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Equal distances approved for men, women in cross-country skiing

“I think it was inevitable that this was going to happen at some point because our sport definitely is a bit behind in that department."

CANMORE ­– A historical vote in cross-country skiing is supporting males and females racing equal distances, such as on the sport's leading world cup circuit, and starts as soon as November.

International Ski Federation (FIS), the international governing body for skiing, announced equal distances for men and women is now effective at the world cup, junior world ski championship (JWSC), U23 world ski championship (U23 WSC), and Youth Olympic Games (YOG) levels.

“I think it was inevitable that this was going to happen at some point because our sport definitely is a bit behind in that department,” said Katherine Stewart-Jones, national team skier and FIS athlete board member.

“I think it will take a bit of an adjustment ... I’m not really opposed to it or anything. I think it makes sense we’re going in that direction.”

In a landmark vote, 57 per cent of FIS’ Cross Country Committee supported equal distances at its annual spring meeting in May.

The main point was that there should be no question that women can race the same distances as men, and have proven so. Previously, men raced in longer distances such as the world cup's mass start, which was 30km for women and 50 km for men.

Keeping digital and television viewership engaged was a main argument against, though, due to the time that women need to cover the same distance as men.

Stewart-Jones said it’s a good idea as long as races stay interesting for viewership.

“I also think it’s really important that it’s still entertaining for TV, which is why I think it’s better that most of the distances were brought down for men just because if they keep everything too long, especially on the women’s side, the races end up being too long and they’re not interesting to watch because the gaps are bigger,” she said.

The new distances are as follows.

For world cup, the top circuit that starts in November and ends in March, there will be sprint, 10km, 20km, 50km and a 20km skiathlon (10km classic, 10km skate).

For JWSC and U23 WSC, it’s sprint, interval 10km, 20km mass start, and mixed relay 4X5km.

At the YOG, the new distances are sprint, interval 7.5km and mixed relay 4X5km.

On the world ski championships level, which are every two years, the vote for equal distances will be held in May 2023.

Stewart-Jones, who made her Olympic debut this past February in Beijing, added she hopes the newly set world cup distances are implemented on the world ski championships and Olympic levels. However, because there are more world cups events, she would be in favour of seeing a wider variety in distances on the top circuit to keep things fresh and fun.

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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