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Nordic Combined 101: Rules

Jan 26, 2008; Seefeld, Austria: A general feature of Nordic combined skiing during FIS World Cup.
Jan 26, 2008; Seefeld, Austria: A general feature of Nordic combined skiing during FIS World Cup.

There are three nordic combined events on the 2022 Olympic program, all of which are men's competitions:

  • Individual Normal Hill
  • Individual Large Hill
  • Team

All three events consist of a ski jumping competition and a cross-country skiing competition. Each of the three events is contested on a single day, with ski jumping always preceding cross-country skiing.

Participants

Nordic combined is the only Olympic sport (summer or winter) that features only men’s events.

A maximum of 55 athletes will compete in Beijing.

Each national organizing committee (NOC) can send a maximum of five men to the Games.

During the qualification period, athletes qualify quota spots for their country. Each nation can then determine how to fill those quota spots. Athletes are eligible for selection by their NOC as long as they have at least one World Cup or Grand Prix point from their career, or at least one Continental Cup point from the qualification period.

Competition Format

All three nordic combined events consist of a ski jumping competition and a cross-country skiing competition. Here is a closer look at the format of each event. 

Individual Normal Hill:

  • Overview: One scored jump on the normal hill (K98) followed by a 10km cross-country competition
  • Start Order for Ski Jumping: The start order is determined by world rankings at the time of the Games (the highest ranked athlete competes last). Each competitor takes one jump.
  • Start Order for Cross-Country: The 10km is a pursuit race, so ski jumping scores are converted to time (using the Gundersen conversion method, in which one point equals four seconds). The skiers start in order of their results from the ski jumping portion of the competition, with the winner of the ski jumping competition beginning first. The first athlete to cross the finish line is the winner of the competition.
  • Time: At the Pyeongchang test event, the fastest 10km time was just under 25 minutes and most competitors finished within 29 minutes.

Individual Large Hill:

  • Overview: One scored jump on the large hill (K125) followed by a 10km cross-country competition
  • Start Order for Ski Jumping: The start order is determined by world rankings at the time of the Games (the highest ranked athlete competes last). Each competitor takes one jump.
  • Start Order for Cross-Country: The 10km is a pursuit race, so ski jumping scores are converted to time (using the Gundersen conversion method, in which one point equals four seconds). The skiers start in order of their results from the ski jumping portion of the competition, with the winner of the ski jumping competition beginning first. The first athlete to cross the finish line is the winner of the competition.
  • Time: At the Pyeongchang test event, the fastest 10km time was just under 25 minutes and most competitors finished within 29 minutes.

Team Event:

  • Overview: Each team consists of four jumpers who will each take one jump from the large hill (K125) in the first session of the competition. The same skiers who participate in the jumping must compete in the 4x5km relay, which is held on the same day.
  • Start Order for Ski Jumping: For the team event, the start order for ski jumping is determined by reversing the country’s placement in the Nation’s Cup standings. Because there are four athletes per team, the competition cycles through each nation four times and a team’s number determines where within that cycle it will jump. Each of the four members of a team jumps once and it is up to each team to determine in what order its jumpers will jump.
  • Start Order for Cross-Country: The top-ranked team (combined score) from the jumping portion begins the relay first, with the remaining teams starting afterwards according to their jumping results (using the Gundersen conversion method, in which three points equals four seconds).
  • Timing: The fastest time in the 4x5km team relay race is typically between 45 and 52 minutes.

Gundersen Conversion Method

Because ski jumping and cross-country skiing are evaluated on two different scales (points versus time), the Gundersen time-point conversion table is used to score nordic combined events. Named for its creator, Gunder Gundersen of Norway, the Gundersen Method allows spectators to easily follow the progress of the nordic combined event during the respective cross-country races. In other words, whoever is in front is the leader of the competition. Prior to the 1988 Calgary Games, it often took hours to determine who had the most points in a nordic combined event since skiers left the starting gate according to a draw and not the results of the ski jumping phase. Under the Gundersen Method, however, the first skier to cross the finish line is the winner.

Here’s a summary of the jumping points to time conversion for the three events:

Individual Normal Hill: 1 point = 4 seconds
Individual Large Hill: 1 point = 4 seconds
Team: 1 point = 1.33 seconds*

*This is rounded accordingly, with .5 and below rounded down to the nearest second. For example, if a team is one point behind after the jumping round, that team starts one second later than the leader (1.33 seconds * 1 point = 1.33 seconds, rounded down to 1 second). However, if a team is two points behind following the jumping round, that team will start three seconds behind the leader (1.33 seconds * 2 points = 2.66 seconds, rounded up to 3 seconds).

Ski Jumping - Judging and Scoring

The overall ski jumping result is derived from distance jumped, style points achieved, in addition to gate and wind compensation points. 

Although both the distance and style portions of jumping are scored on a 60-point scale, the distance component ends up being slightly more important because it is possible to score more than 60 points for jumping past the K point, something most of the top jumpers will achieve.

Distance Points:

  • Distance points are related to the event’s respective K Point. A jump to the K Point is worth 60 points and each meter over or under that distance is reflected by an increase or decrease of a set number of points – 2.0 for the normal hill and 1.8 for the large hill.
  • For example, if an athlete jumps 100 meters on a hill with a K Point of 98 meters, he would receive all 60 base points, plus four additional distance points (2.0 meter value x 2.0 additional meters past the K point = 4.0), for a total of 64 distance points. 

Style Points:

  • Five judges evaluate style on a scale of 0 to 20. The highest and lowest scores are eliminated; thus, a competitor can only earn up to 60 style points per jump. Judges evaluate style from the end of the take off to the passing of the "fall line" in the outrun. Here is what judges are looking for during each segment of the jump. 

During the flight, the jumper must: 

  • Make a bold and aggressive move at takeoff
  • Actively utilize air pressure
  • Combine the body and skis to build an entire flying system
  • Achieve a stable body position 
  • Have symmetrically positioned left and right sides 
  • Stretch legs fully 

During the landing, the jumper must: 

  • Come from a stable flight position
  • Raise head and upper body
  • Moves arms forwards/upwards
  • Turn skis into a parallel position- just before the touching ground 
  • Obtain a smooth landing by using muscle power to reduce the impact
  • Increase the distance between the legs by using the telemark position
  • Apply pressure equally to both legs

During the outrun, the jumper must: 

  • Remain in this telemark position for approximately 10 to 15 meters
  • Raise the upper body 
  • Achieve a stable and relaxed body position
  • Turn the skis parallel or move them into a snowplow position to slow down 

Flight, landing and outrun should convey an aesthetic overall impression. Judges submit point deductions for each of the three segments of the jump (so deductions for the flight are separate from those made to the outrun score). For full judging criteria, please consult the FIS rule book. 

Wind Points:

  • Athletes can be awarded or subtracted additional points based on the wind factor. Depending on the strength and direction of the wind, athletes will either receive more points or have points deducted from their total score.
  • For jumps made with a negative tangential wind direction (less favorable wind conditions) wind compensation points are added. Less favorable wind conditions — often a tailwind (wind from behind) — push athletes down to the ground faster.
  • For jumps made with positive tangential wind direction (more favorable wind conditions) wind compensation points are subtracted. More favorable wind conditions — often a headwind (wind in their faces) — give athletes more lift.
  • To determine the wind points, the wind average (a) is multiplied with a venue-specific wind factor (k). The wind factor (k) is a fixed number that is determined the day of the event by taking into account the hill size, the average wind, and the wind’s effect on jumping distance that day. The wind factor (k) will be the same number for every athlete that day of competition, while the wind average (a) will be specific for every jump.

Gate Points:

  • Athletes can have points added/deducted based on their starting gate. The technical jury will set a starting gate at the beginning of the competition, but can also change the starting gate during competition due to safety, wind change, or consideration of athlete’s skill level. Once a starting gate has been set, points will be reduced for a higher starting gate, while points will be added for a lower starting gate.
  • In addition to the technical jury, coaches can also change the gate before an athlete’s turn. The decision to change the gate must be announced at least 25 seconds before the athlete’s turn. Coaches are allowed to change the starting gate a maximum of three positions. The ski jumper will only be awarded the additional points for a lower gate, if he reaches 95% of the K point. The gate factor has added a strategic element to the event, as athletes can earn more points by lowering their gate.
  • To determine the gate points, the distance between the original starting gate and the new starting gate (d) is multiplied by the gate factor (f). Starting gate positions are typically separated by 60-70cm. The gate factor (points per meter) is calculated individually for each hill, as they are all constructed differently. The gate factor (f) determines how many meters are jumped per one additional or less meter on the inrun. Typically, one additional meter of inrun on a large hill translates to about five more meters of flight.

Cross-Country Skiing - Event Protocol

The Start: At the Olympics, all cross-country skiing portions of the nordic combined events start with a pursuit start, sometimes referred to as the staggered start. The start positions and time deficits of an individual or team at the beginning of the cross-country portion are dictated by that individual or team’s score in the preceding ski jumping portion of the event, as laid out in the above chart. 

Technique: In Olympic cross-country skiing events, two styles of skiing are used: classical and freestyle. Nordic combined rules do not specify which type of skiing should be used, but since freestyle is significantly faster, all competitors use that style.

Relay Exchange (Team Event): In the cross-country portion of the team event, exchanges between two team members involve a tap of the hand on any part of the body. 

Equipment Changes: Poles may be changed during any competition. One or both skis may be changed if the ski(s) or the binding(s) is broken or damaged. Equipment failure must be proven to the race jury after the competition. Waxing, scraping, or cleaning of the skis during competition is forbidden. 

The Finish: Electronic timing is used at the Olympics. The clock stops whenever the competitor breaks the light or photo barrier (suspended 10 inches above the snow) at the finish. In the case of a photo finish, skiers will be ranked according to the order that their front foot crosses the finish line, whether they lean, stretch or fall across the finish line.

Awards

One gold, one silver and one bronze medal will be awarded to the top three finishers in the individual events and to the members of the top three teams, respectively. Diplomas also will be awarded to the first- through eighth-place finishers in the individual and team events.