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The Paralympic Sport of Cross-Country Skiing

Cross-country skiing was introduced to the Paralympics at Örnsköldsvik in Sweden in 1976. Competition is open to both physically-impaired athletes and visually-impaired/blind athletes, with the latter competing with the assistance of a sighted guide.

The Competition

Cross-country competition consists of short distance, middle distance, and long distance races, ranging from 2.5-20 kilometers. Athletes compete in individual events or team relays, using classical or free techniques. Classical technique involves keeping the skis parallel on trails that have a pair of parallel tracks cut into the snow. Free technique uses a skating-style of movement on a flat wide track.

The Equipment

Sit-skis: Athletes with a physical impairment that keeps them from competing in a standing position compete using a sit-ski. Sit-skis have a specially-fitted chair over a single mono-ski, and includes belts, strapping, and a suspension device.

Skis: Classic skis are usually 25-30 centimeters taller than the skier and made of lightweight fiberglass. Free technique skis are about 10-15 centimeters shorter to allow for easier maneuvering. They are also nominally stiffer and have tips that curve less than classical technique skis. Both types of skis have a groove down the middle of the underside to facilitate skiing straight downhill.

For more information, visit www.paralympic.org/nordic-skiing. The Paralympic sport of cross-country skiing is governed by the IPC with coordination by the IPC Nordic Skiing Technical Committee, following the modified rules of the International Ski Federation (FIS).