The 411 on the 12 New Winter Olympic Events
by Joyce Eng
A record 98 medals will be handed out at the Sochi Olympics over the next 18 days, thanks to 12 new events on the docket. Here is what you need to know — and who you should keep an eye on — in these inaugural Olympic competitions.
Team Figure Skating
When: Feb. 6-8
How it works: You can’t blame the International Olympic Committee for trying to add more drama (and hopefully ratings) to its marquee Winter Games event. Ten teams of six skaters — representing men’s singles, women’s singles, pairs and ice dancing — will perform a short program. The five teams with the highest combined scores advance to the long program to determine the medals, where countries are allowed to make up to two lineup changes. The team with the highest aggregate score wins.
Watch out for: Team Canada boasts three-time reigning men’s world champ Patrick Chan and defending Olympic ice dancing champs Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. The U.S. and Russian teams are also comprised of medal contenders, including gold medal favorites and two-time world champion ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and new skating darling Gracie Gold for the former.
When: Men’s snowboard — Feb. 6, Feb. 8; women’s snowboard — Feb. 6, Feb. 9; women’s ski — Feb. 11; men’s ski — Feb. 13
How it works: Snowboarders and skiers perform tricks while riding down a 1,900-foot long course consisting of rails and massive jumps. Concerns over the safety of Sochi’s course have been running rampant this week after podium contender Norwegian Torstein Horgmo and American Shaun White, who’s chasing a three-peat in the snowboard halfpipe, both withdrew following injuries.
Watch out for: Canadian Mark McMorris is a two-time Winter X Games champ in snowboard slope, though he suffered a fractured rib at the event last month. American Jamie Anderson, a four-time X Games champ, is the favorite on the women’s side. In ski, American Nick Goepper is the two-time defending X Games champ, and Canada’s reigning world champion Kaya Turski nabbed her fourth X Games gold two weeks ago just three months after tearing her ACL. Also keep an eye out for 15-year-old freeskier Maggie Voisin, the youngest U.S. Winter Olympian since 1972, and any more trash-talking from White’s rivals.
Women’s Ski Jumping
When: Feb. 11
How it works: The same way it’s worked for the men since 1924. Competitors will jump off the normal hill (318 feet) and will be judged on distance and style. Until now, ski jumping was the only Olympic event not to include women. Despite numerous protests, in 2005, the IOC rejected the event’s inclusion, fearing women’s bodies wouldn’t be able to handle the impact. The event was finally voted in three years ago following a gender discrimination lawsuit.
Watch out for: Japan’s 17-year-old phenom Sara Takanashi has topped every World Cup podium this season and has a record 19 World Cup wins. American Sarah Hendrickson is right behind her with 13 World Cup victories. She also defeated Takanashi at the world championships last year.
Team Luge Relay
When: Feb. 13
How it works: Paging Matt and Al! Twelve countries will field three sleds — men’s singles, women’s singles and doubles — which will race down a track one after another. Lugers have to hit a pad at the finish line to open the starting gate for their teammates.
Watch out for: Germany, Germany and Germany. They have dominated the sport, claiming 70 medals since luge became an Olympic sport in 1964, while the rest of the world has 47 combined.
When: Men — Feb. 18; women — Feb. 20
How it works: It’s exactly like the snowboard halfpipe — but with skis. The skis and poles, however, provide skiers more control to launch into their gravity-defying tricks than their snowboard brethren. The event was accepted into the Games in 2011 after heavy campaigning led by ski halfpipe pioneer and presumptive gold medal favorite Sarah Burke, who died in 2012 after a training accident.
Watch out for: Americans David Wise, aka The Undude, and Maddie Bowman will be the ones to beat. Wise cleaned up at nearly every single event last year and is coming off a three-peat at the X Games, and Bowman successfully defended her X Games title and won three of the five Olympic qualifiers. The feel-good story will be American Angeli VanLaanen, who overcame Lyme disease to make the team.
Biathlon Mixed Relay
When: Feb. 19
How it works: Teams will be comprised of two men and two women, with the women racing the opening two 6-kilometer laps and the men completing the last two 7.5-kilometer laps. The relay includes two rounds of shooting per biathlete, who must each hit five targets or incur a 150-meter penalty lap.
Watch out for: A biathlon powerhouse, Norway can count on Vancouver champs Emil Hegle Svendsen and Tora Berger, both of whom won four gold medals at last year’s world championships.
Snowboard Parallel Slalom
When: Men and women — Feb. 22
How it works: Thirty-two competitors race down a course head-to-head negotiating around flags. This is not to be confused with the parallel giant slalom, which has a longer course and more spaced-out flags.
Watch out for: Slovenia’s Rok Marguc, the reigning world champion, would be the first to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics for his country, while Swiss Patrizia Kummer is fresh off back-to-back World Cup wins last month.
Which new event are you excited for?