There are three kinds of skiing events at the Winter Olympics. Alpine skiing consists of the traditional events in which skiers race downhill. Freestyle skiing is the newest discipline, with athletes spinning and flipping in the halfpipe or over moguls.
That leaves the Nordic events, defined as ones in which athletes’ heels are not affixed to their skis. The two main Nordic events are quite different: cross-country skiing, which requires endurance, and ski jumping, the daredevil event that rewards courage, aerodynamic form and a slight body.
So why not take these two events and combine them? That’s Nordic combined.
Skiers start by taking two jumps, scoring points for distance and style. Next up is a 10-kilometer cross-country race. Competitors start based on their performance in ski jumping: The best ski jumper takes off first, then the others follow in staggered fashion. The first skier across the line wins.
Three gold medals are awarded in Nordic combined: one for an individual event on the large ski-jumping hill and another on the smaller hill. The third is for the team event in which four athletes jump, then participate in a cross-country relay.
Nordic combined is the last sport in either the Summer or Winter Games that is still for only men. But women are starting to participate in Nordic combined and are expected to be added to the Olympics, perhaps as soon as 2026.
Germany swept the gold medals at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, but Jarl Magnus Riiber of Norway is the heavy favorite in Beijing.
The United States had a brief heyday at the 2010 Vancouver Games, winning four Nordic combined medals — its only ones in the event’s history. No American placed higher than 18th in an individual event in 2018.