Inside the Games: A look at the 15 Winter Olympic sports

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:

Alpine Skiing
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
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.

Bobsled
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 Skiing
Cross-country skiers compete in sprint, relay and distance events with varying lengths, formats and styles.

Curling
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.

Figure Skating
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
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.

Ice Hockey
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.

Luge
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
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).

Skeleton
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.

Ski Jumping
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.

Snowboarding
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.

Speed Skating
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.

About Ryan Berenz 1999 Articles
Devotee of Star Wars. Builder of LEGO. Observer of televised sports. Member of the Television Critics Association. Graduate of the University of Wisconsin. Connoisseur of beer. Consumer of cheese. Father of two. Husband of one. Scourge of the Alaskan Bush People. Font of Simpsons knowledge. Son of a Stonecutter.