The Winter Olympics is underway at PyeongChang in South Korea. Around 2900 athletes are competing for glory in 15 sports. Yes, you read that right — 15! And you thought the Winter Olympics was only about figure skating, skiing and ice hockey! Here’s a lowdown on some of the sports that you perhaps didn’t know existed.
This is one of the more complex sports at the Winter Olympics. Curling requires precision, strategy, skill and teamwork. A granite stone is pushed on an ice track towards a target called the ‘house’. The house is at the centre of the track. So what’s the big deal? The stone curls or keeps changing its direction due to friction! Team members have to use brooms to skilfully sweep a path for the stone. The sweeping motion raises the temperature of the ice and reduces friction. This helps the stone move in a straight line. The teams have to push eight stones alternately. Those that manage to get their stones closest to the house score points. No wonder that curling is also called ‘chess on ice’!
Imagine people packed in a sled sliding down a narrow, curving, icy track at 90 miles per hour. Scary, isn’t it? That is Bobsleigh. A team of two or four people steer their gravity-powered sleds. One person manipulates a pair of ropes that are connected to the sled’s steel runners. The others help by shifting their weight to alter the course of the sled. It’s thrilling to watch these sleds whizz past you! Bobsleigh got global recognition after the successful Hollywood movie ‘Cool Runnings’ that was based on it.
It’s one of the more dangerous disciplines at the Winter Olympics. Snowboarding requires extreme skill. Athletes navigate steep, snow-covered slopes riding on a board. They also perform twists, somersaults and other tricks while descending. Snowboarding has multiple events depending on the type of board used. The USA has dominated snowboarding since its introduction in the Games in 1998.
Speed skating is the winter cousin of the track events at the Summer Olympics. Speed skaters are considered the Usain Bolts and Mo Farahs of the ice rink. But unlike the running races, speed skating involves a lot of drama. There are falls, crashes and collisions along tight turns. These skaters resemble superheroes with their bodysuits, spectacles and helmets. And how they fly across the rink! If curling puts you to sleep, this is the event you should watch!
Luge is a more dangerous version of bobsleighing. Participants hurtle down the icy track on a small sled without any brakes. They can only navigate the turns by angling their bodies. It’s like going down feet first in a roller-coaster with only a helmet for protection. What’s interesting is that India is among the countries participating in this sport. Yes, you heard it right! Shiva Keshavan has represented India in six Winter Olympics — a record feat. No wonder he’s known as the Fastest Asian on Ice!