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The Nordic Basics

Nordic Ski World Championships Seefeld 2019

The Nordic Basics

Everything you need to know about the Nordic World Ski Championships in Seefeld

Text: Simon Leitner, Header-Bild: Stefan Voitl

The Nordic World Ski Championships in Seefeld are imminent. Sport.tirol has compiled and summarised the most important facts and figures about the World Championships, its disciplines and individual competitions.

After the Olympic Winter Games in 1964 and 1976, the Nordic Ski World Championships in 1985 and the Youth Olympic Games in 2012, the Seefeld region is once again the focal point of the Nordic sports world.  Because the 52nd edition of the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships are taking place in the Tirolean municipality from 19th February to 3rd March Around700 athletes from around 60 nations will compete for coveted medals in three disciplines and 22 competitions at venues in Seefeld and Innsbruck.

The Disciplines

Nordic disciplines include ski jumping, cross-country skiing and the Nordic combined. All the sports mentioned have their origins in Scandinavia - hence the word "Nordic”.

© Flo Taibon Photography (2), Stefan Voitl

Ski Jumping

The name says it all when it comes to ski jumping, the most well-known Nordic discipline: It's about jumping off a ski jump with special skis and achieving the greatest distance possible– the further you jump, the more points you get.

The so-called K-Point(or critical point) plays an important role here. It is the point on a ski jumping hill where the slope flattens out again. If an athlete jumps up to this section, he/she receives a certain number of points. For every metre beyond this mark, the jumper receives additional points. If the jumper does not reach the K-Point, however, deductions are made.

In addition to the jumped distance, style points are also awarded by five judges for the jump, flight, landing, and outrun. Each jury member may award a maximum of 20 points per jump, with the highest and lowest points being eliminated. There are also some wind adjustments factored in, which are measured at five points during the jump: depending on the strength and direction of the wind, athletes either receive or are deducted points.

The overall score is therefore determined by the length of the jump, the jumper’s style and wind adjusted distance points. As a rule, there are two rounds, with the second round jumping in reverse order - i.e. the best of the first round jumps last.

© Flo Taibon Photography

Competitions and characteristics

There are various competitions in ski jumping, although they are generally differentiated by the size of the jump. Since 2004, the calculation point for determining the size of a ski jump was replaced with the so-called hill size (HS in brief). This is the shortest connection between take-off and the point on the jump slope where the gradient is still 32 degrees.

Depending on the hill size, categories are defined as Small Hill (HS 20-49 metres), Medium Hill (HS 50-84), Normal Hill (HS 85-109), Large Hill (HS 110-184) and Flying Hill (over HS 185). Women's jumping competitions are generally carried out on normal jumps, while men's jumps are mostly on large jumps. Competitions on flying hills are referred to as ski flying, while small and medium jumps are mainly used in training, or for youth competitions.

At the upcoming World Championships in Seefeld, the women will compete for medals on the normal hill, while men compete on the normal and large hill. There is also a team competition for both women and men, in which four athletes from each nation compete in four different groups and the points of the individual jumpers are added together. The same applies to the mixed competition, with the difference that the teams consist of two female and two male athletes.

Jumping competitions at the World Championships:
Ladies, Normal Hill
Ladies Team Competition, Normal Hill
Men’s, Normal Hill
Men’s, Large Hill
Men’s Team Competition, Large Hill
Mixed Competition, Normal Hill

Daniela Iraschko is proud of the special features of ski jumping

Cross-Country Skiing

Cross-country skiing is, if you like, nothing more than running on snow with skis and poles. It is practised on specially prepared tracks, so-called cross-country ski trails, which can have a combination of flat passages, ascents and descents. The aim is to cover the given distance as quickly as possible.

There are different techniques in cross-country skiing. For a long time, only the so-called classic style was allowed, in which the skis are parallel and in fixed tracks. In 1985, at the last Nordic World Ski Championships in Seefeld, the skating style was firmly established as an alternative method.  With this variant, you are not in a fixed trail and push yourself laterally with your skis. It is not only faster, but also more demanding.

Most competitions are normally held as interval start races, i.e. the athletes do not go on the trail at the same time but one after the other, whereby the time required to complete the course is the decisive factor. However, there are also races with mass starts, in which all athletes start at the same time and in which the first runner who crosses the finish line is the winner.

© Stefan Voitl

Competitions and characteristics

Apart from style and starting mode, cross-country events are mainly distinguished by the length of the course, which is usually between ten and 50 kilometres.

An exception to this is the sprint, which only runs over a maximum distance of 1.6 kilometres and is also, to a certain extent, a special case. With this format, there is only one qualifying round, in which the athletes complete on the cross-country ski trail one after the other. The 30 fastest athletes reach the final rounds, where six skiers compete directly against each other in one heat. The two fastest runners and two best losers from each round advance to the next round, until the top six eventually compete in the final.

The skiathlon is also a special feature of cross-country skiing, because in this race one section is completed in classic style, the other in skating style - with athletes changing their skis half way through the race. 

In Seefeld, skating and classic competitions, sprints and skiathlons are held over different distances, although the distances for women are somewhat shorter than those for men. There will also be a relay race and a team sprint for both men and women.

In the relay race, which has a mass start, each team has four starters who complete one round each and then hand them over to the next colleague until all team members have completed the course. The team whose last starter crosses the finish line first wins.

In the team sprint, which also has a mass start, only two runners per team compete and each complete three laps, alternating after each lap. In contrast to the "usual" sprint, the times of the runners are taken and added together. Furthermore, there is no qualification and no quarter finals; you start directly with the semi-finals. The two fastest teams from both semi-finals go directly to the final; the remaining six places in the field are filled according to the times of the teams.

Cross-country competitions at the World Championships
Ladies, 30 km Skating
Ladies, 10 km Classic
Ladies, 4x5 km Relay
Ladies, 15 km Skiathlon
Ladies, 1.4 km Sprint Skating
Ladies, Team Sprint Classic
Men’s, 50 km Skating
Men’s, 15 km Classic
Men’s, 4x10 km Relay
Men’s, 30 km Skiathlon
Men’s, 1,6 km Sprint Skating
Men’s, Team Sprint Classic

Nordic Combined

The Nordic Combined is regarded as the supreme discipline in the Nordic sector. As the name suggests, it combines ski jumping and cross-country skiing: athletes must compete on the ski jump - although usually only one run - and on the cross-country ski trail. Nowadays the jump usually takes place before the cross-country competition, but there are also formats in reverse order.

The winner is determined by the so-called Gundersen method, a special start mode for the cross-country race in which the athletes have staggered start times, which was introduced in 1985. Judges use the ski jump results to award the first starting position in the pursuit cross-country race: depending on how big the difference in points was in ski jumping, the athletes can start the cross-country ski run seconds or even minutes after the leader. Thus, the first athlete across the tape at the end of the cross-country race wins. This is a lot more exciting for spectators than the original mode, where the winner was determined at the end of the race using a complicated calculation system.

© Flo Taibon Photography

© Stefan Voitl

Competitions and characteristics

Differences between the competitions are mainly due to the size of the hill and length of the cross-country trails.

At the World Championships in Seefeld, the Nordic Combined competitions will only be held for men. In addition to two individual competitions - each with ten kilometres of cross-country skiing, one with a jump on the normal hill and one with a jump on the large hill - there is also a team competition and a team sprint.

In the Nordic Combined team competition, four athletes per team compete, each of whom must first complete a jump on the normal hill. The team that scores the most points starts the relay race with a corresponding time advantage.

The team sprint consists of a team competition in ski jumping and a team sprint in cross-country skiing. Here too, the team of two athletes who collected the most points on the ski jump starts the cross-country race with a time advantage.

Nordic Combined competitions at the World Championships:
Individual 10 km, Normal Hill
Individual 10 km, Large Hill
Team Competition, 4x5 km, Normal Hill
Team Sprint, 2x7.5 km, Large Hill

Mario Seidl on the challenge of the Nordic Combined

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