Sport in the Spotlight: Cross-country skiing

Sport in the Spotlight: Cross-country skiing

31 January 2018 / 15:33

Cross-country skiing was one of the original sports at the very first Olympic Winter Games at Chamonix 1924 although a women’s event did not appear until Oslo 1952.

Possibly the purest of the Nordic Skiing family – which also includes biathlon, ski jumping and Nordic combined – cross-country is, put simply, a running race held on skis in which competitors propel themselves across the snow using poles and skis.

Since Chamonix 1924 the sport has been dominated by Norway, who have claimed more than 100 medals. Neighbours Sweden are next on the all-time medal table with 74.

Four years ago it was Marit Bjørgen who was the star for the Norwegians, winning the 15km skiathlon, 30km freestyle and team sprint with Ingvild Flugstad Østberg to take her tally of Olympic titles to six and overall medals to ten.

The Schedule

February 10

Women’s 7.5km + 7.5km skiathlon – 16:15-17:20 (07:15-08:20 UK time)

February 11

Men’s 15km + 15km skiathlon – 15:15-17:10 (06:15-08:10 UK time)

February 13

Women’s individual sprint classic – 17:30-18:45 (08:30-09:45 UK time)

Men’s individual sprint classic – 20:00-22:00 (11:00-13:00 UK time)

February 15

Women’s 10km free – 15:30-17:15 (06:30-08:15 UK time)

February 16

Men’s 15km free – 15:00-16:50 (06:00-07:50 UK time)

February 17

Women’s 4x5km relay – 18:30-19:45 (09:30-10:45 UK time)

February 18

Men’s 4x10km relay – 15:15-17:10 (06:15-08:10 UK time)

February 21

Women’s team sprint free – 17:00-18:30 (06:00-07:30 UK time)

Men’s team sprint free – 19:00-20:20 (08:00-09:20 UK time)

February 24

Men’s 50km mass start classic – 14:00-17:05 (03:00-05:05 UK time)

February 25

Women’s 30km mass start classic – 15:15-17:20 (04:15-06:20 UK time)

How Team GB has fared in the past

Team GB have yet to win an Olympic Winter medal in cross-country skiing, though three athletes have already had previous Games experience.

Andrew Musgrave and Andrew Young are set to enjoy their third – alongside Callum Smith at his second – while Annika Taylor makes her debut in PyeongChang.

Britwatch

Andrew Musgrave

Andrew Musgrave’s first outing at the Olympic Winter Games came at Vancouver 2010 where he finished 51st in the 15km + 15km double pursuit, 55th in the 15km freestyle race and 58th in the individual sprint.

The younger brother of former cross-country skier Posy, Musgrave competed at his second Olympic Winter Games in Sochi where he qualified 29th for the individual sprint before finishing 43rd in the 15km classical and 51st in the 50km freestyle.

The Dorset-born athlete finished fourth in the 50km freestyle at the 2017 World Championships – a higher placing than any previously achieved by a British Nordic skier – and then picked up a first World Cup podium in Toblach last December when he was third in 15km freestyle as well as recording a career-best 15th overall in the Tour de Ski at the start of this year.

Callum Smith

Callum Smith started skiing aged eight at Huntly Nordic Ski Centre before progressing through the British Development Squad and onto the national team aged 15.

A multiple British national champion, Smith made his Olympic Winter Games debut in Sochi, finishing 62nd in the sprint free event. He completed his chemical engineering studies at Edinburgh University in 2016 before relocating to Lillehammer to train as a full-time athlete.

A year later Smith finished 53rd in the 50km freestyle at the World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland.

Annika Taylor

Annika Taylor is not short of cross-country skiing experience having first taken up the sport aged just two while growing up in the town of Truckee, in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

She enjoyed a highly successful 2017, finishing fourth in the 10km Classic at the Austrian National Championships, held in Ramsau, before following this up by making her World Ski Championships debut in Lahti, Finland.

Two 38th-place finishes came in the 30km freestyle and sprint freestyle events with Taylor continuing her progression this season to earn selection.

Andrew Young

Andrew Young has experience of two Olympic Winter Games having competed in Vancouver and Sochi.

He finished 60th in the individual sprint at Vancouver 2010 and followed that up with 36th in the 15km classic four years later.

The cross-country skier started 2017 in fine form, finishing 14th at the World Cup in Sweden in January, before claiming 12th in Estonia in February as well as 22nd in the freestyle sprint final at the World Championships.

Who is the competition?

Marit Bjørgen

Sochi 2014 saw Marit Bjørgen equal the record for most medals for a female in Olympic Winter Games history, knowing one more will see her hold the achievement accolade.

The 37-year-old secured gold in both the 15km skiathlon and 30km freestyle individual events, as well as in the team sprint for Norway, part of the ten-medal haul which includes six golds.

Dario Cologna

A double gold medallist four years ago, Dario Cologna is among the favourites to pick up more honours this time around, looking to defend his 15km classical and 30km skiathlon honours from Sochi.

Known as “Super Dario”, the Swiss skier has started the Olympic year in positive by winning the Tour de Ski for the fourth time, reaching 25 World Cup victories in January.

Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo

One of the up-and-coming stars of cross-country skiing, PyeongChang 2018 is where some are expecting Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo to showcase his talent.

Aged just 21, the Norwegian is already a World Championship medallist while his World Cup season started in near-perfect fashion, winning seven of nine races prior to Christmas.

Charlotte Kalla

Charlotte Kalla left Sochi with three medals but with two silvers coming from the individual events, there’s a sense of determination and wanting to get higher up the podium.

Gold medallist in the 4x5km relay to add to her 10km freestyle title from Vancouver 2010, the 30-year-old represents one of Sweden’s best hopes for glory in PyeongChang having already accrued 12 medals at World Championship level.

Sportsbeat 2018

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