At the Winter Olympics, there are three types of skiing events. Alpine skiing consists of traditional downhill events in which skiers compete. The newest discipline is freestyle skiing, which involves athletes flipping and spinning over moguls or in the halfpipe.
That leaves Nordic events, defined as those in which athletes’ heels are not attached to their skis. Cross-country skiing, which necessitates endurance, and ski jumping, a daredevil event that rewards aerodynamic form, courage, and a slight body, are the two main Nordic events.
So why not combine these two occurrences? That’s Nordic combined, as explained further in this article.
What Is the Nordic Combined?
Since 1924, the Nordic combined events have been held at the Winter Olympics. The first competition consisted of 18 kilometers of cross-country skiing, succeeded by ski jumping.
Skiers in the Nordic Combined event begin by taking two jumps and scoring points for style and distance. The following event is a 10-kilometer cross-country race.
Competitors begin based on their performance in ski jumping: the best ski jumper launches first, followed by the others in a staggered fashion. The first skier to pass the finish line wins.
In Nordic combined, three gold medals are awarded: one for an individual event on the smaller hill and another on the large ski-jumping hill. The third is for the team event, which consists of four athletes jumping and participating in a cross-country relay.
Interesting Facts About the Nordic Combined
The final sport in either the Winter or Summer Games is Nordic combined and is still restricted to men only. However, women are beginning to partake in Nordic combined and are predicted to be included in the Olympics as soon as 2026.
Germany swept the gold medals in Pyeongchang in 2018, but Norway’s Jarl Magnus Riiber is the heavy favorite in Beijing.
The US peaked briefly at the 2010 Vancouver Games, gaining four Nordic combined medals — the event’s only ones. In 2018, no American finished higher than 18th in the individual event.
The latest Olympic program includes three nordic combined disciplines, all men’s competitions. The following are the specifics of each Nordic Combined event:
- Individual Normal Hill: One scored normal hill ski jump (K98), followed by a ten-kilometer cross-country ski competition.
- Individual Large Hill: One scored large hill ski jump (K125), followed by a ten-kilometer cross-country ski competition.
- Team Event: Four jumpers from the same country compete in a team event, each taking one large hill jump (K125). The same four skiers then compete in the four-by-five-km cross country ski relay on the same day on a 20-km course.
The day begins with each competitor performing two ski jumps, with points awarded for style and distance. This competition is run similar to a regular Olympic Ski Jumping competition. Instead of receiving a medal for their winning jumps, the best ski jumper receives a leg up in the cross-country event afterward, with the next best jumper having to follow him and so on.
This staggered start based on a point conversion system that converts points straight from the leader to start times is known as a Gundersen start, after Norwegian Gunder Gunderson, one of the combined sport’s founders.
Ski Jumping Section Judging and Scoring
A ski jumping score is calculated by assigning distance points depending on the distance jumped and style points based on form and landing. Both components are scored on a 60-point scale, with more points awarded for the distance the nearer the ski jumper drops to the K point.
How Are Ski Jumping Style Points Calculated?
After a competitor jumps, five judges score them on a scale of 0 to 20, with the lowest and highest scores eliminated. The style section is worth a maximum of 60 points. A jumper is judged from when they leave the ramp or “take-off” until they pass the “fall-line” after landing.
The opening order for ski jumping is the same for both Nordic combined events. The order is determined by each athlete’s current world ranking, with the highest-ranked jumper jumping last.
The following event is a 10-kilometer cross-country race. Competitors begin based on their ski jumping performance: the best ski jumper takes off first, followed by the others, with the next best jumper taking off a couple of seconds after the last.
How Does the Gunderson Start Method Work?
Because cross-country skiing and ski jumping events are scored differently, the IOC has always had difficulty scoring the Nordic Combined event. A point system is used to determine a champion in ski jumping. Cross-country skiing is also a timed event.
The Gunderson Method allows athletes who excel at ski jumping to gain an advantage and determine a champion of the combined events after the end of the race. After the ski jumping portion, it is assigned by heading down the leaderboard and awarding a four-second head start for every point that separates every athlete.
For example, if a competitor joined the cross-country ski portion with 139 Jump Points and the next best jumper with 137 Jump Points, the first contender would be given an eight-second head start to compensate for the 2-point differential.
Following the staggered start, jumpers race around the 10-kilometer course, which includes hills and hairpin turns. The overall winner is the first skier to finish the course in the Cross-Country portion.
Nordic Combined takes place on the same track – or a portion of the same track – as Biathlon and Cross-Country Skiing. Athletes also use the Cross-Country skating technique for all races, similar to the style employed in Biathlon, another combined Winter Games event.
The top three finishers are awarded silver, gold, and bronze medals after the race. Furthermore, the Nordic combined event is the only Olympic sport (winter or summer) with only a male competition.
Why Isn’t There a Nordic Combined Olympic Event for Women?
Women’s Nordic Combined isn’t yet an Olympic sport, but the ISF is pushing to include it in future Winter Games. Women’s Ski Jumping was only recently added to the Winter Olympics, which means the sport could only develop as quickly as one of its two events.
The United States hosted its first-ever national championships for the women’s Nordic combined in October 2017. The first Nordic Combined Women’s World Cup event was held in Ramsau, Austria, three years later, in December 2020.