How to watch cross-country skiing during the 2018 Winter Olympics

Q: What is cross-country skiing?A: Everyone recognizes traditional cross-country skiing when they see it. In the Olympics, the races are much faster, of course, and skiers use different techniques depending on the event.Classic skiing requires th...
Norway's cross-country skiing team trains Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, in advance of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics. Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters

 

Q: What is cross-country skiing?

A: Everyone recognizes traditional cross-country skiing when they see it. In the Olympics, the races are much faster, of course, and skiers use different techniques depending on the event.

Classic skiing requires the skis to remain parallel. Skiers can use both poles at the same time, or alternate poles. Classic courses are designed with machine-groomed tracks.

Using the skating technique, skiers push alternating skis away from one another at an angle; the motion resembles skating on ice. Skis are waxed from front to back, making them faster than classic skis.

- Skiathlon: Women ski a 7.5 km leg using classic style and another using skating style. Men ski 15 km legs.

- Sprint: Men and women can use classic or skating technique to ski very short distances.

- Freestyle: Women ski 10 km and men 15 km and can use either technique.

- Relay: In the women 4×5 km and men's 4x10km events, the first two skaters use the classic technique and the third and fourth use skating.

- Team sprint: Men and women can use either technique.

- Mass start: Using classic or skating technique, women ski 30 km and men 50km.

Cross-country skiing was on the original Olympic program in 1924. Women were first included in the 1952 Games.

Q: How many cross-country skiing events will be contested in Pyeongchang?

A: Six women's and six men's events, held at the Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre.

Q: Which countries are best at cross-country skiing?

A: Surprise - Norway has the most Winter Olympic medals in history. The top male and female skiers in Olympic history are Bjorn Daehlie (12 medals) and Marit Bjoergen (10), both from Norway.

The Norwegians, however, fell short of expectations four years ago in Sochi and blamed Knut Nystad, their chief wax technician. They'll try to rectify the shortfallings of 2014 in South Korea.

But other countries are catching up. Finland and Sweden are second and third, respectively, on the all-time medals list. Combine Russia and the Soviet Union and they jump to the top of the list. Italy and Germany field strong teams as well.

Q: Has the United States ever won an Olympic medal in cross-country?

A: Yes, once. Bill Koch won a silver medal in 1976 in Innsbruck, Austria.

Q: Who is competing for the United States in Pyeongchang?

A: Men: Erik Bjornsen, Patrick Caldwell, Simi Hamilton, Logan Hanneman, Reese Hanneman, Noah Hoffman, Tyler Kornfield, Andy Newell, Scott Patterson.

Women: Sadie Bjornsen, Rosie Brennan, Sophie Caldwell, Jessie Diggins, Rosie Frankowski, Anne Hart, Kaitlynn Miller, Caitlin Patterson, Kikkan Randall, Ida Sargent, Liz Stephen.

Diggins has a good chance of ending the U.S. women's medal drought. At the 2014 Games, Diggins finished eighth in skiathlon and ninth with the relay team. She's currently third in the overall World Cup rankings.

At the 2017 world championships, Diggins won silver in the individual sprint and bronze in team sprint with Sadie Bjornsen. At worlds in 2015, Diggins won silver in the 10 km freestyle. Diggins teamed with Randall in the team sprint at the 2013 world championships, the first Americans to do so. Diggins has a chance in several events, including the freestyle.

Bjornsen - who is currently in seventh in the World Cup rankings - was a teammate of Diggins's on the relay team in Sochi four years ago. Her best individual finish in World Cup competition was a bronze in the 5 km at Toblach, Italy, in 2017. She's a medal contender in the sprint.

Sophie Caldwell is third in the World Cup sprint rankings. She tied for the gold medal in the 1.3k freestyle sprint in late January in Seefeld, Austria.

The U.S. team keeps it all in the family: The Bjornsens are siblings, as are the Hannemans. The Caldwells are cousins.

Q: Who are some athletes to watch?

A: Marit Bjoergen hopes to add to her 10 Olympic medals, pass Daehlie and become the most decorated Olympian of all time.

Martin Johnsrud Sundby has won three World Cup season titles but hopes for his first Olympic gold in the skiathlon. He and Marcus Hellner of Sweden should top the field in the 15 km freestyle.

Sweden has won the past two golds in the men's relay but Norway hopes to end that streak.

Canadian Alex Harvey is the world champion in the 50 km mass start. Five miles longer than a marathon, it's one of the most grueling Olympic events. Two-time gold medalist Petter Northug - who stars in his own reality TV show - will try to take the title from Harvey.

Charlotte Kalla, Bjoergen and Heidi Weng are top contenders in the women's mass start, the final cross-country event of the Games.

Q: When is cross-country contested, and how can I watch it on TV?

A: Events begin on the first full day of the Games, Saturday, Feb. 10, and continue until the final day.

All events will air on NBC and NBCSN, but only three will be shown live. Here is a schedule of the finals, with television coverage in parentheses (all times Central). Races are also available by live-streaming at NBCOlympics.com or on the NBC Sports app.

TV Schedule

Feb. 10: Women's 7.5×7.5 km skiathlon, 1:15 a.m. (NBCSN, 1-5 a.m., live)

Feb. 11: Men's 15×15 km skiathlon, 12:15 a.m., (NBCSN, 4-8 a.m.; NBC, 2-5 p.m.)

Feb. 13: Women's sprint classic, 6:25 a.m., men's sprint classic, 6:34 a.m. (NBCSN, 4-6:10 a.m., 8:30-11:30 a.m.; NBC, 2-4 p.m.)

Feb. 15: Women's 10km freestyle, 12:30 a.m. (NBCSN, 4-6:10 a.m.; NBC, 2-4 p.m., 7-11:30 p.m.)

Feb. 16: Men's 15km freestyle, 12 a.m. (NBCSN, 10 p.m., live; Feb. 15 1:40 a.m., live; Feb 16; NBC, 2-4 p.m.)

Feb. 17: Women's 4x5km relay, 3:30 a.m. (NBCSN, 9:30 a.m-12:30 p.m.; NBC, 2-5 p.m.)

Feb. 18: Men's 4x10km relay, 12:15 a.m. (NBCSN, 12-4 p.m.; NBC, 6-11 p.m.)

Feb. 21: Women's team sprint, 4 a.m. (NBCSN, 9:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m., NBC, 7-10 p.m.); men's team sprint, 4:30 a.m. (NBCSN, 9:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; NBC, 2-4 p.m.)

Feb. 24: Men's 50km mass start, 11 p.m. (NBCSN, 11 p.m.-2 a.m., live; NBC, 2-5 p.m.)

Feb. 25: Women's 30km mass start, 12:15 a.m. (NBCSN, 1-3 a.m.; NBC, 2-5 p.m.)