Cross-country skiing is one of the original Winter Olympic sports, having been first contested at the inaugural Winter Games in 1924.
The only cross-country events held at those Games in Chamonix were the men's 50km and 18km competitions, but there will be 12 events in the competition in Beijing, with 36 medals to be won.
Top Olympic cross-country skiers at Beijing 2022
Norway has been a consistent force in cross-country skiing at the Games ever since the competition began in 1924, and given the performance of Norwegian skiers at the 2021 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, that trend looks set to continue in Beijing.
Triple Olympic gold medalist Johannes Høsflot Klæbo (NOR) followed up his wins in the sprint, 4x10km relay and team sprint at PyeongChang 2018 by winning gold in all three events at the 2019 World Championships and the 2021 World Championships. Klæbo holds multiple records in the sport, including being the youngest male in history to win the FIS Cross-Country World Cup, the Tour de Ski, a World Championship event, and an Olympic event.
Simen Hegstad Krüger (NOR), who won gold alongside Klaebo in PyeongChang as a member of Norway's 4x10km relay team (not to mention a gold in the 30km skiathlon and silver in the 15km freestyle), is another star of the cross-country circuit to look out for in Beijing. Krüger picked up two silvers (in the 15km freestyle and 30km skiathlon) at the 2021 World Championships.
Of course, that's not to say that Norwegian athletes will sweep the podium in the men's competition at the Winter Games. Four-time Olympic gold medalist and 2018 15km freestyle champion Dario Cologna (SUI) is a proven winner at the Games, but the veteran will likely need to pull out all the stops to retain his title in Beijing.
Norway faced some stiff competition from their neighbours Sweden in the women's competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics (though they still came out on top with seven medals to Sweden's six). Charlotte Kalla (SWE) won four medals in PyeongChang (including gold in the 15 km skiathlon), taking her tally to nine medals - making her Sweden's most successful female cross-country skier of all time. Kalla, alongside her compatriot Jonna Sundling (SWE) (who won the sprint and team sprint events at the 2021 World Championships), should be considered favourites to reach the podium in Bejing.
They won't have to battle with the most successful Winter Olympian of all time after Marit Bjørgen's (NOR) retired following the 2018 Winter Games - where she won five medals, taking her Olympic total to a record 15 - but there will be no shortage of challengers from Norway. Chief among them is three-time Olympic medalist Therese Johaug (NOR), who won gold in the 15 km skiathlon, 10 km freestyle, 4 x 5 km relay and 30 km mass start at the 2021 World Championships.
Norway will be tough to beat in the team sprint and team relay competitions on both the men's and women's side after winning three of the events at the World Championships (Sweden won the women's team sprint) - the same three events Norwegian athletes won in PyeongChang (once again, with the exception of the women's team sprint, which was won by Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins of the USA). Diggins, for her part, is in inspiring form after winning the 2020/21 FIS Cross-Country World Cup overall and distance titles.
In short, Norway is a powerhouse in cross-country skiing - don't expect that to change in Beijing.
Olympic cross-country skiing schedule at Beijing 2022
The cross-country skiing competition will take place from 5 February - 20 February 2022.
Olympic cross-country skiing venue at Beijing 2022
The cross-country skiing competition will take place at the National Cross-Country Centre in the Zhangjiakou cluster, where competitions in snowboarding, freestyle skiing, ski jumping, Nordic combined and biathlon will also take place.
Following the Games, the venue will be used as a tourist resort.
Olympic cross-country skiing competition format at Beijing 2022
The cross-country skiing competition at Beijing 2022 will feature 12 events:
15 km Classic
15 km + 15 km Skiathlon
Team Sprint Classic
4x10 km Relay
50 km Mass Start Free
10 km Classic
7.5 km + 7.5 km Skiathlon
Team Sprint Classic
4x5 km Relay
30 km Mass Start Free
There are 148 quota spots available for both men and women to qualify to compete in cross-country skiing at Beijing 2022, meaning there will be 296 athletes in total.
There are two different skiing techniques that are used for cross-country skiing: the freestyle technique (side-to-side skiing) and the classic technique (striding forward). The International Ski Federation designates which technique will be used for each event (it can vary with each edition of the Winter Games), while both techniques must be used during the relay.
Olympic cross-country skiing history
Cross country skiing is the oldest type of skiing and has its origins in Norway. In fact, the word “ski” is a Norwegian word that comes from the Old Norse word “skid”, a split length of wood. This form of skiing came from a need to travel over snow-covered terrain to chase game, gather firewood, and maintain social contact between isolated communities.
By the end of the 19th century, cross-country skiing had developed into a sport. The famous Holmenkollen ski festival started in 1892, with the focus initially on the Nordic combined event. However, in 1901, a separate cross country race was added to the festival.
Cross-country skiing has been a part of the Winter Olympic programme for every Games, beginning with the men's 50km and 18km competitions in 1924. A women's event (the 10 km) was first contested at the 1952 Oslo Winter Olympics, and over the years the programme has grown to the point that there are now 12 events (six each for men and women) at the Games.
Norway, as the home of cross-country skiing, fittingly sits atop of the Winter Olympic medal table with 121 medals (47 golds), far outpacing their nearest challengers Sweden (80 medals). The two most successful Olympians in the sport are also Norwegian - Bjørn Dæhlie has 12 medals, while Marit Bjørgen, with 15 medals, is the most decorated Winter Olympian in history.