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All You Need to Know About Cross-Country

 1994 Golds
 How It Works
 U.S. Outlook
 Others to Watch
 Looking Back at Lillehammer
 Gold Medalists

Venue: The cross-country skiing events will be held at one of three courses that start and end at the grandstand in Hakuba. Fortunately for spectators, athletes will circle through the main stadium several times during some races.

1994 golds: Men: 10km (Bjorn Daehlie, Norway); 15km (Bjorn Daehlie, Norway); 30km ( Thomas Alsgaard, Norway); 50km (Vladimir Smirnov, Kazakhstan); 4x10km relay (Italy). Women: 5km (Lyubov Egorova, Russia); 10km (Lyubov Egorova, Russia); 15km (Manuela Di Centa, Italy); 30km (Manuela Di Centa, Italy); 4x5km relay (Russia).

How It Works: Cross-country skiing requires technique and physical endurance in order for skiers to complete long distances on rolling terrain.

Ten men's and women's cross-country skiing events are scheduled for the Nagano Games, all of which are classified as either classical or free competitions. In classical competition, the skis must remain parallel on flat terrain. For uphills, a diagonal stride is used with skis set apart. The free technique permits all stride varieties, and is therefore a faster and more strenuous event. "Skating" (pushing off diagonally from the inside edge of the weight-bearing ski), is the most common technique used in the free competitions.

In general, cross-country skis are lighter and more narrow than those used in Alpine events. The skis used in free technique competitions are shorter than those used in classical competitions, while the poles are longer.

The men's races consist of a 10, 15, 30 and 50 kilometer events, plus a 40km relay, while the women compete in 5, 10, 15 and 30 kilometer races, with a 20km relay. For individual races, skiers usually start at 30-second intervals, while competitors in the first leg of the relay races all start together. In the pursuit races, the results of the first event (men's 10km and women's 5km classical) determine the starting order for the second race (men's 15km and women's 10km free). The first skier to cross the finish line in the second race is the overall winner.

History: Despite the fact that cross-country skiing was used as a mode of transportation in northern Europe and the Scandinavian countries for thousands of years, it has only been in the past century that skiing has become a source of recreation and sport. Scandinavian immigrants introduced cross-country skiing to the United States, where it quickly became popular in northern New England and the upper Midwest. Its popularity continued to spread, and in 1904, the first official national championship was held in Ishpeming, Mich., which is now the home of the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame and Museum. A year later, the National Ski Association, or what is now known as the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association was formed. The International Ski Federation was formed in 1924 in time for the first Olympic Winter Games held at Chamonix, France. While women were competing in the Alpine events, they did not take part in cross-country until 1952. It wasn't until 1967 that 13-year-old Alison Owen became the first American female to participate in a national cross-country championship, when she competed in a junior boys' race.

DateEventTime (ET)
Feb. 8 Women's 15K classical 7 p.m. (Feb. 7)
Feb. 9 Men's 30K classical 7 p.m. (Feb. 8)
Feb. 10 Women's 5K classical 7 p.m. (Feb. 9)
Feb. 12 Men's 10km classical7 p.m. (Feb. 11)
Feb. 12 Women's 10km free 10 p.m. (Feb. 11)
Feb. 16 Women's 4x5K relay 8:15 p.m. (Feb. 15)
Feb. 18 Men's 4x10K relay 8:15 p.m. (Feb. 17)
Feb. 20 Women's 30K freestyle 7 p.m. (Feb. 19)
Feb. 22 Men's 50km free 7 p.m. (Feb. 21)

U.S. Outlook: As has been the case in past Winter Games, the Nordic skiing events are expected to be dominated by Norway, Russia, Italy and Sweden. The presence and appeal of Nordic skiing in Europe is so much greater than in the U.S., the American team will have their work cut out for them. Two-time Olympian Nina Kemppel, from Alaska, will be the best shot for the U.S. women's team, while John Bauer and Marcus Nash are the men's leaders.

Others to watch: Norway's Bjorn Daehlie, who made spectacular medal performances in Albertville and Lillehammer, is hoping to give it another run in Nagano. Daehlie holds the world championships in the 15km freestyle pursuit, the 10km classical and the men's relay. Mika Myllyla, of Finland, is the world champion 50km marathoner and as evidenced by his silver medal performance in the 15km pursuit and bronze in the 10km classic at the 1997 world championships, he is comfortable with short and long distances.

Gold Medalists:

 Men  Women

Men's 30 Kilometers (Classical)
Year Name, Country Time
1956 Veikko Hakulinen, Finland 1:44:06.0
1960 Sixten Jernberg, Sweden 1:51:03.9
1964 Eero Mantyranta, Finland 1:30:50.7
1968 Franco Nones, Italy 1:35:39.2
1972 Viaceslav Vedenine, USSR 1:36:31.2
1976 Sergei Savelyev, USSR 1:30:29.38
1980 Nikolai Simyatov, USSR 1:27:02.80
1984 Nikolai Simyatov, USSR 1:28:56.3
1988 Alexey Prokororov, USSR 1:24:26.3
1992 Vegard Ulvang, Norway 1:22:27.8
1994 Thomas Alsgaard, Norway 1:12:26.4

Men's 50 Kilometers (Freestyle)
Year Name, Country Time
1924 Thorleif Haug, Norway 3:44:32.0
1928 Per Erik Hedlund, Sweden 4:52:03.0
1932 Veli Saarinen, Finland 4:28:00.0
1936 Elis Wiklund, Sweden 3:30:11.0
1948 Nils Karlsson, Sweden 3:47:48.0
1952Veikko Hakulinen, Finland 3:33:33.0
1956 Sixten Jernberg, Sweden 2:50:27.0
1960 Kalevi Hamalainen, Finland 2:59:06.3
1964Sixten Jernberg, Sweden 2:43:52.6
1968 Olle Ellefsaeter, Norway 2:28:45.8
1972Paal Tyldrum, Norway 2:43:14.75
1976 Ivar Formo, Norway 2:37:30.50
1980Nikolai Simyatov, USSR 2:27:24.60
1984 Thomas Wassberg, Sweden 2:15:55.8
1988Gunde Svan, Sweden 2:04:30.9
1992 Bjorn Dahlie, Norway 2:03:41.5
1994Vladimir Smirnov, Kazakhstan 2:07:20.3

Men's 15 Kilometers (Freestyle)
Year Name, Country Time
1992 Bjorn Daehlie, Norway 1:05:37.9
1994 Bjorn Daehlie, Norway 1:00:08.8

Men's 4x10 Kilometer Relay
Year Name, Country Time
1936 Finland 2:41:33.0
1948 Sweden 2:32:80.0
1952 Finland 2:20:16.0
1956 USSR 2:15:30.0
1960 Finland 2:18:45.6
1964 Sweden 2:18:34.6
1968 Norway 2:08:33.5
1972 USSR 2:04:47.94
1976 Finland 2:07:59.72
1980 USSR 1:57:03.46
1984 Sweden 1:55:06.3
1988 Sweden 1:43:58.6
1992 Norway 1:39:26.0
1994 Italy 1:41:15.0

Women's 5 Kilometer (Classical)
Year Name, Country Time
1964 Klaudia Boyarskikh, USSR 17:50.5
1968 Toini Gustafsson, Sweden 16:45.2
1972 Galina Kulakova, USSR 17:00.50
1976 Helena Takalo, Finland 15:48.69
1980 Raisa Smetanina, USSR 15:06.92
1984 Marja-Liisa Hamalainen, Finland 17:04.0
1988 Marjo Matikainen, Finland 15:04.0
1992 Marjut Lukkarinen, Finland 14:13.8
1994 Lyubova Egorova, Russia 14:08.8

Women's 10 Kilometers (Classical)
Year Name, Country Time
1952 Lydia Widemen, Finland 634.4
1956 Lyubov Kosyryeva, USSR 38:11.0
1960 Maria Gusakova, USSR 39:46.6
1964 Klaudia Boyarskikh, USSR 40:24.3
1968 Toini Gustafsson, Sweden 35:46.5
1972 Galina Kulakova, USSR 34:17.8
1976 Raisa Smetanina, USSR 30:13.41
1980 Barbara Petzold, East Germany 30:31.54
1984 Marja-Lissa Hamalainen, Finland 31:44.2
1988 Vida Ventsene, USSR 30:08.3

Women's 15 Kilometers (Classical)
Year Name, Country Time
1992 Lyubov Egorova, Unified Team 42:20.8
1994 Manuela Di Centa, Italy 39:44.5

Women's 20 Kilometers (Freestyle)
Year Name, Country Time
1984 Marja-Liisa Hamalainen, Finland 1:01:45.0
1988 Tamara Tikhonova, USSR 55:53.6

Women's 30 Kilometers (Freestyle)
Year Name, Country Time
1992 Stefania Belmondo, Italy 1:22:30.1
1994 Manuela Di Centa, Italy 1:25:41.6

Women's 10 Kilometers Freestyle Pursuit
Year Name, Country Time
1992 Lyubov Egorova, Unified Team 40:07.7
1996 Lyubov Egorova, Russia 41:38.1

Women's 4x5-Kilometer Relay
Year Name, Country Time
1956 Finland 1:09:01.0
1960 Sweden 1:04:21.4
1964 USSR 59:20.0
1968 Norway 57:30.0
1972 USSR 48:46.15
1976 USSR 1:07:49.75
1980 East Germany 1:01:45.0
1984 Norway 1:06:49.7
1988 USSR 59:51.1
1992 Unified Team 59:34.8
1994 Russia 57:12.5
Note: 10 km (classical) changed to 15 km (classical) in 1992; 20 kim (freestyle) changed to 30 km (freestyle).

Looking Back at Lillehammer: Before an ecstatic home crowd, the Norwegian team earned gold medals in the first three events, as Bjorn Daehlie won the men's 10km classical and the 15km freestyle, and countryman Thomas Alsgaard gave a surprise gold medal performance in the men's 30km freestyle. Norway came within .4 of a second to winning a relay gold, but Daehlie was edged out by Italy's Silvio Fauner. Kazakhstan won its first ever Olympic medal when Vladimir Smirnov beat Daehlie in the 50km for the gold medal.

In the women's events, Russia's Lyubov Egorova won gold in the 5km sprint, the 10km pursuit and the relay, as well as earning a silver in the 15km event. Her magnificent performances were somewhat overshadowed by Italy's Manuela Di Centa, whose five medals earned her the honor of being the most decorated 1994 Winter Olympian. Di Centa took golds in the 15km and 30 km events, silvers in the 5km and 10km pursuit and a bronze in relay.

Trivia: 1. How many medals has the United States won in cross-country skiing?
2. How long is the longest cross-country race?
3. When did cross-country events debut in the Winter Olympics?

© Copyright 1998

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