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12 New Olympic Events Debuting in Sochi

By Mark Lebetkin
1/23/2014 9:44:51 AM

The Winter Olympic program has never been a static thing. Many events have come and gone since the first Winter Games were held in 1924 in Chamonix, France. At least one sport, curling, has even come, then gone, then come back onto the Olympic roster.

It was the introduction of snowboarding, though, during the 1998 Nagano Olympics that really launched current round of growth in the Winter Olympic program. Ten new events were added to the 2002 Salt Lake City program, eight new events debuted in the 2006 Turin Olympics, and one (ski cross) in Vancouver in 2010.

And while most these additions had little to do with snowboarding, in many cases they reflected the same tendency to appeal to a younger, more action-oriented audience than in Olympics past. New events like team pursuit speed skating, ski cross and sprint distances in otherwise yawn-worthy cross country skiing-to many TV viewers, anyway-were an attempt to inject old sports with new energy.

Click here to see the 12 new Winter Olympic events for 2014.

But even compared with the recent past, 2014 in Sochi is going to be a bumper year for medals. A total of 98 events will be contested-the most of any Winter Olympics in history-and 12 of those are new to the program.

Out of those 12, four new events are in snowboarding and four are ski events-including slopestyle and halfpipe-originally popularized for snowboard. This is no accident.

"Such events provide great entertainment for the spectators and add further youthful appeal to our already action-packed lineup of Olympic winter sports," said IOC president Jacques Rogge when announcing the new events' inclusion in July 2011.

In short, the IOC took a look at the popularity of the Winter X Games and took the hint.

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Credit: Shutterstock

Snowboard Parallel Special Slalom-Men's and Women's

Snowboarders race to the finish line down parallel slalom courses with triangular flags in this new Olympic event. A more tightly spaced-and hence more technical-version of the equivalent giant slalom event, introduced to the Olympic program in 2002, this tournament-style competition will have boarders going head to head, beginning with a round of sixteen. Each matchup will consist of two runs, with boarders switching courses for the second run to cancel out any variation in the courses.

Credit: Flickr/John Lemieux

Ski Halfpipe-Men's and Women's

Like snowboard halfpipe-a signature board event that's been in the Olympics since 1998-the skiing version of this event involves doing tricks and aerials on a sloped pipe that's 180 meters long, 20 meters wide and 7 meters deep, according to the International Ski Federation. Performing tricks with names like "alley-oop flatspin 540 critical" and "switch leftside 720 Japan," skiers are judged on execution, difficulty, amplitude, variety and progression-a measure of new and uncommon tricks or variations. Keep an eye out for freeskiers Maddie Bowman in the women's event and David Wise in the men's, both of whom recently clinched a spot on the Olympic roster and are reigning X Games champs.

Credit: Sarah Brunson/U.S Olympic Ski team

Women's Ski Jump

The inclusion of this event in the Winter Olympics was a long time coming for elite female ski jumpers, who had lobbied for its addition for more than a decade before it finally made it into the list in April 2011. Female jumpers had been told in the past that the event was medically inappropriate for women, according to non-profit Women's Ski Jumping USA. Until now, ski jumping was the only event-besides Nordic combined, which includes cross country skiing and ski jumping-not to allow women to participate in the Winter or Summer Games, according to the organization. The 19-year-old phenom Sarah Hendrickson, sidelined by an injury in August, will be the one to watch if she recovers in time to make the team. Another top contender is Lindsey Van, who won the event's first-ever gold at the 2009 world championships.

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