Official Winter Olympic Sports

The 2018 Winter Olympic Games will be held in PyeongChang, South Korea. Editorial credit: Efired /
The 2018 Winter Olympic Games will be held in PyeongChang, South Korea. Editorial credit: Efired /

The Winter Olympics is a sporting event that takes place every four years, always two years after the Summer Olympic Games. The Winter Games involve sports that are mainly played on snow or ice and often held during the winter seasons. Winter Olympics have been hosted by eleven different countries from three continents since its inception. The first Winter Games was hosted by the city of Chamonix, France in 1924 and involved five sports divided into nine disciplines. However, the games have evolved to include several sports and disciplines, with games such as snowboarding, skiing, and luge earning a permanent spot on the Olympic program. South Korea will be hosting the 2018 edition of the Winter Games, having hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics. The 2018 games will feature 102 events in 15 sports. Here are the 15 official Winter Olympics Sports.

15. Alpine Skiing

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Alpine skiing, also referred to as downhill skiing, is a winter Olympic sport whereby the participants slide down hills that are snow covered with fixed-heel bindings. The fixed heel bindings do not allow the participants to walk or ski uphill, they have to mechanically move up. Alpine skiing is commonly practiced in ski resorts that offer services like ski lifts. Apart from the 1940 games, Alpine skiing has been an event at Winter Olympic Games since 1936. Alpine Skiing has been part of the Winter Olympic Games since 1936 and only failed to feature in the 1940 games.

14. Biathlon

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Biathlon is a winter sport that involves cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. The biathletes usually ski for long distances with a few stopovers where they are required to shoot a target using their rifle. In case they miss the target, they are usually allowed a 150 meter loop as a penalty. The participants can take part in the sport as individuals or as a relay of a team of four, or as a mass competition. It first featured at the Winter Olympics in 1960 at Squaw Valley. The women’s biathlon debuted at the 1992 Winter Olympic Games in Albertville.

13. Bobsleigh

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Bobsleigh, also referred to as bobsled, is a Winter Olympic Game whereby the participants compete in teams of two or four. The teams use gravity-powered sleds to make runs down narrow, twisted ice tracks. The timed runs are combined and calculated to determine the winners. To increase the speed at which the sled moves, the teammates usually bob back and forth on the sled. Bobsleigh is one of the oldest sports at the Winter Games having debuted in the 1924 Winter Olympic Games. The two-man event was introduced at the 1932 games while the two-woman event at the 2002 games.

12. Cross-country Skiing

Cross-country skiing is a winter sport whereby the competitors ski across a snow-covered ground using their personal exerted force. The skiing is usually long distance, either on a smooth or a rugged terrain. Cross-country skiing is mainly used for recreational and sporting activities. However, some people still use cross-country skiing as a means of transport. Cross-skiing first featured in the 1924 Winter Games in Chamonix as part of Nordic skiing. The women’s team debuted at the 1952 Winter Olympics.

11. Curling

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Curling is a winter sport in which the competitors slide stones on a sheet of ice towards a designated target area which is divided into four rings. Two teams, each consisting of four players take turns to slide the heavy and polished stones. A team is usually given eight stones. Scoring of the points is usually determined by how close to the center of the target the stone lands; the closer the stone to the center of the target, the higher the points. Curling was featured in the 1924 Winter Olympic Games. It was then featured as a demonstration sport at the 1932, 1988, and 1992 Olympic Games. Curling was added to the official program of the 1998 Olympic Games.

10. Figure Skating

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Figure skating entails an individual or team performing wearing figure skates on ice. Figure skating at the Olympics involves four events; men’s singles, women’s singles, pair skating, and ice dancing. The four disciplines were included as team event for the first time during the 2014 games. Figure skating was the first sport to be considered a Winter Olympic sport in the year 1908. Figure skates are closely resemble ice hockey skates with the main difference being the larger toe pick on the front part of the figure skates.

9. Freestyle Skiing

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Freestyle skiing, a Winter Olympic sport, consists of aerials, moguls, cross, half-pipe and slopestyle events. It can comprise of the participants skiing and perform the aerial flips and spins. It can also include the skiers sliding rail and boxes on their skis. In some parts of the world, it is also referred to as jibbing. Freestyle skiing was first demonstrated at the 1988 Winter Olympics with the mogul added as an official medal event in the 1992 Winter Games. The aerial event was included in the 1994 games while the slopestyle in 2014 games.

8. Ice Hockey

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Ice hockey entails two teams of skaters, each consisting of six members using sticks to shoot a puck while making attempts to score against the opponent team. The six members of the team consist one goalkeeper. The rest of the five members keep skating up and down the ice pitch trying to score a goal against the opponents. The team that scores the highest number of goals is declared the winner. Ice hockey has been one of the Winter Olympics sports 1924. It was also included in the 1920 Summer Games. The women’s ice hockey was included as a medal sport in the 1998 Winter Games.

7. Luge

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Luge athletes race down a steep ice track using a flat sled. Their feet come first with their heads at the end of the sled and their faces up. The ice track is usually steep to increase the gravity which also increases the speed of the sled. The lugers are required to ride on the sled from the starting line, unlike skeleton where participants can run a short distance before sliding. The luge events involve individual competitions or a duo. The duo competitions involve two lugers riding on the same sled.

6. Nordic Combined

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Nordic combined is one of the oldest Winter Olympic Games, having debuted in 1924 in Chamonix. It has featured continuously since the first Winter Olympic Games. It involves athletes taking part in cross-country skiing and ski jumping. The athletes ski down a steep icy track at a very high speed. Due to the high speed at which the athletes ski, protective clothing like ski boots and helmets are necessary for Nordic combined. The game involves both individuals and relay team events.

5. Short Track Speed Skating

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Short track speed skating, or indoor skating, is a type of ice speed skating in which the competitors skate around an oval ice track. During the competition, several skaters, usually between four and six, skate around the oval track which usually measures approximately 400 meters. A skater who impedes another skater will be automatically disqualified. Short track was a demonstration sport at the 1988 Winter Olympics and was upgraded to official medal sport in 1992. It includes four events for both men and women.

4. Skeleton

Skeleton racing is a winter Olympic sport that involves the athletes sliding down a steep icy track with their head first then the feet behind. The athletes usually use sleds that are bony and resemble a human skeleton, hence the name. The sleds are usually made of steel with handles on the side to boost the safety of the athletes. The athlete usually starts the race by running for a short distance before they start sliding on the sled. Only one athlete races at a particular time, there are no team races in a skeleton. Skeleton is also called tobogganing in some parts of the world.

3. Ski Jumping

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Ski jumping is a Winter Olympic sport that is performed in a venue that consists of a jumping ramp, a take-off table, and a landing hill. The points of each jump are awarded according to the distance covered and the style performed during the jump. A line is usually drawn in the landing area and acts as a target to which the athletes strive to attain. There are always several judges awarding points to the athletes and each judge can give a maximum score of 20 points.

2. Snowboarding

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Snowboarding is a Winter Olympic sport whereby the athletes are required to slide down a steep hill covered with ice using a snowboard that is usually attached to their legs. The athletes slide down the icy hill with a few instances where they have to pass through bumps, sharp turns, and jumps. A clock is usually set to time the athletes as they run down the slope. The winner is determined by the athlete who takes the shortest time to tackle obstacles and finish the race. Snowboarding became an Olympic sport in 1998.

1. Speed skating

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Speed skating is a winter sport in which the participants compete against each other by racing a certain distance on skates. Long and short track speed skating, and marathon skating are some of the types of the speed skating. Long track speed skating is simply referred as speed skating. The long track usually has a length of 400 meters. However, tracks measuring 200, 250, and 333½ meters tracks are frequently used in speed skating. The sport debuted at the 1924 Winter Olympics and has been one of the most popular sports at the winter games.


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