Expect the unexpected at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Twelve new sports in eight different disciplines will make an Olympic debut, so this promises to be one of the biggest and most unpredictable Olympic events ever.
Many of the sports being added to the lineup at the 2014 Sochi Olympics come directly from the Winter X Games. The disciplines are familiar, but the individual sports are new and exciting for people unfamiliar with extreme winter sports.
One of the most anticipated events is slopestyle snowboarding. The slopestyle course is similar to a skatepark. However, instead of riding on flat ground, snowboarders ride downhill on the side of a snowy mountain while performing their tricks. Snowboarders perform flips and spins off the jumps, and grinds on the rails. Similar to most of the new events this Olympics, snowboard slopestyle is a judged event. The ranks and scores are based, in part, on creativity and accuracy. Most of the standouts this winter season are from the Canadian team, many of whom even managed to score higher than American snowboarding legend Shaun White at the 2013 Winter X Games.
Slopestyle skiing is being introduced this year, as well. It is the counterpart to slopestyle snowboarding, with the same course and objective. In order to get the highest scores from the judges, skiers must perform the biggest and most precise tricks possible.
Along with slopestyle, this Olympics is going to introduce another popular ski event. Halfpipe skiing is the counterpart to halfpipe snowboarding, but has never been featured at the Olympics. It is the same as halfpipe snowboarding; the only difference is the athletes are using skis instead of snowboards. After dropping into the halfpipe, athletes ski from side-to-side of the pipe and perform tricks. Each time they reach the edge of the halfpipe, they jump to get as much air as possible. The extra air helps them spin and flip, hopefully achieving more rotations than their opponents. This is another judged event.
Most winter events that aren't judged are speed sports. This is the case for snowboard parallel slalom. This new event has snowboarders race head-to-head with a rival, weaving around flagpoles on a steep, downhill slope. The fastest combined time of two runs determines the winner.
For many years, figure skating has featured four key events at the Olympics. This year, however, there will be a fifth competition, but it's not exactly an event. Similar to the team gymnastics competition in the Summer Olympics, winners of the team figure skating competition will be determined by the scores in each of the four skating events. Essentially, this new competition is choosing and awarding the overall best teams. Scores are combined from the men, women, pairs, and ice dance events to determine which teams have the best overall skaters.
Team relay luge is another exciting speed event. The clock starts with the run of a women's single sled, continues during the run of a men's single sled, then stops after the run of a doubles sled. The objective, similar to snowboard parallel slalom, is to have the quickest combined time. Differing from parallel slalom, this is a relay team event, so scores are hinging on each team member being able to keep pace. One team member might score a really fast time, and one might score a really slow time. Similar to team figure skating, this event depends on the consistency of the team as a whole, not just each individual.
Mixed relay biathlon is an endurance and accuracy event. It combines cross-country skiing with rifle marksmanship. Though biathlon for individuals has been in a number of Olympic games, this is the first time the whole team will be in a relay race while they are competing for their individual ranks. This sport is usually dominated by European teams, with the USA and Canada often finishing in the lowest of the ranks.
As an Olympic sport, ski jumping has been surrounded by controversy for decades. Men's ski jumping has been part of the Olympics since 1924, but women's ski jumping is making it's first Olympic debut this year. Why? That's the million dollar question, with multiple answers. Allegedly, there was a medical theory contributing to the exclusion of women from the event. In 2005, the president of the International Ski Federation explained that women should not ski jump because the sport "seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view."
Since 1998, women ski jumpers have petitioned the Olympics committee to allow them to compete. Until Sochi, their petitions for a women's event had been denied every time. There was even an appeal sent to the Supreme Court of Canada before the 2011 Olympics, which was also denied. However, two women from Canada were allowed to be forerunners. They were not able to compete in the Olympics, but they were able to test out the course before the men's competition. Their job was to make sure the hill was in the condition it needed to be before the men competed.
Like the men's ski jumping event, the women athletes will ski down a steep, tall takeoff ramp and jump with expert precision. They use their skis to make a "v" shape, which gives them more air and distance. They will be judged on the distance and style of their jumps. After nearly a century of petitioning, women's ski jumping is finally going to be an Olympic event.
All of these new sports, in addition to the current Olympic staples, make the 2014 Olympic Games a must watch event.