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Fourth-Place Medal

How the Nordic combined works: Sochi Olympics viewers' guide

Fourth-Place Medal

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Ben Berend of the US soars through the air at the Nordic Combined FIS World Cup (Jens Meyer/AP).

What do you get when you take a ski jumping competition, add a cross-country race and subtract the women? The Nordic combined event, which has been a part of the Winter Olympics since they debuted in 1924 and remains the only Winter Olympic event not to include a women’s competition (women’s ski jumping will make its debut at Sochi).

While it may not have the mainstream popularity of Shaun White twisting down a halfpipe, there’s plenty of action and excitement in the Nordic combined.

Here at Yahoo, we think all events deserve a chance at winning the hearts of viewers, so we have all the information you need to become a Nordic combined enthusiast.

[ Related: What you need to know about the Nordic combined ]

1. Where did this event come from?

The Nordic combined originated in the 19th century in -- you guessed it -- Norway, where skiers got together and performed in small competitions. Athletes who could combine the endurance necessary for cross-country skiing and the physical strength and technical elements of ski jumping were considered the most impressive, according to the U.S. Ski Team.

2. What is it?

The Nordic combined fuses two elements: ski jump and cross-country skiing. There are three different types of Nordic combined competitions: individual normal hill, individual large hill and team. The differences between the three are as follows:

Individual normal hill: Competitors take two jumps off of a “normal” hill (Is there anything normal about launching yourself in the air on skis?), with flights of about 105-meter length, and then compete in a 10-kilometer cross-country race.

Individual large hill: Competitors also take two jumps, but the hill is larger, and flights are about 140-meter length. They also compete in a 10-kilometer cross-country race.

Team: All four teammates take two jumps off of the large hill and then compete in a 4 x 5 kilometer cross-country race.

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Bill Demong (USA), Johnny Spillane (USA) and Bernhard Gruber (Austria) compete in the cross-country portion.

3. How does it work?

The athletes are scored on their ski jumps, which are judged based on distance traveled, as well as technique. For each hill there is a par distance; athletes are awarded a certain amount of points for hitting the par distance and then a designated number of points are awarded for each additional meter achieved. Judges deduct points for flaws in technique during the flight or landing.

After each athlete completes their jumps, points are tallied, and the start order for the cross-country race is determined. The highest scorer on the ski jump is able to start first, followed by the second-place scorer, etc. Their ski jump scores determine the amount of time between athlete start times: A 10-point lead provides for a one-minute difference in start times.

Whichever athlete crosses the finish line first, regardless of his start time, is declared the winner.

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Bill Demong of Team USA competes in the individual large hill event at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

4. What are the differences for the team competition?

The team event, which was introduced at the 1988 Calgary Games, follows the same formula. Each team member takes two jumps and these scores are added up for a team score. Once team scores are determined the cross-country relay begins.

Each of the four team members race for five kilometers. There are no batons to pass (They have their hands full with ski poles), the finishing teammate must simply tap the starting racer with his hand.

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Team USA completes an exchange during the team event of the Nordic combined.

5. Norway must totally dominate this, right?

In the past, yes. Norway has the most total medals in the Nordic combined with 26 (11 gold, eight silver, seven bronze). However, there’s been a bit of a shift in dominance, and Team USA has shown some Nordic combined prowess.

At the 2010 Vancouver games, the U.S. took home four Nordic combined medals: gold and silver in the individual large hill, silver in the individual normal hill and silver in the team competition. Norway didn’t take home a Nordic combined medal in Vancouver.

At Sochi, two of the members of Vancouver’s silver-medal-winning relay will be returning for Team USA: Todd Lodwick and Billy Demong. Demong will also be attempting to defend his gold medal in the individual long hill event.

If this informational guide gave you Nordic combined fever, be sure to catch the events in Sochi. Feb. 12 will feature the individual normal hill competition, Feb. 18 will be the large hill event, and Feb. 20 the Nordic combined will conclude with the team competition.

More Sochi Olympics Viewers' Guides: Ice dancing - Women's ski jumping - Biathlon - Curling - Slopestyle snowboarding

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