Paralympic Winter Games
04 - 13 March

Sport Week: 10 things to know about Para Cross-Country Skiing

Get to know more about one of the two winter Para sports that have been part of the Paralympic programme since the first edition in 1976 07 Feb 2022 By Lucy Dominy | For the IPC

As one of the oldest forms of travelling on snow, cross-country skiing is also one of the most popular Paralympic winter sports. Find out more about this test of endurance and grit.

1. The world’s most decorated winter Paralympian is a Nordic skier. Norway’s Ragnhild Myklebust won 27 medals – including 22 golds – in cross-country skiing as well as the former Paralympic sport of ice sledge racing.

Ⓒ Getty Images

2. Para Cross-Country skiers with physical impairments compete in two categories – sitting and standing – while those with vision impairments compete in one category.

Ⓒ Adrian Stykowski/World Para Snow Sports 

3. Cross-Country skiing is an original Paralympic sport having featured at the first winter Paralympics in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, in 1976.

4.  Norway top the cross-country skiing medal standings at the Paralympic Winter Games with 78 golds, 48 silvers and 35 bronze. 

5. 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, 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.

6. Cross-country athletes compete in sprint, short distance, middle distance and long distance (ranging from 1km to 20km) or participate in a team relay using classical or free techniques.

7. The USA’s eight-time Paralympic wheelchair racing champion Tatyana McFadden and Paralympic cycling gold medallist Oksana Masters are also successful Paralympic Cross-Country skiers with seven medals between them.

Tatyana McFadden in action Ⓒ Getty Images

8. Canada’s Brian McKeever is the most decorated male Para Cross-Country skier with 16 medals.

Ⓒ Getty Images

9. Cross-Country skiing originated in Scandinavia and is the oldest form of skiing. The word 'ski' is Norwegian and comes from the Old Norse word for a split length of wood (skid). 

10. Athlete use sit-skis consisting of a seat on a frame mounted with bindings onto two Cross-Country skis. Paralympic-quality sit-skis are made of ultra-lightweight materials, and are custom made and fitted to each athlete.

Ⓒ Canadian Paralympic Committee