Pretty much every time the Olympics roll around there seem to be a few new events. However, at the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi there will actually be a record 12 new events, making them the biggest Winter Games ever.
What are these new events? Well, there are three new mixed events, four new men’s events, and five new women’s events. None of them are particularly strange—except maybe to Bob Costas—but are rather variations of sports we already know and love. We’re going to give you the complete rundown in a moment. Don’t be confused by how they are numbered, either. Eight of the new events have a men’s and a women’s category, so we’ve condensed them to four, bringing the total number down from 12 to eight. Technically, though, there are still 12 new events.
However, before taking a look at the new medal sports, let’s start things off with a quick look at a few Olympic wannabe sports that got rejected by the IOC this time around, shall we?
While the sports that were added to the program in Sochi are getting their time in the spotlight, there are five that will remain in the dark for at least another four years. First and foremost among these is the sport of bandy, which is like like field hockey on ice. (I know, we all thought ice hockey was field hockey on ice. But take a look at the above video and you'll understand what I'm talking about. It's loco.)
Other sports rejected by the IOC include team alpine skiing, which is like the team gymnastics competition at the Summer Olympics; ski mountaineering, which is basically ski-hiking; ski-orienteering, which is cross country skiing using a map and compass to get from point A to point B; and winter triathlon, which is like regular triathlon except road cycling is replaced with mountain biking, while swimming is replaced by cross-country skiing.
Who knows, maybe you'll see one of these sports in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018?
Honorable Mention: The Rejects
If you ever met somebody who told you they won an Olympic medal in biathlon, you'd probably assume they were some sort of track and field athlete. However, biathlon is actually that weird sport that combines cross country skiing and shooting guns. This year, in addition to the men's and women's events of various lengths, both individual and relay, there will also be a mixed biathlon relay event in which men and women compete together...in perfect harmony.
8. Biathlon Mixed Relay
This new figure skating event actually makes a lot of sense. Figure skating is already pretty much the gymnastics of the Winter Olympics—a sport most dudes only feel comfortable watching once every four years—so why not have a team competition just like gymnastics? Each team will be made up of six skaters—one individual male, one individual female, one skating pair, and one ice dance couple—and they will take part in four events. Each routine will be awarded points, and the team with the highest total at the end wins the gold.
7. Figure Skating Team Event
Now here's an addition that strikes me as kind of random. Don't get me wrong, I get why they'd want to add a luge relay. Luge is awesome (except for the part where people sometimes die), and almost all racing sports have relays. But here is what's weird about this one: each team will run a men's singles sled, a men's double's sled, and a women's singles sled. What's missing? A women's doubles sled...because they don't have women's doubles in the Olympics. So I guess I'm saying, why not also add a women's doubles luge event and balance things out?
6. Luge Mixed Team Relay
Just like snowboard halfpipe, which made Shaun White a household name, in the ski halfpipe athletes will perform big airs and other various tricks. Then they'll be judged on technical execution, amplitude, variety, difficulty, and creativity.
Sadly, Canadian Sarah Burke, a pioneer of ski halfpipe, will not be there to compete in the first Olympic ski halfpipe competition. You might recall that she died tragically while training for the 2012 Winter X-Games.
5. Ski Halfpipe (Men's and Women's)
Skateboarding may not be an Olympic sport, but that doesn't mean skate culture hasn't made its mark on the Olympics. First, of course, we got snowboarding. Now there will be ski slopestyle, in which athletes perform airs and tricks while moving down a 565 meter course with a bunch of rails and ramps, being judged on execution, style, difficulty, variety, and progression.
And yes, this is the one Bob Costas said was "Jackass stuff" on NBC's Today Show, which totally didn't offend anyone, I'm sure.
4. Ski Slopestyle (Men's and Women's)
Hey, if they're going to do ski slopestyle, they might as well do snowboard slopestyle, too.
Still no skateboarding in the Summer Games, though. The IOC will accept all the winter sports inspired by skateboarding, because they're kind of hard up for winter sports. But they won't take skateboarding itself. (I think they have something against baggy pants.)
3. Snowboard Slopestyle (Men's and Women's)
This year, for the first time, there will be men's and women's slalom events in addition to the men's and women's giant slalom events. What's the difference? Obviously, one slalom is giant, while the other is regular sized.
Yes, that was a silly joke. But it was also kind of true. The difference has to do with the spacing of the gates. In regular slalom, the gates are relatively close together. In giant slalom, they are spaced further apart. Then, in super giant slalom (a.k.a. Super-G), they're spaced even further apart.
Snowboard giant slalom was one of the two original snowboarding events added to the program for the 1998 games in Nagano, along with the halfpipe. In 2002, they switched it up and made it the giant parallel slalom, in which two athletes race side by side in heats. In 2006 they added the snowboard cross, bringing the number of events up to three. And now they're adding slopestyle and the regular parallel slalom, bringing the number of snowboard disciplines up to five.
2. Snowboard Parallel Slalom (Men's and Women's)
Last but not least, we have women's ski jumping. The men's event has been a part of every single Winter Olympics, which started in 1924, but the International Olympic Committee had been dragging its feet on women's ski jumping because they said there simply were too few female athletes in the sport. However, after this caused a bit of a sh*tstorm in the lead-up to the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver—people were calling it discrimination—the IOC apparently decided to give in to the social pressure and add the even to the 2014 program.
Unfortunately, it's unclear whether we'll actually get to see the world's top female ski jumpers compete in Sochi. Over the last twelve months, a whopping seven of them have suffered serious injuries to their knees and vertebrae. And this in turn begs the obvious question: are we sure flying off huge ramps on skis is really such a great idea?