What are the rules for Nordic combined? We promise it’s not super confusing

Of all the sports on display at the 2018 Winter Olympics, Nordic combined is one that features two separate disciplines. Athletes compete in both ski jumping and cross-country skiing, in individual and team contests. All events are scored using the Gundersen method, which was developed by a Nordic combined athlete fittingly named Gunder Gundersen. But what are the rules for Nordic combined? And what else should we know?

Interestingly, no female athlete has ever participated in Nordic combined at an Olympic Winter Games. (Though women’s ski jumping was finally added to the Winter Olympics in 2014.) Here’s why, according to the PyeongChang 2018 website:

"Since each athlete must carry out both ski jumping, which requires high technique and audacity, and cross-country skiing, which takes great physical strength, it is one of the toughest ski disciplines and offers only men’s competition and not one for women."

In the interest of sportsmanship, let’s sidestep that bit of gender discrimination for now.

The biggest rule for Nordic combined is that the ski jump happens first. In this event, athletes slide down a steep ramp before hurtling themselves into the air. The goal is to “fly” as far as you can — height doesn’t matter.

In the 2018 Winter Olympics, there are both “normal hill” and “large hill” options for the ski jump. Technical aspects like radius, angles, and record distance determine hill size. All team competitions take place on the large hill, while there are individual contests on both.

Besides distance, judges award style points for balance, optimal body position, landing, and more.

Wind factors or gate adjustments can also affect an athlete’s point total. A lower start gate, sometimes used to reduce takeoff speed for safety purposes, earns additional points. Meanwhile, a higher start gate and more favorable wind conditions can result in points deducted, according to NBC Sports.

The cross-country skiing portion of Nordic combined generally happens the same day as the ski jump.

The Gundersen method uses a conversion table to equate points from the ski jump with the finishing times of the cross-country skiing event. There’s a 10-kilometer cross-country race for individuals and a 4×5-kilometer relay on the team side. The winner of the ski jump starts first, with other athletes/teams following in a staggered manner based on their point totals.

The Nordic combined gold medal is awarded to whoever reaches the cross-country skiing finish line first.

It’s that simple! The Nordic combined competition gets underway on Sunday, February 11th. Will you be watching?

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