By Alicia Dziak
The Winter Olympics are underway with international athletic competition in a wide variety of winter sports. While the old-time favorites, like figure skating and downhill skiing, are a must-watch for many, 12 new events are making their debut in Sochi and also make for some great viewing.
Biathlon Mixed Relay
The biathlon combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. The newest addition to the biathlon lineup is the mixed relay, made of four-person teams, each with two men and two women. Women start the relay, completing the first two 6 km legs, followed by the men completing the last two 7.5 km legs.
Figure Skating Team Event
This new event features six-person teams — one male (singles), one female (singles), one pair and one ice dance couple. Team events entail representatives of the singles and pairs performing a short and free program, and in ice dancing, completion of a short and free dance. The team with the highest combined point total wins the gold.
Luge Mixed Team Relay
The luge involves sliding at high speeds on single- or two-person sleds. In this event, the athlete starts in a seated position, and after pushing off, lies down on the sled with their feet stretched out in front of them. The rider steers the sled by moving his or her center of gravity.
The new relay features combination teams from each country: a woman (singles luge), a man (singles luge) and two men from the doubles luge. The run sequence for each team is woman, man, doubles. During the relay, each athlete must touch the special touchpad at the finish, which automatically opens the in-run gate for the next team member. When the third member of the team reaches the exchange zone and hits the touchpad, the team’s total time is determined.
Ski Halfpipe – Men’s and Women’s
Comparable to the snowboarding halfpipe, the ski halfpipe features athletes competing on a halfpipe slope on freestyle skis. Skiers perform various tricks, such as flips and twists, with two runs per athlete in each of the qualifying and final rounds.
Ski Slopestyle – Men’s and Women’s
This fun new event entails skiers performing on a slope with various types of obstacles, such as rails and quarter pipes, and includes jumps where athletes can show off their flips and turns. This competition follows an elimination format, with two runs in each round, and the athlete taking the higher of the two scores.
Snowboard Slopestyle – Men’s and Women’s
Like its ski event counterpart, snowboarding slopestyle features snowboarders on a course combining obstacles and jumps. It follows an elimination format, with two runs in each round. The U.S. has made history in this event by getting the first ever snowboard slopestyle golds in both the men’s and women’s events, thanks to Sage Kotsenburg and Jamie Anderson, respectively.
Snowboard Parallel Slalom – Men’s and Women’s
In this event, riders race two at a time down the same slope on two parallel courses, outlined with gates and triangular flags. The athlete who covers the distance the fastest while following the course rules is the winner.
Women’s Ski Jumping
Ski jumping has been part of the Olympics since 1924, but the women’s event is new this year. In this competition, athletes make two jumps from a “normal hill” of 105 meters, and the winner is the one whose total score of both jumps is the highest.
Be sure to tune into NBC to watch live or DVR your favorite event. (Find the schedule at www.nbcolympics.com.) Chances are you’ll learn something new and be on the edge of your seat monitoring the medal count in all the exciting new events!
Sources: www.sochi2014.com and www.olympic.org.