What is a Skiathlon?

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Quick Answer

A skiathlon is an official sporting event held during the Winter Olympic Games in which athletes compete in both classic style cross-country skiing and freestyle (also known as skating) skiing as a single event. The sport originates from the Norwegian military training camps in the early 1900s.

Today, the skiathlon event consists of two 15km legs for men and two 7.5km legs for women. The skiathlon is one of the most complicated Nordic-skiing disciplines, where the cross-country race requires classic and freestyle techniques. The cross-country skiing interval is a race with combined starts, and for the second leg, it is the best three final ranks in ski jumping.

History of the Skiathlon

Both cross-country skiing and ski jumping were first included as Winter Olympic games in 1924. Sometime after that, the skiathlon was born, although it went by another name. It was formerly known as "pursuit," but the ski leg of the Nordic-combined race went by the same name, so it was changed in 2011 to avoid confusion.

The last Olympic skiathlon event took place in South Korea in 2018. The FIS Nordic World Ski Championships also include the skiathlon as an official event, and the last FIS competition was held in February 2021.

Classic Vs. Freestyle

The cross-country portion of the skiathlon requires two techniques: a classic style of skiing is required for propelling forward and a freestyle technique for increased traction.

  • Classic style – this usually occurs in prepared snow, which has two parallel tracks. Skiers slide one leg forward while the other remains stationary. The stationary leg is then moved forward, and the other remains stationary. These leg movements cause the skier to glide forwards.
Classic technique
  • Freestyle – this technique is also known as the "skate style" as the movements resemble a person on skates or ice skates. The skis move in an outward motion, with the tips of the skis pointing outwards. This movement helps create more traction for the skier to climb hills.
Freestyle technique

Final Words

The skiathlon is one of the most complicated of the Nordic-skiing disciplines. Speed, power, explosiveness, technique, efficiency, endurance, rhythm, pacing, versatility, experience, as well as good physical and mental formation are required for the Nordic skiathlon. From cross-country skiing (classic and skating), the skiathlon transitions to ski jumping, resulting in an exciting sport to participate in or watch.