2018 Winter Olympics

Sochi Winter Olympic Games - Pre-Games activity - Monday

By: Jonathon Schaffer and Serena Diaz

Every four years, athletes from over 90 different nations gather together to participate in the Winter Olympics. This year, the 2018 Winter Olympics will take place in Pyeongchang (pyahng-chang), South Korea. Given the multitude of events to watch, here are some of the most popular.

The most watched sport in the 2014 Winter Olympics was snowboarding. It was first included in the Olympic games in 1998. One of the most popular American snowboarders is champion Shaun White.  White won two gold medals in the halfpipe competition in the 2006 and 2010 Olympic games. There are a total of six snowboarding events in the winter games: the halfpipe, in which snowboarders perform tricks on a 22 foot halfpipe; parallel giant salome, a race where snowboarders attempt to obtain the fattest time down a course; and snowboarding cross, a race in which four to six competitors snowboard on a winding course that includes several jumps. With a total of 24 medals, the United States has won the most medals in this event against all other countries.

If you prefer music and dancing over tricks and speed, then figure skating is the event to watch. Figure skating is the oldest winter sport in the Olympics. Ironically, it was first introduced in the 1908 Summer Olympics, then made its way into the 1924 Winter Olympics. There are four events in figure skating: men’s singles, ladies singles, pair skating and ice dancing. Figure skating is much more than simply cruising around on the ice, the skaters must perfect their techniques.   

One of the oldest winter sports, dating all the way back to the 1800s, is skiing. Skiing has been part of the Winter Olympics since its inaugural season in 1924. Skiing first originated in the 1840s in Norway. It was originally used for travel in snowy regions and training for soldiers, but quickly became a competition of races. There are now six different ski events held in the Winter Olympics: alpine, or downhill skiing; cross country, where skiers use their locomotive skills on a flat terrain; freestyle which involves aerial tricks and flips with half pipes and grinding; nordic a combination of cross country skiing with small jumps; biathlon, which combines cross country skiing and rifle shooting; and lastly ski jumping, where skiers soar off of huge jumps to travel long distances before landing at the bottom.   

The best part of many of the Olympic sporting events is that they involve teamwork and strategy. Bobsledding is a perfect sport that exemplifies teamwork. Teams of two or four make timed runs down narrow, twisting, banked ice tracks in a gravity powered sled. These sleds can go up to speeds of 95 to 125 miles per hour with the courses being 3,900 to 4,300 feet long.  The world’s first bobsled club was built in St. Moritz Switzerland in 1897. The sport has been part of the Winter Olympics since its first season in 1924.

One of the most dangerous games in the Olympics is luge.  It is a sport in which racers go down hill at a velocity of 87 miles per hour. Luge was first introduced into the Olympics during the 1964 Innsbruck games with men’s, women’s, and mixed events. The luge first event to be organized in the United States was in 1955 after the European Championship.

Like figure skating, ice hockey was introduced in the Summer Olympics of 1920, but then transitioned to the first winter Olympics in 1924. This is a popular one for the National Hockey League (NHL) fans because they get to see star players play side by side. However, this year, the NHL is prohibiting players under NHL contracts from participating. This is good news for college, minor league, and European league players.

Opening ceremony is Friday, February 9.

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