As its name suggests, Nordic combined features two disciplines of skiing – ski jumping and cross-country skiing – that have their roots in northern Europe. While cross-country skiing has existed in some form for thousands of years, the first measured ski jump was built in Norway in 1860.  Throughout the 19th century, ski carnivals became popular in Norway, particularly the Holmenkollen Ski Festival, which is still considered one of the world’s premier Nordic skiing events.  First held in 1892, the Nordic combined was its main attraction because to succeed an athlete needed to excel at two disciplines.

Nordic combined was included at the first Olympic Winter Games in 1924 with a single individual event for men.  There are now three Olympic events but Nordic combined is still only contested by men, making it the last single-gender discipline on the Winter Games program.

The ski jumping portion of the competition is held first followed by a cross-country skiing pursuit race later that same day.  The top finisher in ski jumping will be the first to start the cross-country race in which the start intervals are determined by the scores from the ski jumping.  This means that the first skier to cross the finish line is the winner.

There are two jump hills on which the ski jumping portion can be contested.  Normal hill refers to the smaller of the two and at Sochi 2014 will have a hill size of 106m.  The large hill at Sochi 2014 will have a hill size of 140m.  These numbers represent the furthest distance that a jumper is able to safely travel.