Cross-Country Skiing appeared at the 1976 Paralympic Winter Games in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. Men and women used the classical technique in all Cross-Country distances until skating was introduced by athletes at the Innsbruck 1984 Paralympic Winter Games. Since then, Cross-Country Skiing events have been split into two separate races: classical and free technique. The new technique, however, was not officially used in a medal race until 1992 in Albertville, France.
Racers use two basic techniques in cross-country: classical and free technique. In cross-country skiing athletes are categorized as standing, sit-ski or visually impaired and compete against athletes with similar disabilities.
Paralympic cross-country skiers compete in the sprint event, men’s and women’s individual events over short, middle and long distances ranging from 2.5 km to 20 km and in the relay event. Each race has an interval start with skiers starting every 30 seconds.
The sprint competitions are held on a course of 800-1200m long. The sprint competition starts with a qualification round. The eight fastest competitors from each category will advance to the second round of the competition — the semi-finals, after which the four best skiers advance to the finals.
In the relay event, teams are made up of skiers from different categories but with the total percentage for each team being equal. This means that no time calculation is required and the first team across the finish line wins.
- Depending on functional disability, a competitor uses a sit-ski (chair-ski), a chair equipped with a pair of skis.
- A visually impaired athlete competes in the event with a guide.
- Made from fiberglass, classical skis are usually 25cm to 30cm taller than the height of a skier. They are light in weight. Free technique skis are about 10cm to 15 cm shorter for greater maneuverability.