Cross-Country 101: Qualifying for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games

Cross-Country 101: Qualifying for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games

U.S. cross-country skier Jessica Diggins celebrates at the 2017 World Ski Championships

The International Ski Federation (FIS) allocates places for athletes to compete at the Olympic Winter Games based on point totals athletes accrue by competing in FIS events. Cross-country events fall into one of two categories – sprint or distance. The FIS uses an average of five finishes in each discipline to rank skiers, which is then used to determine an athlete’s Olympic eligibility, as well as the allocation of Olympic quota places. 

Olympic qualification for cross-country skiing began on July 1, 2016 and will come to a close on January 22, 2018 with the release of the all important Olympic Quota Allocation List and FIS Points List. In total, 310 athletes will compete in cross-country during the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, which open on February 9, 2018.

Inviting the world to PyeongChang

Countries can be awarded up to 12 places for men or 12 places for women, but teams must not exceed 20 athletes. Countries with enough athletes on their teams are allowed one entry into each relay event, the team sprint requires two skiers per team, while the relays need four per team.

Athletes with an FIS Olympic Point total of no more than 100 become eligible for distance events at the Olympic Games, and for the sprints, an athlete must not have more than 120 points to qualify.

A sprint athlete, with a higher distance point total, can qualify for the 10km (women’s) or 15km (men’s) distance events as long as their distance point total is less than 300. 

Process of allocation

The allocation of quota places begins with the handing out of a Basic Quota, one place per gender is allotted to a country for an athlete with up to 300 points on the FIS Olympic Point List in either sprint or distance. This spot at the Olympic Games is used exclusively for a skier to enter the event in which their point total was sufficient – either the sprint or the men’s distance event (15km individual) or the women’s distance event (10km individual).

The next two places, one per gender, are awarded to a country based on athletes finishing in the top 300 of the FIS Olympic Point List in either distance or sprint. Up to two more places per gender are handed out to countries for athletes finishing in the top 30 of the FIS Olympic Point List. One athlete in the top 30 gives a country one place, while two or more athletes in the top 30 will get a team two places.

The final phase of allocation takes into account the top 500 athletes on the FIS Olympic Point List. Starting at the top of the standings and working downward to 500, countries are given one place per athlete, until 310 athlete places have been allocated.

Building Team USA

Team USA may enter four athletes per event in PyeongChang, and the team will consist of 12 men or 12 women, with a maximum of 20 athletes.

The bulk of the U.S. cross-country team will be named using the following criteria. From November 23, 2017 to January 15, 2018, U.S. cross-country skiers will compete in FIS World Cup competitions. Finishing in the top eight in a classical sprint, individual 10km (women)/15km (men) or Skiathlon final at these competitions will serve as that athlete’s ticket to PyeongChang. If an athlete, on January 15, 2018, is ranked in the top 50 in either distance or sprint World Cup standings, they too will be named to the U.S. Cross-Country Olympic Team. Up to five athletes per gender may be selected to the team based on the top eight finish and top 50 ranking criteria.

If roster spots on Team USA remain open after the first selection criteria, then further team nominations will be made at the discretion of U.S. Cross-Country Head Coach Chris Grover. Those nominations are then evaluated for approval by United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) President and CEO Tiger Shaw, USSA Executive Vice President of Athletics Luke Bodensteiner and USSA Cross-Country Athlete Board Representative Rosie Brennan.

FIS World Cup events with U.S. Olympic Team qualifying implications begin in Ruka, Finland on November 24, 2017. For full U.S. Cross-Country Olympic Team qualification criteria for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games visit the U.S. Ski Team Nordic website.

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