Don’t know your biathlon from your Nordic combined? In preparation for the Vancouver Winter Olympics Feb. 12-28, we take a quick glance at each of the Games’ sports disciplines:
Skiers compete in five disciplines: downhill, the fastest, steepest, longest course; slalom, the shortest course with the quickest turns; giant slalom, with wider and smoother turns than slalom; super-G, combining the speed of downhill with the precision of giant slalom; and combined, one downhill run and two slalom runs.
Biathlon combines the aerobic demands of cross-country skiing with the marksmanship of rifle shooting in five events: individual, sprint, pursuit, mass start and relay.
Bobsledders navigate an enclosed sled down a curved track of ice, reaching speeds near 80 mph. Competitions include two-man, four-man and two-woman bobsled.
Cross-country skiers compete in sprint, relay and distance events with varying lengths, formats and styles.
Described as “chess on ice” because of the strategy involved, curling involves sliding 42-pound stones down a strip of ice toward a target, with points being awarded based on the stone’s proximity to the target.
Singles and pairs events include two phases: the short program, in which skaters must complete eight elements within a time limit, and the free skate, a longer program which allows more freedom for artistic interpretation. Ice dancers perform in compulsory, original and free dance programs emphasizing rhythm, interpretation and precision.
Freestyle skiing consists of aerial, mogul and ski cross competitions. In aerials, skiers complete twists, flips and spins nearing 50 feet in mid-air. In moguls, skiers race down a slope with moguls and perform two aerials-style tricks. New this Olympics is ski cross, which uses a “mass start” of four skiers racing down a course.
Twelve men’s teams and eight women’s teams are divided into A and B groups. In the first phase, teams play every team in their group in a round-robin tournament. The top teams from each group after the first round advance to elimination rounds to determine medalists.
Lugers lie flat on their backs on a sled, using their feet to steer down a curved track of ice, reaching speeds of up to 90 mph. Events include men’s singles, women’s singles and doubles.
Nordic combined (men only) includes ski jumping and cross-country skiing, with individual normal hill, individual large hill and team-relay events.
Short-Track Speed Skating
Short-track speed skaters race on a 111.2-meter oval track, competing against each other instead of a clock. Events are 500-meter, 1,000-meter, 1,500-meter and relay events (5,000 meters for men, 3,000 meters for women).
Athletes lie on their stomachs on a sled and maneuver headfirst down a curved track of ice, reaching speeds of up to 80 mph. Men’s and women’s events consist of four heats, with the individual with the lowest combined time winning.
Skiing downward on a ramp, jumpers propel themselves off a ramp, staying airborne for five to six seconds. Ski jumpers (men only) compete in normal hill, large hill and team events, and are scored on distance and style.
Snowboarders compete in halfpipe, aerial tricks performed on a half-cylinder; parallel giant slalom, two boarders racing head-to-head on a course; and snowboard cross, four boarders racing down a slope.
Skaters race around a 400-meter oval track at speeds up to 40 mph. Men and women speed skaters compete in 500-meter, 1,000-meter, 1,500-meter, 5,000-meter and team pursuit races. Women also compete in 3,000-meter races, and men also compete in 10,000-meter races. In team pursuit, two teams of three skaters race simultaneously, with the first team to get all three members across the finish line first winning.