Monday, January 2, 2012

History of Nordic Skiing

History of Nordic Skiing

-Cecilia Harsch

Rating: **

Living in Canada, where winter prevails for many months of the year, it is hard to imagine a world without the entertaining hobby and quick mode of transportation known as cross country skiing. This is most likely because the intelligent man hardly ever lived without some form of cross country skis, the eldest form dating back as far as 5, 000 years ago. The article I read summarized the development of cross country skiing and the role it played in historical events such as war and competition; all of which helped shape the ancient activity into the favourite pastime and Olympic sport we know it as today.

Cross country skiing, otherwise known as Nordic skiing, is rather simple and involves little athletic ability or skill. In addition to its’ simplicity, the sport has evolved very little since its’ creation at least 5,000 years ago when Norwegian cave drawings depicted men on contraptions that bore resemblance to present day skis. In Swiss swamps the remains of 4, 500 year old skis have also been recovered, encouraging us to believe that the sport we hold so near to our hearts has been passed down from our ancient ancestors. It has been conceived that humans have been using skis for transportation ever since we came to the realization that by strapping long pieces of wood to feet, we could hunt game quicker by moving on top of the snow. It would appear as though ski use was more prominent in Russia and the Scandinavian countries, where long winters plagued the inhabitants.

Skis first made their appearance in modern day war in 1564 when Swedish soldiers utilized skis and therefore arrived to conquer the city of Trondheim, Norway before the Norwegian military who traveled by foot. This isn’t to say that skis were not used before this event for war related purposes; in fact a legend, set in 1206, tells the story of a civil war that persuaded one clan to attempt to kill the infant king of another. The end result being that two guards were forced to flee with the baby king, and when faced with a nasty storm, chose to cross country ski the last 55km to safety.

The majority of the advancements made in Nordic skiing happened in great part because of efforts made by the Norwegian people since the early 1700s. The first competitions, organized by the military of Norway in 1967, were not unlike biathlon competitions as they included both skiing and shooting. Eventually the military disbanded and the local ski clubs took over the competitions. However, it wasn’t until 1843 that the first legitimate ski competition took place, in Tromso, Norway. Eighteen years later, Finland began holding similar competitions in 1865. By that time the sport was already spreading to other countries, such as Austria and Czechoslovakia.

Combined with ski jumping and Nordic combined, cross country skiing made its’ Olympic debut as a men only sport in 1924. Over the course of 30 years, Nordic skiing made huge advances in the Olympic world; including such things as becoming a stand-alone sport in the 1932 Lake Placid games, and growing to include women in 1952 with a 10km race. We saw more advances when the skating techniques made its’ way to the Olympic stage in 1988, a major adjustment to the traditional kick and glide technique. Most recently, in 2002, we changed the games so that staggered starts were no longer incorporated, favoured second to the mass start. It was in this same year that we saw the introduction of the 1.5 km sprint race.

This article was informative, yet at some points rather scattered. Though somewhat hard to follow, the information provided was plentiful and credible. Had the article been properly edited and revised, it would have been much more pleasant to read. Regardless, it was still worth the time as it provided me with an adequate comprehension of the origin and development of cross country, or Nordic, skiing.

Harsch, Cecilia. “HISTORY OF NORDIC SKIING”. LIVESTRONG.COM. May 26, 2011. (December 21, 2011)

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