Oksana Masters warms up for the Women's 5 km Sitting Classic at the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on March 17, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.

Used over the centuries as a form of transportation in the snow-covered countries of northern Europe, Nordic skis have come a long way, especially in the world of Para Nordic skiing. Today, athletes using the latest technology compete in the sport at the highest levels, including at the Paralympic Winter Games — where the Nordic skiing competition consists of both cross-country skiing and biathlon.

Cross-country skiing has been part of every Paralympic Winter Games since the first one in 1976 in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. Biathlon was added in 1988 in Innsbruck, Austria. In both disciplines, there are separate races for sitting, standing and visually impaired skiers.

Over the years Norway and Finland had led the way in cross-country skiing, with Norway claiming the most gold medals (78) while Finland has a slight lead in total medals (163 to Norway’s 161). Russia is third on both lists (144 and 52) but tops all countries when it comes to biathlon with 24 gold medals and 66 total medals.

Team USA hasn’t traditionally been among the sport’s powers, but that could be changing. In 2018, Americans won four cross-country gold medals, tying Canada for the lead, while taking home nine total medals. Team USA added two more gold medals and seven total medals in biathlon. Only Ukraine and Germany had more gold medals, and only Ukraine more total medals.

The stars who won so many of those medals are mostly back, including three of the four gold medalists: Dan Cnossen, Kendall Gretsch and Oksana Masters. The Americans are also coming off a strong performance at the world championships in January, where they won 16 medals, six of them gold, across the two disciplines.

In Beijing, Nordic skiers will compete for medals in 38 events — 18 for men, 18 for women and two in mixed events. Competition in biathlon and cross-country skiing will take place at the National Cross-Country Centre in the Zhangjiakou venue cluster 110 miles northwest of Beijing.

Updated on February 13, 2022. For more information, contact the sport press officer here.

Less than two months before the Paralympics begin on March 4, the top Nordic skiers were competing for world titles. The World Para Snow Sports Championships held Jan. 12-23 in Lillehammer, Norway, marked the first time the world championships in all three sports were held together. The historic event was supposed to be held in February 2021 but was postponed one year due to the pandemic.

There’s something about dual-sport athletes and Nordic skiing. Four Beijing hopefuls also competed for Team USA in the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. Kendall Gretsch (paratriathlon) and Oksana Masters (cycling) each won gold medals in Tokyo. That added another medal to Masters’s impressive resume, as she won a bronze medal in 2012 as a rower. In addition, Aaron Pike and Dani Aravich competed in track and field in Tokyo before strapping on the skis and aiming for Beijing.

Jake Adicoff (Sun Valley, Idaho): Adicoff retired from skiing in 2018, satisfied with a career that saw him compete in two Paralympic Winter Games and earn a silver medal in the 10K classic cross-country race. After three years away from the sport, he decided he couldn’t miss another shot at a Paralympic gold and came back. The 26-year-old, who races in the visually impaired classification and relies on a personal guide to direct him around the course, got back on the national team this season and won a medal of every color at the world championships in Lillehammer.

Dan Cnossen (Topeka, Kansas): Cnossen turned to Para Nordic skiing after losing both legs above the knee while leading his Navy SEAL team in 2009 in Afghanistan. He made his Paralympic debut five years later in Sochi and then broke out in a big way in PyeongChang, winning gold in the 7.5K biathlon and racking up six total medals. A sit skier, Cnossen, 41, excels in both biathlon and cross-country.

Kendall Gretsch (Downers Grove, Illinois): Over the summer Gretsch joined an exclusive group of women to win gold medals in both the Summer and Winter Paralympics. Already a two-time gold medalist in Nordic skiing, Gretsch began training for paratriathlon and won a thrilling gold medal in Tokyo, overtaking reigning world champion Lauren Parker of Australia just before crossing the finish line. Now she’s back on skis and looking to build on her success as a sit skier from PyeongChang. Her win in the 6K biathlon marked the first gold medal for Team USA at those games, and the next day she added another one in the 12K cross-country race. Gretsch, 29, won three gold medals and a silver at the world championships in Lillehammer.

Oksana Masters (Louisville, Kentucky): Just two days after Gretsch became the fifth American to win gold in both the Summer and Winter Paralympics, Masters became the sixth. In fact, she won two cycling gold medals in Tokyo to bring her total medal count to 10. Her first Paralympic medal came as a rower when she won a bronze medal in 2012. She then won seven more — including two gold — in Nordic skiing between 2014 and 2018. Masters, who spent her first seven years in Ukrainian orphanages before being adopted by an American mom,  is one of Team USA’s biggest stars of the past decade and at 32 is coming off a U.S.-leading five medals at the world championships in January.

Aaron Pike (Park Rapids, Minnesota): The iron man of Team USA, Pike has competed at every Paralympics since 2012 — racing his wheelchair in track and field and the marathon in the Summer Games, and as a Nordic sit skier in the Winter Games. Pike, 35, is still seeking his first Paralympic medal, though he’s finished as high as sixth, both in the 2020 marathon and 2018 15K biathlon race in the sitting classification. One of many great Para track athletes to come out of the storied University of Illinois program, Pike is also one-half of the sport’s current power couple alongside longtime girlfriend Masters. He earned a silver medal in biathlon in Lillehammer, marking the second world championships medal of his career.

Meet the full U.S. Para Nordic skiing team in this teamusa.org article
March 5 – Biathlon: Women’s and men’s 6-kilometer (sitting, standing, vision impaired)
March 6 – Cross-Country: Men’s 18K and women’s 12K (sitting)
March 7 – Cross-Country: Men’s 20K classic, women’s 15K classic (standing, vision impaired)
March 8 – Biathlon: Women’s and men’s 10K (sitting, standing, vision impaired)
March 9 – Cross-Country: Men’s and women’s sprint style
March 11 – Biathlon: Women’s and men’s 12.5K (sitting, standing, vision impaired)
March 12 – Cross-Country: Men’s and women’s 10K freestyle (vision impaired, standing), and women’s and men’s 7.5K (sitting)
March 13 – Cross-Country: Mixed relay 4x2.5K