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Nordic skiing refers to a type of ski, and several skiing events. The ski used in Nordic skiing has the boot attached to the ski at the toe only. This allows the heel to move freely up and down. Nordic skiing is sometimes used synonymously with cross-country skiing, since freedom of the heel is required to push forward or uphill.
Often Nordic skiing is a combination of a couple of types of skiing. Cross-country skiing is an essential part, but also ski jumping plays a role. At competitions at the world level, skiing is often separated into the Nordic combined, where skiers compete in both cross country and ski jumping for a combined score.
In Nordic skiing that combines the two events, skiers are given points based on their jumps, which then are combined with their cross-country race time total to determine a winner of the double event. It is quite amazing to watch the physical strength required to power through cross-country races, and the agility needed for jumping great distances.
In the Winter Olympics, skiers have the option of participating in Nordic combined, or individually in ski jump and cross-country events. Some skiers participate in Nordic combined and one or more of the other events.
Additionally, Nordic skiing is the focus of attention at the Nordic World Ski Championships, which are held in years when a Winter Olympics is not held. Typically, early champions were, as might be guessed, from Norway. However, Finnish, Austrian, and German skiers have also made their mark in the sport. Kenji Ogiwara from Japan proved himself a noteworthy competitor in the 1990s, winning two Nordic combined World Championships.
Nordic skiing is distinct from downhill and slalom skiing, often called alpine skiing. In fact, Nordic skiing predates alpine skiing, and was the first form to be featured in the Winter Olympics. The disadvantage in downhill and slalom is the greater stability needed in the heel to turn tightly while going at very high speeds.
This led to the Nordic ski being adapted so that the ski was attached at both toe and heel for Alpine skiing. The more traditional Nordic ski with attachment at toe only is still more appropriate for both cross-country and ski jumping events, though there is great difference between a cross-country and ski jump ski.