Four Winter Olympic events will be contested for the first time at the 2018 games in Pyeongchang, South Korea: big air in snowboarding, big air in freestyle skiing, mass start speedskating, and mixed doubles curling. Not being contested: these sports, which have been discontinued or never approved by the IOC.
It’s like hiking…in incredibly thick snow…with tennis rackets on your feet. Walking with snowshoes on is a necessity and pastime in Canada and Vermont and not many other places, which is part of the reason why snowshoe racing was demonstrated at the 2002 Olympics…and then disappeared.
Contested in the 1924 Olympics, but demoted to a non-medal “demonstration sport” for the games in 1928, 1936, and 1948, this event combines several other skills: mountaineering on skis, rifle shooting, and cross-country skiing. Competitors used their military-esque skills to ski 25 km, climb up a 500 meter incline on skis, then shoot some targets. By 1960, the event had evolved into the Olympic sport of biathlon—which is just skiing, then shooting.
What would happen if they combined soccer and hockey? Then you’d get the sport of bandy, which is extremely popular in Scandinavia and Russia, and moderately popular on the Indian subcontinent. Teams of 11 players a side spend two 45-minute halves knocking a ball (not a puck) around. It’s played on ice, but unlike in hockey, the goalie doesn’t get to use a stick. Bandy was a demonstration-only sport at the 1952 Olympics.
Have you ever seen one of those “competitive cheerleading” competitions on a cable sports channel, or like in the movie Bring It On? Synchronized skating is like that. Squads with as many as 20 athletes make human pyramids, throw each other around, jump into the air, and engage in other acrobatics…on the ice, and with skates on. The sport only saw Olympic glory once, as a demo sport in 2002.
Tested out at the 1988 and 1992 Winter Olympics, acroski is also called “ski ballet.” And rightfully so. It’s like it figure skating were done on a downward slope. Skiers careen down a snowy hill while they perform carefully choreographed routines, which include flips, jumps, and dance moves.