Women’s Nordic Combined makes its World Cup debut
American Tara Geraghty-Moats makes history as the first winner, Norwegian Gyda Westvold-Hansen comes in second
The Norwegian American
The evolution of Nordic Combined, with the different demands of two different sports, ski jumping, and cross-country skiing, changed into one, extends back to 1808—in Norway, of course.
Ole Rye jumped 9.5 meters, a far cry from the 120-130 meters jumpers manage off the large hill these days. The first major Nordic Combined competition was in 1892 at the first Holmenkollen ski jump, and the discipline has been included in every Winter Olympics since the first in 1924.
Norway swept the podium at the first four Olympics and took gold at all but one (Finland 1948) until 1960 when Georg Thoma of United Team of Germany became the first non-Nordic to win.
The women are taking their first steps in their evolution in the sport. They have competed since 2016. Last month on Dec. 18 in Ramsau, Austria, the first World Cup event for women in Nordic Combined took place. This is the first year it will be included in the world championships.
“I’ve always wanted to do Nordic Combined since I was a little girl, and I didn’t have the opportunity growing up, so at 16, I had to choose between cross country and ski jumping,” New Hampshire resident Tara Geraghty-Moats, 27, told Olympic.org in 2019. “It was really hard, and I went back and forth between the two sports until a year and a half ago, when I could finally become an international Nordic Combiner.”
A major milestone was the inclusion of the sport in the 2020 Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland, in January, where Geraghty-Moats was the Athlete Role Model for women’s Nordic Combined. In November 2018, the International Olympic Committee added it for the 2022 Winter Olympics, but that has been pushed to 2026.
“[Lausanne is] really historic; it’s the first Olympic event, youth or senior, that is going to be gender-equal on the winter side,” Geraghty-Moats said. “Any time that happens, it’s monumental. I’m in a pretty unique position, because women’s Nordic Combined is such a developing sport that there are some very young athletes on the Continental Cup circuit … so it’ll be really special to see them make history, and to support and guide them through.”
Perhaps, it was fitting that Geraghty-Moats made history as the first winner of the first women’s World Cup, edging out 18-year-old Norwegian, Gyda Westvold-Hansen.
Westvold-Hansen won the ski jumping with a leap of 94.5 meters and 125.8 points, making her the starter in the 5-km cross-country race. The start times for the other competitors are staggered based on their scores in the ski jumping. Geraghty-Moats jumped 86.5 meters and collected 116 points to finish in sixth place. That meant she started 39 seconds after Westvold-Hansen. The parity of the competitors was evident as 13 racers started the cross-country race within one minute of each other.
The Norwegian maintained her lead after one lap. At 0.8-km, Geraghty-Moats and Japan’s Anju Nakamura caught up with Westvold-Hansen. By 1-km, Geraghty-Moats had gained 17 seconds. The start of the second lap featured a long climb and Geraghty-Moats pushed into the lead after 3.3 km. Tight the rest of the way, Geraghty-Moats beat Westvold-Hansen by 1.5 seconds and Nakamura by 13 seconds. The winning time was 13:58.3.
“Today at Ramsau was a dream come true, something I’ve been dreaming about since I was 10 years old, before it was even a possibility,” Geraghty-Moats told fis-ski.com. “Coming into this competition, I was uncertain of myself because I hadn’t been on snow in 10 months. I had 10% of my feet in training that I had hoped to have. All day long, I kept telling myself I could do it, every step of the way. It’s a big lift for my team and thank you for finally inviting the women to the big leagues.”
“I feel that I walked smoothly, while she walked like a yo-yo, and much faster upwards and I lacked a little strength,” Westvold-Hansen, who also admitted to being extremely nervous before the race, told VG.
She was satisfied with her performances, saying her time was around 1-1.5 minutes better than last year. Of course, Westvold-Hansen is only 18. Westvold-Hansen has a good mentor to help her improve her skiing. Her cousin is Norwegian cross-country skiing legend Therese Johaug.
“I have received some technical tips when I have skied with her and her brother, Karstein,” said Westvold-Hansen. “I think it has given me a better understanding of cross-country skiing.
Gold at the first world championships in Osterdorf, Germany, in February remains a goal. “I have even more to work with and I think it’s a realistic goal,” she said.
“We have a bit to work with, but it is also nice to have something to work with toward the World Cup,” said national team coach Thomas Kjelbotn to VG.
The Norwegians seem to have some depth and youth, led by sisters, Marte Leinan Lund, 19, and Mari Leinan Lund, 21. Mari actually had the longest jump at 97 meters, but a fall on her landing resulted in only 111.5 points. She finished seventh. Marte
This article originally appeared in the Jan. 15, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.