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Elite-Level Nordic Combined Competition Comes to the Wasatch Back This Weekend

FIS Nordic Combined Continental Cup

The first major international competition to come to the Wasatch back since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic kicks off this weekend. Continental-Cup level nordic combined events will be hosted at the Utah Olympic Park and Soldier Hollow venues.

Elite-level competition will return to the Wasatch Back this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday as nordic combined events will be held at 2002 Olympic venues of Soldier Hollow and the Utah Olympic Park ski jumps.

USA Nordic Executive Director Bill Demong explains that nordic combined is actually one of the original Olympic disciplines from the 1924 Games in Chamonix, France, and can trace its roots back to Scandinavian communities in the 1800s as a way to test their skills on snow.  

Demong says the contemporary version of nordic combined is made up of one jump and a 10 kilometer cross-country race, first to the finish wins.

“In modern day nordic combined, these athletes are high specialized and they actually take just one jump on the big nordic jumps you see when you drive into Kimball Junction, and the winner of the jumping gets a head start in the race, but whoever crosses the finish line of the 10 kilometer cross-country race wins the overall event,” Demong says.

This weekend’s competitions are part of what’s called the ‘Continental Cup’ in the skiing world. Think of it like minor league baseball or the NBA’s D-League where the fastest skiers get invited to compete on the World Cup throughout the year.

Racers score points throughout the season and coveted World Cup start spots for the next year are awarded to overall winners at the end of the winter.

The Wasatch Back has held Continental Cup competitions in some form for the last 20 years.

Demong says the Continental Cup also provides valuable exposure to high level competition for promising young athletes who might be racing World Cups themselves a few years down the road. 

“The continental cup is not only the gateway to the World Cup, but it’s really a development battleground where younger athletes can get their first experience,” he explains. “That’s one of the key reasons we like to keep this event going here in the U.S. is it gives us additional spots for our young athletes from Park City and Steamboat Springs and all across the U.S. to come here and be exposed to the event as well as they’re trying to make that leap to the national team to compete for their first time and to do it with the international crowd here. It’s that last step before you make the big league.”

Health and safety protocols for the event are strict and adhere to all state and local health guidelines. Teams have been tested for COVID-19 prior to arriving and were tested again on arrival in order to be let inside the competition bubble. Teams are also isolated at hotels and have meals delivered to them.

Another reminder that we are still in the middle of a global pandemic is the weekend’s competitions will be free of spectators, at least the in-person kind.

Demong says that although fans won’t be able to cheer the athletes on in person this year, a live stream of the events will be offered on USA Nordic’s Facebook page and website to enjoy from the comfort of home.

“I want to tell everybody, as much as we love to have you out there an we hope to see you in the future, this year we are going to go without spectators, but instead we will be streaming the event on USA Nordic TV, which can be found on our Facebook Page, as well as our website,” says Demong. “We should be providing a great, safe way to watch this as these young athletes compete for their world cup berths right at home or wherever you may be this weekend.”

In addition to American and Canadian competitors, athletes from the winter sport powerhouse nations of Germany and Austria will also be on the start list, along with those from smaller countries like Latvia and Estonia.

Demong says travel exemptions were granted to international athletes through coordination with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

“We were able to work really well with the U.S. Olympic Committee to help provide some travel waivers to get those athletes here for this competition,” he says. “It’s been really nice to see all along the international community at the highest levels helping create avenues for athletes and for sport to continue so that we can be inspired during this pandemic.”

More information on this weekend’s competitions and the live stream can be found on USA Nordic’s Facebook page or by clicking here.

Sean Higgins covers all things Park City and is the Saturday Weekend Edition host at KPCW. Sean spent the first five years of his journalism career covering World Cup skiing for Ski Racing Media here in Utah and served as Senior Editor until January 2020. As Senior Editor, he managed the day-to-day news section of skiracing.com, as well as produced and hosted Ski Racing’s weekly podcast. During his tenure with Ski Racing Media, he was also a field reporter for NBC Sports, covering events in Europe.
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