5 sports to watch at the Winter Olympics

Which sport is scored on "coolness"?

8th February 2018

The Winter Olympics are here! Like the standard Olympics but with zanier events (read: not just another swimming race or gymnastics medal ceremony), we’ve hand-picked our favourite events so you can tune in to watch the craziest stunts and cheer on Britain’s hopefuls!

1. Figure Skating

I’ll start off with an easy one; everyone loves some figure skating, and everyone’s parents bloody love Torvill and Dean.

Britain’s chances:

Figure skating is Great Britain’s most successful Winter Olympic sport, boasting eight medals, and this year we’re hoping that Penny Coomes and Nick Butland can recreate even one of those perfect 6s from 1984.

However, after Coomes suffered a horrific knee injury in 2016, their qualification itself is a small miracle. But with 2014’s winners, the hugely successful Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the USA, taking a break from competing, you never know…

Penny_Coomes,_Nicholas_Buckland
Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland might scoop a medal. 📸 Palickap

Why it’s worth watching:

It’s worth watching just for the great tunes and graceful moves. Although many competitors still favour classical music, songs with lyrics are now allowed in the Winter Olympics, so it will be worth watching out for any modern hits alongside the inevitable Tchaikovsky.

We think, in the future, same-sex pairs could be introduced into the famous ice dancing category, in the least Blades of Glory-esque way possible.

A final word of warning: if watching with parents/grandparents/anyone alive in 1984, switch channels and change the subject as soon as the word “Bolero” is mentioned.

2. Skeleton

Jeez. Sliding head-first down a twisting slope of ice at 80 miles an hour on nothing more than a tea tray. Who said this was allowed?

Britain’s chances:

Lizzy Yarnold won gold last time around, and also picked up an MBE for her trouble. She is our favourite to become the first woman to defend her Winter Olympic medal in the sport, but then again, we could be a little biased. To top it off, the 29-year-old is Team GB’s flagbearer for the opening ceremony.

Lizzy Yarnold
Lizzy Yarnold is a medal favourite for Pyeongyang. 📸 Lizzy Yarnold

Why it’s worth watching:

See above. Woman. Tea tray. 80mph. The adrenaline rush from watching it is matched only by the tension. You’ll find yourself involuntarily holding your collective breaths for every single run, keeping fingers crossed that the athletes stay on the track.

Obviously it’s dangerous. Many athletes have died competing, but it is the speed and challenges of the course that make it so exciting for competitor and spectator. We wish everyone competing this year the best of luck, and hope that it stays safe.

3. Curling

My personal favourite, a tactical game often called “chess on ice”, which involves sliding heavy stones towards a target in order to score points. Members of either team can use brushes to sweep the area in front of the stones in order to speed up the ascent.

Britain’s chances:

We’ve got two teams entering, Team Muirhead and Team Smith, led by the eponymous Eve Muirhead and Kyle Smith respectively.

Hailing from the birthplace of curling itself, Scotland, Eve Muirhead skipped her team to a bronze medal in Sochi, and is hoping to improve on that this time around. An accomplished bagpiper (obviously), her two brothers also feature in Team Smith.

Kyle Smith’s team won silver at the European Championships last year, but this young team will have to work hard to end Canada’s 12-year winning streak.

Sochi_2014_Curling_M_GBR
Team GB men’s curling picked up silver in Sochi. 📸 Katarzyna Wicik

Why it’s worth watching:

Curling is insanely addictive. I don’t know why, it just is. I remember being sat in my bedroom for hours watching it at the last games. There is something mesmerising about the slick slide of the stone, the smooth sound it makes, contrasted by the frantic efforts of the brushers skating ahead of it.

It’s exciting, it’s as Scottish as a deep-fried Mars Bar, and we’re in with a chance. With matches on throughout the two weeks, why not turn it on and see if you get sucked into it? But beware; it’s a slippery slope (pun so so intended).

4. Slopestyle Snowboarding

This is great. A new sport, or style of snowboarding that was introduced at the Sochi games, and it looks exciting.

Britain’s chances:

We’ve got five entrants, including Yorkshire’s Katie Ormerod, the 20-year-old gunning for glory in her debut games. She won gold in the World Cup in Moscow last year, so she has a legitimate chance of medalling again here in South Korea.

She is competing despite a wrist fractured two days before the event, and a leg injury the day after that.

[UPDATE 09/02/18: Katie Ormerod has been ruled out of the games with a fractured heel.]

Why it’s worth watching:

There aren’t really any rules. Judges, well, judge, the tricks that athletes perform based on height, difficulty, execution, and an immeasurable fourth category best described as “coolness”. This can be how cool or new the trick is, the athlete’s general vibe, pretty much anything. Think of how you judged your mates when you were next to them on the sofa while they played Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, but without the obligatory “you’re shit” whenever they fall off.

As a new sport, it is improving fast, and we can expect new athletes to perform and create new tricks to push the boundaries of both snowboarding and gravity itself.

It’s also worth watching just to read the names of the tricks. Watch out for a totally radical “corked backside 9” or a popping “stalefish”? How about a “melon” or a “1066 reverse ninja drop”? Okay, I made that last one up, but I promise you that a stalefish and a melon are real tricks. Who gets to name these things? What do they have to do with snowboarding? Why?

5. Ice Hockey

We all know what ice hockey is. Puck, sticks, fights, etc. Gotcha.

Britain’s chances:

None at all. We’re not even taking a team.

Ice hockey
Ice hockey is fast-paced and aggressive. 📸 Pawel Maryanov

Why it’s worth watching:

With Russia unable to compete, a team of “Olympic Athletes from Russia” is instead participating in both the male and female tournaments. I’m not going to say this is cheating, but…

Another big event in the ice hockey is a team made up of athletes from both North and South Korea, who will compete together under the banner of a United Korea. At least three North Korean players will play in each match, and who knows, this could be the first step towards improving relations between the bitter neighbours. It will make a great film in twenty years or so if it does.

Ice hockey is set to be the most political sport of the games, and with fights often flaring up on the rink in normal games, who knows what will happen in these politically charged matches?

 

Of course, the opening and closing ceremonies will be worth a watch, especially if you want an extravagant snapshot of Korean culture. There are also plenty of other sports to tune in to, including skiing events such as the intriguing Nordic Combined, and, 30 years after the 1988 men’s team that inspired Cool Runnings, Jamaica’s women’s bobsleigh team is taking to the track for their first ever Olympics, and are aiming for a top 10 finish.

Whoever wins or loses, whatever sports you watch, we wish good luck to all the athletes competing and hope that the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang brings people together over their shared love of weird and wonderful sports.

8th February 2018