Fun Facts about the 15 Winter Olympic Sports

Comprised of only 15 sports, the Winter Olympics cannot match the sheer size of the 42 sports offered at its summer counterpart. Nonetheless, nearly 3,000 athletes from 92 countries around the world have converged on South Korea’s third-largest city to compete in 102 events over the next fortnight. To prepare you for this year’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, here are fun facts you may not know about the 15 Winter Olympic sports.

Alpine Skiing
It’s still alpine skiing, even if it’s in the Taebaek Mountains instead of the Alps, and downhill skiers can reach up to 90 mph.

Commemorating the ancient practice of hunting for food, the biathlon combines the stamina of cross-country skiing with the precision of shooting at targets 160 feet away.

Two and four-person crews careen down an ice-covered track with sharp turns at 80-90 mph. What could go wrong?

Cross Country Skiing
Dominated by the Nordic countries, this sport boasts athletes that can cover over 30 miles on snow in just over two hours.

Each stone weighs 44 pounds and is made from ailsite stones, which have very low water absorption.

Figure Skating
The oldest Winter Olympic sport, figure skating competition dates back to 1908 when the gold medal went to Ulrich Salchow, whose backwards take-off jump is still used today.

Freestyle Skiing
Once known as “hotdogging,” freestyle skiing has grown to five events for men and women, including aerials, halfpipe, moguls, slopestyle, and a fast ski cross race.

Ice Hockey
Hockey comes from the old French word “hocquet” which means “stick.”

More French influence. Luge is the French word for “sledge” or a “sleigh” mounted by runners. Just like when you go sledding with your kids, a luge has no brakes.

Nordic Combined
Deemed to determine the “ultimate winter athlete,” this event combines the explosiveness of ski jumping with the endurance of cross-country skiing. Using the Gundersen method, the winner of the ski jump gets a head start of 4 seconds for every point ahead of second place.

Short Track Speed Skating
In the Olympics since 1992, short track includes rapid, crowded races that quickly became a fan favorite. The 5,000-meter race for men consists of a whopping 45 laps.

Referring to the small sled under your body as opposed to what’s left of you after heading down a speedy ice track face first, skeleton is for the kids who refused to heed their mom’s advice to sit on their bottom.

Ski Jumping
Despite jumping from as high as 90 meters, a ski jumper is never more than approximately 20 feet off the ground.

Though he won’t defend his snowboarding slopestyle gold in PyeongChang, homeschool snowboarder and Alpha Omega Academy graduate Sage Kotsenburg won the first gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Speed Skating
With room to spare, two international size hockey rinks can fit inside a long track oval of 500 meters.

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