2014 Olympic Preview: Skiing


Skiing is a quintessential part of the Olympics but it is a lot more than just racing downhill at breakneck speeds. There are plenty of skiing disciplines, so many that not all of them would fit in one preview, and they range from the most popular to the almost forgotten. There are extreme speeds and slow speeds and some guns thrown in to the mix. Ski sports are some of the major sports in the games and they command one of the biggest requirements for any host city. When considering a host city for the Winter Olympics the biggest consideration every year is what mountain these events will be on. Last year the athletes would go to one of the most exclusive and one of the best mountains in the world in Whistler. It was a rare treat for many of the athletes and a welcome one with many of them very familiar with the winter resort town. This year will be different as the Caucasus Mountains and more specifically the Rosa Khutor Ski Resort opened in 2011 and built specifically for the Olympics. There have been test events and a World Cup at the resort but the Olympics will be its major introduction to the world. Unlike Whistler Rosa Khutor does not have a great reputation because it simply does not have a reputation yet. The athletes at the Olympics will introduce it to the world and for the organizing committee they hope it is a good introduction. The mountain will feature the biggest event ever and for many the biggest concern is not the mountain itself but what is on the mountain. The organizing committee for Sochi is hoping that they do not see the same issues as 2010 when the Olympic Committee would be left without snow close to the games. The Sochi organizers have produced and save snow for a while now keeping it under large tarps to ensure it is ready to bring in when the Olympic start. There are a lot of questions for the games in the skiing sports but in the end the only question that matters will be who can stand on the top of the podium at the end of each event and represent their country in the best way possible. There will be plenty of athletes looking for their chance to become a national hero and in the Alpine Skiing, Cross Country Skiing, Biathlon, and Nordic Combined events there will be plenty that will do exactly that while showing what the Organizing Committee can do to ensure that the skiing events go on without a hitch.


Alpine Skiing







First Year:
Most Medals: Austria, 105 (31 Gold)

Alpine Skiing is what people think of when they think of the Winter Olympics as it is the image of winter sports. Alpine Skiing was a part of the 1936 Winter Olympics, officially the 4th Winter Olympics, but it has become one of the main events in every program. The Alpine Skiing events award the ability of athletes who can fly down a hill at breakneck speeds and keep controls enough to follow the proper path. It is one of the most dangerous sports in the Olympic program as speeds of over 100 km/h are regular and one edge being dug in can send a skier to the hospital. Alpine Skiing is broken up into five disciplines all with their own set of skills that must be mastered to win medals and stay safe. The fastest of all the Alpine Skiing events is the downhill where athletes travel at close to 120 km/h down a steep slope while turning in and out of turns to ensure they make it through the gates. The Slalom is a discipline where athletes must run a shorter course while turning between tightly spaced gates. The Giant Slalom is a slalom course with the gates spaced further apart than the slalom but still at a slower pace with tight turning. The Super Giant Slalom, or Super-G, is a much larger slalom that has gates spaced farther apart than the Slalom or the Giant Slalom and is run at higher speeds. The Super Combined puts together the Super-G and the Downhill with spaced out gates at high speeds on a course with the speed of the downhill. All five disciplines are timed events, with most athletes participating in each event although all have different strengths, as the fastest down the hill winning the gold medal as Alpine Skiing is all about getting to the end in the most efficient way. Alpine Skiing is a group of disciplines that highlights speed and precision and with the excitement that comes with it makes it one of the most exciting sports in the Winter Olympic program.


Who to Watch:
Felix Neurether (Germany)
– He is fast rising the World Championship winning many of the last events as he looks to take his winning streak into the Olympics and win his first medal at an Olympic Games in his first time at the Games

Marcel Hirscher (Austria)
– He is currently leading the World Championship winning three events this year and finishing outside of the top 3 only once throughout the entire world championship as he looks like the strongest candidate for a Gold Medal in the Giant Slalom

Maria Höfl-Riesch (Germany)
– A Downhill specialist Riesch is currently leading the World Championship finishing in the top three in every discipline at least once in this year’s championship tour as she looks to translate that success to a medal in the Olympics

Anna Ferninnger (Austria)
– She won the 2011 World Championship and is currently sitting in second place in the World Championship as she looks to make an impact in all five of the disciplines in hopes that she can win medals in all disciplines

Canadian Content:
Marie-Michéle Gagnon (Lac-Etchemin, Quebec)
– She is a young rising star on Team Canada and she will look to take her breakout year into the Olympics in hopes to help bring the Canadians back to the forefront of Alpine Skiing after a poor performance in 2010

Erik Guay (Quebec City, Quebec)
– In 2010 Guay went into the Olympic Games in front of a home crowd with high expectations but would finish the games without a medal and now is looking to make up for that as he looks to be getting hot at the right time and will hope to win gold in Sochi









First Year:
1928 (Continuously since 1960)
Most Medals: Germany, 43 (16 Gold)

It is one of the oldest disciplines in the Olympic program although it was not in the very first Winter Olympics. Originally a way of life the Biathlon was started in Northern Europe with hunters finding that skies were the best way to get around and hunt for game. As the way of hunting would change and it would turn to a sport when in 1960 it would officially become a part of the Winter Olympic program. Biathlon athletes must cross-country ski 7.5 to 20 kilometres while showing enough control over their breathing to calm down and shoot a rifle at targets 50 metres away usually alternating between standing and prone position throughout each shooting stage. There are five disciplines in the sport all with plenty of different skills that are required. Individual competitions feature five laps, total of 20 km for men and 15 km for women, and four shooting stages. The Sprint competitions see athletes run a three lap race, 10 km for men and 7.5 km for women, with two shooting ranges in between. The Pursuit competitions are 5 laps, 12.5 km for men and 10 km for women, with four shooting ranges while any athlete that is lapped by another athlete is immediately eliminated. The relay competition is a race with four members to a team where each athlete skies two laps with two shooting ranges each. The Mass Start Competition where 30 athletes begin at the same time running five laps with four shooting ranges. This year there will be another discipline added as the mixed relay will make its debut feature the same rules as a relay with two female athletes and two make athletes. When athletes miss their target there is 150 metre penalty loop that must be skied for every target missed, the relay allows for three extra round before the loop while the individual race sees a 1-minute penalty for every miss avoiding the penalty loop. It is a mix of two sports put into one and requires stamina and control along with amazing focus to be the best in these two sports meshed into one.


Who to Watch:
Gabriela Soukalova (Czech Republic)
– She has the genes to be an Olympic champion with her mother winning a silver medal in 1984 for cross-country skiing and as the current leader in the women’s world cup she is set to have a good year in Russia

Emil Hegle Svendsen (Norway)
– He has been the most dominant Biathlete since 2008 winning 11 world Championship gold medals since 2008 and winning two gold medals in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics including the sprint and the relay with the Norwegian team as he goes for a repeat performance this year

Canadian Content:
Jean-Philippe Le Guellec (Kingston, Ontario)
– He is one of the most successful Canadian Biathletes ever and is a three-time Olympian and after winning a World Cup event in December 2012 as well as finishing fourth place in this year opening race he could have a chance at medalling in the Olympics

Women’s Team
– There are no overly impressive individual women but the team made up of Megan Heinicke, Megan Imrie, Zina Kocher, and Rosanna Crawford finished in 4th place in the last world cup event before the Olympics as they seem to be poised to challenge at the Olympics


Cross-Country Skiing







First Year:
Most Medals: Norway, 96 (35 Gold)

Cross-Country skiing is often seen as a sport of leisure and not often seems to be at the top of many people’s list as a physical feat. That would be wrong though as it is one of the building blocks of the Winter Olympics staring in 1924 and it has evolved into a true test of will and stamina. The evolution of the sport would also bring a new style of cross-country skiing as the technique has become more of a skating motion than a skiing motion that gives athletes more power while raving. There are six different races in the competition all with a different obstacle to overcome in order to win that Olympic medal. The Individual Race features a time trial where skiers leave at 30-second intervals with the fastest time around the course, 15 km for men and 10 km for women, winning a medal. The Mass start race features a total of 60-80 athletes leaving at the same time along the course, 50 km for men and 30 km for women, with the first to cross the line at the end winning the gold. The skiathlon is a more unique race as athletes must race a course, 30 km for men and 15 km for women, half the time using the classic technique skis then switching halfway through the race the ski-skate skis with the first racer across the line winning gold. The relay involves four skiers, two using the classic technique and two using the ski-skate technique, racing a course, 20 km for women and 40 km for men, with the first team crossing the line winning the medal. The individual sprint features athletes racing a shorter course, 1.2-1.3 km for women and 1.4-1.6 km for men, with the top times in the final round winning medals. The team sprint features two skier from each country racing a 1.5 km track by taking turns and tagging off to complete 6 total laps. Cross-country skiing is a sport that requires stamina and concentration but those who can master these skills can find themselves at the top of the podium this year in Sochi.


Who to Watch:
Martin Johnsrud Sundby (Norway)
– He is currently the best skier in the FIS world Cup for Cross-Country and he looks to take this top ranking and earn Norway multiple gold medals as the top skier heading into the 2014 Sochi Olympics

Therese Johaug (Norway)
– She is the women’s leader in the Tour de Ski and as an Olympic Gold Medalist in 2010 with the Norwegian relay team she looks to add more medals to the case as she hopes to add an individual medal to the collection

Canadian Content:
Alex Harvey (Saint-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Quebec)
– He is getting hot at the perfect time as he has won 4 world cup medals in the last month and is looking to add an Olympic medal to the hot streak as he hopes to continue his streak into Sochi to give Canada another medal

Daria Gaiazova (Banff, Alberta)
– A Russian immigrant to Canada Gaiazova is returning back to the country she was born in representing Canada as the highest ranked female skier on the Canadian team and will hope to have her best performance of the year at the Olympics


Nordic Combined







First Year:
Most Medals: Norway, 26 (11 Gold)

Nordic Combined is almost self-explanatory as it combines two Nordic skiing events into one to determine who can master two disciplines. It is a combination of the stamina of cross-country skiing and the power and technique of ski jumping. Athletes must be able to go through the punishment of running a cross-country race and still master the specific technique of jumping off of a massive hill to get the most distance you can get. There are two different types of competitions, all are only male, as there is the individual competition and the team competition. In the individual competition there are two divisions as skiers will either participate in the normal hill (105 metres) or the large hill (140 metres). Each competition begins with every athlete taking one jump trying to go as far as they can with the best technique. Scores for the beginning of the event are scored based on distance and style and have a massive impact on the final stage. The final stage is a 10 km cross-country race where the first skier across the line wins the gold medal. All skiers begin at the same time with the order sorted with the skiers with the top scores in the ski jump round started at the front. The rest of the skiers are placed behind the top score at a distance that reflects the difference in their scores. In the team event four athletes compete with each getting one jump off of the large hill. Their combined scores will give the team an advantage in start position for the 4×5 km relay race where the first skier crossing the finish line winning the gold for their team. It is a competition where there is little space for any mistakes as athletes must be good at both sports. There is only one chance to earn points from the ski jump and if that jump goes poorly you may be too far back to make up for the stumble in the cross-country race. It is all about focus and control as all athletes must show that they have mastered both sports if they want to walk away with a medal.


Who to Watch:
Eric Frenzel (Germany)
– He has won the last three World Cups including the most recent one this past year and has established himself as the most dominant athlete in the sport as he hopes to add an Olympic Gold medal to his collection this year

Haavard Klemetsen (Norway)
– Representing the country that has dominated this event Klemetsen is a veteran of the sport competing in the 2006 Olympics and finishing second in the latest world championship as he hopes to go out with an Olympic medal near the end of his career

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