by Caroline Baldwin
The Winter Olympics have always been about the athletes making history and the world coming together as a global community, but this year the Games themselves have made history along with the everchanging Olympic athlete. With the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics coming to a close on Feb. 23, the largest version of the Winter Olympics to date, viewers all around the world were able to experience 12 new events introduced by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
What Makes It Different
The new Olympic events include the ski halfpipe (men's and women's), ski slopestyle (men's and women's), snowboard slopestyle (men's and women's), snowboard parallel slalom (men’s and women’s), women's ski jumping, biathlon mixed relay, a mixed figure skating team event and luge mixed team relay. According to IOC Executive Director Christophe Dubi in an interview from aol.com, the IOC focuses on keeping the games relevant and capturing a new audience while still preserving history.
The New Events
According to olympic.org, the ski halfpipe is adopted after the snowboard halfpipe and the athlete will perform an array of big airs and other tricks in the halfpipe before being judged on technical execution, amplitude, variety, difficulty and use of pipe. Snowboard and ski slopestyle have been X-Game events but were just introduced into the Olympic world this year. Athletes will descend down a course consisting of rails and jumps and, will be judged upon execution, style, difficulty, variety and progression.
In snowboard parallel slalom, riders will race down side-by-side in knock-out format from rounds of 16. Women’s ski jumping will join the Olympic program as the women jump off a 756 meter hill and are judged on distance and style, according to olympic.org.
Teams in the biathlon mixed relay are comprised of two men and two women, with the women completing the first two 6 km legs and the men completing the two 7.5 km legs including two shooting stations in each leg. Team figure skating is comprised of six skaters: one male, one female, one pair and one ice dance couple. Points are awarded for each routine, and the team with the largest sum of points wins gold. The luge team relay consists of a men’s single sled, a women’s single sled and a double sled, which slide down the track one after another with the clock stopping only after the third sled passes the finish line.
The U.S. made an appearance on the podium in 4 out of 12 new events. The U.S. proved dominance in both men’s and women’s slopestyle skiing as the men swept the podium with Joss Christensen winning gold and first time Olympian Devin Logan captured silver in the women’s slopestyle skiing. The U.S. continued to dominate slopestyle as both Jamie Anderson and Sage Kotsenburg won gold in women’s and men’s snowboard slopestyle respectively. The U.S. also won bronze in the team figure skating.
The New Olympian Face
With the media getting more and more involved with the Olympic Games, many pre-competition routines are coming to the public eye. For example, American luger Kate Hansen gets rid of her pre-race jitters by having a dance party to Beyonce. Dancing is not the only way to capture the public’s attention, Russian snowboarder Alexey Sobolov put his number on his helmet and received more than 2,000 text messages within hours according to USA Today.
With two days left, only a few events remain. On Saturday Feb. 22, skiing slalom, men’s biathlon relay, bobsled, women’s cross country skiing, men’s and women’s snowboard parallel slalom, men’s ice hockey and men’s and women’s speed skating will be taking place. February 23 will include men’s ice hockey, men’s cross country and four-man bobsled will takeplace. Although there has been mixed reactions to the new events, they have provided for an entertaining Winter Games thus far. The last chance to catch a glimpse of Sochi's newest olympic events will be this weekend prior to the traditional closing ceremony.