Paralympic cross-country skiing

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Olena Iurkovska of Ukraine competing on cross-country sit-skis at the 2010 Winter Paralympics.

Paralympic cross-county skiing is an adaptation of cross-country skiing for athletes with a disability. Paralympic cross-country skiing is one of two Nordic skiing disciplines in the Winter Paralympic Games. It is governed by the International Paralympic Committee.


Paralympic cross-country skiing includes standing events, sitting events (for wheelchair users), and events for visually impaired athletes.

Paralympic cross-country skiing is divided into several categories. It is an adaptation of cross-country skiing, for people who are missing limbs, have amputations, are blind, or have any other physical disability, to continue their sport. This sport appeared at the 1976 Winter Games in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden, for the first time. Depending on the competitors’ functional disability, an athlete has the option of using a sit-ski. This is a chair with a pair of skis equipped to the bottom of it. Blind or visually impaired skiers follow a guide. Standing skiers are skiers with a locomotive disability and who are able to use the same equipment as able-bodied skiers.

Racers use two basic techniques in cross-country: classical, where the skis move parallel to each other through tracks in the snow, and free technique where skiers propel themselves in a manner similar to speed skating, pushing off with the edge of their skis. Free technique is slightly faster than classical – on average about 8% faster over an entire race distance[citation needed]. Sit-skiers are unable to alter their technique and use their arms and poles to propel themselves along the parallel tracks. Paralympic cross-country skiers compete in men’s and women’s individual events over short, middle and long distances ranging from 2.5 kilometres to 20 kilometres based on the type of event. Each race has an interval start with skiers starting every 30 seconds. The International Paralympic Committee utilizes a Nordic Percentage System in order to equalize the disability time handicap for skiers within each category. The percentage is applied to each skier’s final time and the skier with the lowest calculated time is the winner. In the relay event, each team member skis one leg of the race. 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.

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