Upping the Cool Factor: What to Know about the New Winter Olympic Sports

The fire is lit and so begins a two-week onslaught of winter-weather battles. Millions of us will watch through February 25 as snow and ice fly in the name of global competition. Well-known athletes like Lindsey Vonn and Shaun White, along with many up-and-comers, vie for the gold/silver/bronze at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. There are so many great competitors to cheer on, but each Olympics also brings its own tweaks and new events. This go-around promises to follow suit, with a fresh dose of sporting flavor slated to hit the Games. Be on the lookout for these additions.

Big Air Snowboarding. Maybe one of the most anticipated new events is this snowboarding feat where competitors launch themselves from a steep slope to perform difficult tricks, flips and spins – like the triple cork 1620 or the quad cork 1800. If you’re looking for someone to root for, first-time Olympians Chris Corning and Red Gerard have a good shot at a men’s medal for Team USA. And Jamie Anderson could become the first women’s snowboarder to win two Olympic golds.

Mass Start Speedskating. Lots of medals are up for grabs in the fast-paced speedskating events, with men’s and women’s competitions in an array of long- and short-track events. It’ll be even more this year when 24 athletes line up in the mass start, using confrontation and team strategy skills to race for the gold. The 16-lap event hasn’t been a part of the Olympics since the 1930s. There are many athletes to watch both from the U.S. (like Shani Davis and Maame Biney) to international favorites. In the mass start, though, Joey Mantia and N.C.-native Heather Bergsma could bring home a medal.

Alpine Team Skiing. Sixteen countries are planning to compete is this addition to alpine skiing, where teams of two men and two women alternate races on side-by-side slalom courses. A point goes to the winner, or to the team that makes it further down the track if they both fall. Watch for this event toward the end of the Olympics, on Feb. 24. The U.S. is among the qualifiers for the event, but Switzerland, Austria and France are favored to win.

Mixed Doubles Curling. Not every Olympic spectator can easily imagine squeezing themselves into spandex and twirling around on ice or jumping hundreds of meters in the air on skis. Curling, though, might be the event that inspires the most “I bet I could do that” moments. They may not know that sliding the 42-pound stones across the ice is a lot harder than it looks. While traditional curling has four-player teams, mixed doubles includes one male and one female. Watch for America’s brother-and-sister team of Matt and Becca Hamilton. They’re also competing in the men’s and women’s tournaments.