When it comes to drama and sports, there’s nothing quite like international competition. The storied traditions, the patriotic pride, and the tales of athletes reaching the pinnacle of their sport all combine to form the greatest show that the athletic world has to offer. Now ‘s the time to prepare yourself for the majestic moments that are sure to come, and we’re here to help!
While most of the athletic events are familiar to us, some remain obscure. We all pretty much understand alpine skiing: get down the hill as fast as you can. Hockey is simple enough: shoot the puck into the goal. But what about the other sports? Some of the events that are not quite as well known are actually among the most adventurous and daring. Let’s take a look at three of the most adventurous – but relatively unknown – winter sports:
Jerry Seinfeld once joked that the luge is like the bobsled – except there’s no sled; it’s just Bob. In truth, however, the word luge is French for sled! The sport consists of an athlete lying down on a “kufen,” or runner, with two blades attached underneath. The lugist then travels down a descending and winding track of ice, sometimes reaching speeds as high as 140 km/hr! These athletes shift their body weight to slightly alter the trajectory of their sleds, navigating the course while holding on to the handles. One little known fact about the luge is that the athletes wear gloves which have spikes protruding from them. The spikes help the lugists gain traction at the start of the race in order to achieve maximum acceleration.
The luge dates back as far as the 16th century, but the first race course was a 4km course designed in Davos, Switzerland in 1883. The luge was first featured in official international competition in 1964. Want to really impress your friends? Ask them who the most dominant luge competitor is of all time. Answer? German lugist George Hacki, of course, who won the gold medal three consecutive times – in 1994, 1998, and 2002.
2. Freestyle Skiing
Freestyle skiing features everything that we love about sports: extraordinary speed, remarkable athleticism, and a dose of daring bravado and style. These athletes ski down the mountain and then perform all sorts of eye-popping tricks in the air: somersaults, grabs, flips and twists. There actually are a number of different competitions within this sport, but they’ll all take your breath away.
Freestyle skiing became popular in Norway and Italy as far back as the 1920’s, but the sport really took off as a result of the cultural climate of the 1960’s. In that decade of bold individualism and rebellion, many people were drawn to this new form of skiing which broke all the rules and allowed for maximum self-expression. Freestyle skiing made its way onto the world stage in 1988, in Calgary. One last little-known fact: skiers will often wear colored knee pads. The reason? The colorful knee pads ensure that the judges notice all of the subtleties in their agile aerial tricks.
The word biathlon comes from Greek, and means “two contests.” The idea of combining riflery with cross-county skiing originated with 18th century Scandinavian hunters who would trek through the forest on skis hunting their prey. The first organized games were held by the Norwegian army in 1912. The course was 17 km long, and participants were penalized with a two minute penalty for every target that was missed!
Nowadays, the biathlon is 20 km long for men, and 15 km for women. In some races, the skiers are penalized with an additional lap of skiing for missing the target. In the biathlon, there are different types of shooting that are interspersed among spurts of skiing. Some shooting is done while standing in a stationary position, and some is done in a prone position. The biathlon also includes the exciting Pursuit and Sprint competitions, where 60 skiers all race against each other!
Hopefully, when you watch the games this year, you’ll do so with a greater understanding of some of the less popular sports. Besides the facts that you’ve picked up, maybe you’ve drawn some inspiration too. The greatest part of international competition is watching the unparalleled enthusiasm and passion that the athletes demonstrate for their sport. This year, when you watch them perform their exhilarating feats of athleticism, ask yourself – how can I live my life with more enthusiasm and passion?
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