km (men) relay legs. The first two legs of the relay are skied in Classic style and the final two are Freestyle. The relay is hotly contested by the top nations, with coaches selecting athletes for each leg based on their strengths and consideration of the tactics of other nations.
Team Sprint Free (2 x 3 x 1.5km men, 1.4km women)
The Team Sprint competition consists of two semi-final heats of 10-15 teams each and a final heat of 10 teams. Each team has two skiers, who alternate skiing the sprint course three times each for a total of six laps, exchanging between laps by physically touching their teammate. The top three teams from each heat automatically advance to the final, with the next four fastest teams across both heats also progressing. The winning team is the first team to cross the finish line after the completion of all six laps.
Mass Start Classic (50km men, 30km women)
The Mass Start is the longest event on the cross country program. Competitors all start together, lined up in rows in an arrow formation. The first competitor across the finish line wins the race. It is permitted to exchange skis during the competition, but only a limited number of times in dedicated exchange boxes in the stadium. Skiers change skis if snow conditions change during the race or for faster skis particularly when the snow is dirty.
Australia and Olympic Cross Country Skiing
Bruce Haslingden and Cedric Sloan were Australia’s first cross country representatives at an Olympic Winter Games. They participated in the 18km and 50km events at the 1952 Games in Oslo. Neither of them finished the gruelling 50km event and placed 74th and 75th respectively in the 18km event.
Three Australian athletes have placed in the 30-40th place range in individual events including Australia’s first female competitor Colleen Bolton. Bolton competed in the 5km classic and the 10km classic at the Lake Placid Games in 1980 placing 36th and 35th respectively.
It was another 26 years before two more Australian women, Esther Bottomley and Clare-Louise Brumley competed at the Torino Games. They were also joined by Paul Murray. Murray and Bottomley continued their Olympic careers in Vancouver in 2010 along with teammate Ben Sim.
The Sochi 2014 Games saw Bottomley join Anthony Evans (1992, 1994, 1998) as Australia’s only three-time Cross Country Skiing Olympians. She was joined on the Russian slopes by brother and sister duo Aimee and Callum Watson as well as Phil Bellingham.
Pre-PyeongChang AUS Tally
10 (Days 1-2, 4, 6-9, 12, 15-16)
- Medal Events
- Total Athletes
310 (155 men & 155 women)
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Jezersek claims Kangaroo Hoppet while Bellingham and Watson secure minor placings 28 August 2017 (AEDT)