The upcoming Winter Olympics of 2014 in Sochi, Russia will feature six new Olympic events. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) added these events based on “a number of positive factors,” citing an “increase in universality, gender equity, and youth appeal.” These events all debuted at the January 2012 Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck. Their popularity there may have helped secure their inclusion into the worldwide Winter Olympic stage.
Ski Halfpipe, Men’s and Women’s
Men and women will be competing in this sport that combines skiing and skateboarding. Competitors go one by one through a series of jumps, flips and twists through a half-pipe on skis. They are judged on take-off, height (called air, or big air) over the halfpipe and level of difficulty. There will be a qualifying round and a finals round, allowing each athlete two runs on both. The IOC hopes this event will complement the freestyle ski cross and snowboard halfpipe events that drew large numbers of spectators at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. This event counts as two, as men and women will not be competing on mixed teams.
Women’s Ski Jumping
Women finally get a chance to enter this classic event of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Just like the men, female ski jumpers will be judged individually on two rounds of jumps. Jumps are scored on distance and style and the jumper with the highest combined score is the winner. In a nod at equality, the women will be allowed to jump on the same hill as the men and scored under the same point system.
Biathlon Mixed Relay
This popular sport combines skiing with shooting in a relay race format. It will now include women and men on both teams. The women will race a 6 km (about 3.7 miles) and the men’s course will be 7.5 km (about 4.7 miles) in W-W-M-M order. Each athlete will assume two shooting positions: prone and standing. A missed target will draw a penalty in the form of an additional 150 m loop (about .09 miles) to the skier/shooter. The athletes will start simultaneously in three rows. The order of the starting lineup is based on the combined male and female results of the World Cup Nations Cup score. The fastest, most accurate team is the winner.
Team Figure Skating
Figure skating has always been a favorite in the Winter Olympics and this year it is a team sport. Each skating team will feature six skaters including a male and female individual, a pair’s team and an ice dancing team. Points are awarded for each skater/couple’s routines. The highest overall team score will be awarded the gold.
Luge Team Relay
Another Winter Olympic favorite, luge gets a new event in the form of team relay. The race format will feature teams in a double sled, a women’s single sled and a men’s single sled. All three groups will slide on after the other. The clock will keep running through all three slides until the last one clears the course. At the bottom of the course is a touch pad that must be activated to release the gate for the next sled on the team. Speed is the only thing that matters here, and the team with the fastest time will win the event.
Opening up the Winter Olympics to more inclusive, exciting sports is part of the IOC’s attempt to reach a broader, more youthful audience. These new events put a modern twist on classic sports and allow women to show they have what it takes to compete on the international stage alongside their male counterparts. Many of the new events come from the popular X-Games competitions, which caters to a younger more adventurous set sports fans. The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia will begin with opening ceremonies on February 6, 2014.
By Brandi Tasby