The athletic competition with the oldest ties to history is finally trying to appeal to a younger crowd.
For the first time in the Winter Olympics, careening down the side of a steep, snow-covered mountain and screaming through a winding course on an ice track at speeds greater than 80 mph are not extreme enough.
So, in trying to give the 2014 Sochi Games the kind of sharp edge that is featured on the skates and sleds that will be cutting paths into the Russian ice this month, significant changes were made.
To “X” things up a bit, 12 new competitions (three mixed events, four men’s events and five women’s events) were added to the Olympic program in Sochi, and the International Olympic Committee hopes they will give the Games the same shot of adrenaline many associate with the X Games.
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A closer look:
Biathlon mixed relay
Teams consist of two men and two women. Women will open the first two 6-kilometer legs, and then the men then complete the next two 7.5-kilometer legs. Each athlete will fire one prone and one standing shot, and will have to ski a penalty lap of 150 meters for each miss.
Figure skating team event — Mixed
Teams consist of six skaters — one male, one female, one pair and one ice dance couple. Points will be awarded for each routine and the team with the most aggregate points wins gold.
Luge team relay — Mixed
Each nation will field a men’s singles sled, a women’s singles sled and a doubles sled. All three sleds will slide down the track in succession, with the clock stopping only after the third sled has crossed the finish line. The athletes must slap a touchpad at the end of their run to open the starting gate for the next sled on their team.
Ski halfpipe — Men’s and Women’s
Each athlete will perform an array of big airs and other tricks in the halfpipe, and will be judged on technical execution, amplitude, variety, difficulty and use of pipe. This event is similar to the snowboard halfpipe, except with skis.
Ski slopestyle — Men’s and Women’s
In a hybrid event catering to the skills of aerialists and alpine skiers, athletes combine airs and tricks on a course featuring rails and a variety of jumps, and will score points for execution, style, difficulty, variety and progression.
Snowboard slopestyle — Men’s and Women’s
This event mirrors ski slopestyle, except, instead of using skis the athletes use snowboards.
Snowboard parallel slalom — Men’s and Women’s
Athletes will race two at a time down the same slope on identical, parallel courses, outlined with the same gates and triangular flags. The first one to reach the bottom wins.
Women’s ski jumping
The women compete in this event for the first time, and do so on the same hill that hosts the men’s normal event (the men also compete in a large-hill event). The highest combined score (distance plus style points) for two jumps wins.