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Alpine combined now Olympic team event, cross-country skiing distances equalized

Alpine Skiing Combined

COURCHEVEL MERIBEL, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 6: Mikaela Shiffrin of Team United States in action during the FIS Alpine World Cup Championships Women’s Alpine Combined on February 6, 2023 in Courchevel Meribel, France. (Photo by Alexis Boichard/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

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Alpine skiing’s combined has been changed from an individual event to a team event at the Olympics following a new format being introduced by the International Ski Federation (FIS) this upcoming World Cup season.

Previously, the men’s and women’s combined had each skier taking one run each of a speed event (downhill or super-G) and slalom with their two times being combined to produce a final result.

Starting next season on the World Cup and at the Olympics in 2026, the combined will be a team event. The IOC said the Olympic version will be two athletes per gender from a nation with one skier taking a downhill run and the other taking the slalom run, which is also expected to be the World Cup format.

FIS announced last month that the team combined will be added to the World Cup at a men’s stop in Kitzbuehel, Austria, next January.

The individual combined, which had been on the Olympic program since 1988, will go a fourth consecutive season without being scheduled on the World Cup. FIS has not said whether the individual combined will still be contested at the world championships, which are next held in 2025.

Also Tuesday, the IOC said that in cross-country skiing, men and women will race the same distances at the Olympics for the first time in 2026.

Most recently, the Olympic cross-country skiing program had different distances for the interval start race (10km for women, 15km for men), skiathlon (15km for women, 30km for men), mass start (30km for women, 50km for men) and relay (4x5km for women, 4x10km for men).

The Olympic change to equalize distances comes one year after FIS did the same for the cross-country skiing World Cup.

“The main argument to vote for equal distances was that there should not be any question whether women were capable of racing the same distances as men, as they prove that they physically are capable of doing so already,” according to a FIS press release last year. “The main argument against was the time that women need to cover the same distance as men and the effective TV time.”

The change is most notable in the mass start event, which is considered the marathon of winter sports. Like the track and field equivalent, it is usually held on the final weekend of the Olympics. The men’s mass start has traditionally been longer than a marathon (31 miles), while the women’s mass start was 18.6 miles. Starting last World Cup season, the men and women both race 31 miles (or 50km).

Biathlon and short- and long-track speed skating also have shorter distances for women than men in some events on the Olympic program (in biathlon’s case, all events). Nordic combined is the lone Olympic sport without female representation.

The IOC also announced that the Olympic team events for Nordic combined and men’s ski jumping will be reduced from four athletes per nation to two athletes per nation to accommodate reductions in athlete quotas. The Nordic combined team event will change its cross-country skiing format from 4x5km to 2x7.5km (where the skiers combined for five 1.5km legs).

Nordic combined will have fewer athletes in 2026 as it fights to stay on the Olympic program. The IOC said last year that it “had by far the lowest audience numbers” of the 2022 Winter Games. Ski jumping will have fewer men and more women than in 2022 to create gender balance in athlete numbers, adding a women’s large hill event.

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