The Olympics are a time-honored tradition of international cooperation and competition with each country fielding its best examples of athletic prowess in the hope of bringing back the most bullion. Some sports have come and gone over the years as old ones are relegated to the history books and new ones come into vogue. This time eight (or 12, depending on how you count) new sports are joining the roster of events at the winter Olympics.
Two of these events have already concluded. Russia took home the gold in the debut of the figure skating team event. In this event teams of six compete in heats – one men’s and one women’s skating event, one pair event, and one ice dance event – each in different styles of figure skating. After each heat, teams are chosen to advance until the final round where medals are awarded.
America swept the gold in the debut of men’s and women’s snowboard slopestyle. The slopestyle event was the subject of some controversy when Shaun White, snowboarding prodigy and perpetual Olympic favorite, withdrew over concerns of the safety of the course and another competitor split his helmet when a practice run went awry. There will also be a men’s and women’s ski slopestyle event later on.
Other new events at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics tend to be iterations on old events. In addition to the usual men’s and women’s biathlon events, which involve cross country skiing several miles with periodic breaks for target shooting, there will be a mixed-gender biathlon. Another event seeking to bridge the gender line is the mixed luge team relay. In this event one man and one woman will each make an individual run down the track followed by a doubles team comprised of any combination of men and women.
Many people are familiar with the snowboard halfpipe event with its celebrities such as Shaun White. This year, skiing will join its sideways counterpart on the halfpipe with the ski halfpipe event. Snowboarding is likewise borrowing an event from skiing with the introduction of the snowboard parallel slalom event. Interestingly, there will be a women’s ski jumping event for the first time in Olympic history. Men’s ski jumping has been around for a while, but until this year’s Olympics women have been prohibited from competing in the sport.
So, if you have the time (or you just want to see athletic people in unusual clothing doing amazing things), find a couch and a friend to plop down in front of a TV with and watch some of the magical and incredible feats of athleticism that the world puts on display every other year. With so many additions to the menu it will definitely be a good time.