Whenever you think of the Winter Olympics, what is the first thing that comes to mind? It is probably figure skating or the trick-based snowboarding competitions. These kinds of popular events are what most people associate with the Winter Olympics, but there are a few other sports that fly under the radar or are considered extreme, borderline insane, or just plain odd.
One of the strongest appeals of the Winter Olympics is watching sports that you might not watch at any time other than the Olympics.
One example of this kind of unique sport is skeleton. Imagine bombing head first down an extreme course on a flimsy board with no brakes or turning mechanisms, reaching speeds of up to 80 miles per hour and pulling up to 5gs on banked turns. How anyone came up with this outlandish idea and managed to persuade anyone to try it with him is a good question, but it is most definitely an interesting and exciting sport to watch.
The appeal to adding this sport to the Olympics is obvious; who does not want to watch people throwing themselves down this extreme course and reaching unimaginable speeds to try and edge out the competition? Skeleton was added to the Olympics in 2002, so it is still a relatively new sport. The reason that this event isn’t so widely regarded as being an Olympic sport and isn’t watched as much as other events in the Olympics is that it’s hard to tell what the difference in performances is. In this particular sport, the winning athlete can sometimes win by a sole factor of milliseconds.
The Olympics Committee is constantly trying to add new sports to continue to make the Winter Olympics an event unlike any other and yet still represent winter sports prevalent throughout the world. For this year’s Winter Olympics, the Committee added four new events: curling mixed doubles, speed skating mass start, Alpine skiing team event and snowboard big air. All four of these sports have different appeals in order to attract people to watch them.
Speed skating mass start could easily be compared to NASCAR on ice; both consist of a large group on a relatively small course trying to get an edge on the others. Speed skating mass start is based around stamina, but it is also all about being patient and strategic and waiting for the best chance to make your push to try and gain the lead.
Snowboard big air is for the people that love seeing snowboarders flipping and preforming tricks in the air; only this time, there is only one jump, and the jump is significantly more impressive. The best way to describe this particular snowboarding competition is beautiful but death-defying. The snowboarder starts off speeding down a slope and gaining enough speed to clear the jump and then performs crazy tricks in the air. Snowboarders that compete in this event routinely find themselves upwards of 60 feet in the air, which is why there is so much more potential for grander tricks in this event.
This potential for bigger and better tricks does come with an increased potential for injury, however. As someone could imagine, landing incorrectly after being 60 feet up in the air can, and usually does, go horribly for the snowboarder.
Curling mixed doubles is regular curling, with the only difference being that the team is comprised of one man and one woman. Many people find curling to be a boring sport that is very different from a lot of the other sports in the Olympics. However, these people might find they like watching the sport if they gave it a chance. There is a certain appeal to watching a team guide the perfect throw into the middle of the target, and it can be very interesting and entertaining to watch.
Team event alpine skiing is another new sport in which women and men join forces. In this event, two women and two men race side by side down a slalom with the overall fastest teams moving on in the competition. This is definitely an exciting sport to watch, as it will be interesting to see what country’s athletes are at a higher level than the others.
This wide variety of sports contributes to the overall uniqueness of the Winter Olympics, so there’s something for everyone to watch. AP Economics teacher and Winter Olympics enthusiast Franklin Pridgen said, “I’m not that into the extreme sports, but I will definitely be checking out speed skating mass start and alpine skiing.” This Winter Olympics is sure to be an amazing event that will be filled with unique sports and the highest level of competition.