Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sports Talk: New Events for the 2014 Olympics

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Jan. 22, 2014.  
Still two and a half weeks out, I can't help myself but to go ahead and start talking about the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. With so much happening in such a short span of time, it is difficult to determine what to write about in this column. And this year, there will be more activity than ever before, literally, as there more events than any past Winter Olympics. 

Four new events for both men and women as well as one new event for women and three new team events have been added to this year's games. Because of the growth, for the first time, competition will be taking place before the opening ceremonies on Feb. 7. Thankfully, this also means that NBC will begin its prime time coverage in Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 6, before the Opening Ceremonies--also a first.

So what are the new events to look for?
  • Ski Halfpipe (men's and women's)
  • Ski Slopestyle (men's and women's)
  • Snowboard Slopestyle (men's and women's)
  • Snowboard Parallel Special Slalom (men's and women's)
  • Women's Ski Jumping
  • Biathlon Mixed Relay
  • Luge Team Relay
  • Figure Skating Team
 Coming form a sport (track and field) where there was a lot of focus on individual performance, I actually came to love the importance of the team aspect of such sports. Because of that I am most excited about the addition of the new relays and the figure skating team event.

The figure skating team event will actually begin on Feb. 6, and, woo-hoo, Team USA is considered a medal favorite, having won the 2013  World Team Trophy. This team medal, however, will be for men and women combined. The score will be totaled from the men, women, pairs and ice dancing scores. I love the ice skating anyway, but I'm also all for an event that gives the red-white-and-blue a good chance at another medal!

Then there is the Biathlon Mixed Relay. For those that don't know, biathlon usually refers to (and does in this instance) the combination of cross country skiing and rifle shooting--exciting, no? What's extra exciting about this new event is that it is 'mixed'--meaning two legs by men and two by women.

The Luge Team Relay will actually be an event for men, women and men's doubles. Honestly, how many of us basically did this as kids (and still do, maybe?) when there is actually decent snow on the ground? Luging is basically an elaborated and extremely intense version of sled racing. Turn that into a relay event and it gets that much more intense. (Can you tell relays were one of my favorite parts of track and field??)

The winter Olympics get me excited because so many of the events, even the popular ones, are what you might call "uncommon". It's not every day you watch skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, bobsledding or curling. Even hockey--a mainstream sport--gets lost behind basketball, football and baseball (particularly in a state like Kentucky). However, if you remember when Lexington had a hockey team, the Thoroughblades, you know just how exciting hockey can be. Seeing these 'uncommon' sports being performed by the world's best makes you recognize some of the world's most incredible athletes whom the everyday sports' fan doesn't always tune into.

I just hope that with all of these extremely cold temperatures we are experiencing, we could actually get some decent snow. The cold is much more fun when you can play games and compete in it! (And kids these days need to be able to do their own 'mock' luge races!)

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