I love the Olympics—no, they don’t have football, nor is there as much excitement (to me) as March Madness, but it’s the only sporting event that brings together the entire world. It’s on all the time for two straight weeks, and we get the pleasure of watching sports that most of us wouldn’t regularly tune into.
With the games in full swing, here’s a complete power ranking of the Winter Olympics best events.
- Cross-country Skiing
In terms of endurance and willpower, no event in the Winter Olympics is more difficult than cross-country skiing—but in terms of watchability, this has to be near the back. The common viewer has a short attention span, taking a glance every now and then, and this event doesn’t provide much parity. Props to the athletes though.
(Interested in trying it out? Check out this beginner’s guide)
If cross-country is at the back of the line, biathlon is right next to it. The Biathlon is cross-country skiing with the added bonus of the Olympians pausing periodically to shoot rifles at targets. What makes this particularly intriguing is the fact that the athletes are penalized for missing the targets.
Some day I want to see an Olympic event where athletes have to shoot at targets while they’re skiing.
- Nordic Combined
This event combines cross-country skiing and ski jumping, so it gets the nod over the previous two, but the element of cross-country skiing keeps it near the bottom—I promise I have nothing against it, it’s just of low interest from a viewership perspective.
- Speed Skating
I went ahead and gave short track speed skating the edge because while the events are equivalent, people generally prefer the quickness of a short track race. But if you’re an avid fan of the strategy and planning that comes with a long-distance race, then be sure to tune into long track speed skating.
Curling is not the most exciting of sports, but a close match can make for intense finishes, and it’s quite funny to watch how vigorously the sweepers sweep to get the curling stone into proper position. This is one of the more skilled events, and the U.S. team is full of exciting athletes this year.
- Short Track
Speed skating seems to defy the laws of physics—there’s no way athletes should be able to skate at the angles they do rounding the turns on ice—but when you’re the best in the world, understand frictional forces, and have world-class equipment, anything is possible. It’s a bit repetitive, but when the athletes kick it into gear on the last few laps, it’s worth the watch.
See video on 12 for the premise of speed skating
Bobsled, luge, and skeleton all have similar principles—get going on the track and get small and thin to minimize resistance. Skeleton and luge get the nod over bobsled because they are open carts, but if you prefer the team aspect of the Olympics, then the bobsled is for you.
If people are willing to slide face-first at 80 mph in pursuit of a gold medal, good for them.
This takes guts and skill, as the athletes get a running start and effortlessly mount the sled as they look to maintain a thin posture and stay as still as possible. The United States will push for its fourth gold medal.
- Alpine Skiing
Alpine skiing is the perfect combination of speed, skill, and danger—reaching speeds of 80 mph while making sharp turns around flexible poles presents the opportunity for anything to happen. Austria has dominated this event, totaling 114 medals—55 more than Switzerland, the second-place country. The Austrians will look to add to their total in 2018.
- Ski Jump
To the civilian eye, there’s not much to the ski jump other than…jumping.
But the slightest miscalculation by the Olympians and they could wind up breaking every bone in their bodies. Ski jumping is one of the original Olympic sports, and it continues to thrill to this day. If you need inspiration to watch, go check out “Eddie the Eagle”, the story of Eddie Edwards, underdog who made the British Olympic Team in 1988.
- Figure Skating
People either love figure skating, or they can’t stand it.
Personally, as someone who has tried (and failed) to do a simple spin on the ice rink, I give the athletes a lot of credit for what they can do, individually or with a partner. And with the movie “I, Tonya” recently released that tells the story of the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding saga, all eyes will be on the rink.
Who knows, we may even see an Iron Lotus this year…
This might be an unpopular opinion—luge doesn’t exactly pop off the page.
But if you love the danger in the ski jump, luge is another Winter Olympic sport for you—Three-time Olympian luger Tony Benshoof has tried luge, bobsled, and skeleton—he claims that “Luge is the most dangerous”. Flying down a path at nearly 90 mph, I believe him. Should something go wrong, there’s virtually no way to stop yourself. I give luge the nod over similar sports in bobsledding and skeleton because of the danger involved.
Shaun White is to snowboarding as Tony Hawk is to skateboarding—while they may not be the most popular American sports, most culturally-minded citizens know who these two are. He’s going for his third gold medal in the halfpipe, and he’ll look to add to the 24 medals in snowboarding for the United States, most in the world.
- Freestyle Skiing
It’s really a preference as to whether or not you prefer skiing to snowboarding—we’ll take skiing here. Each event provides a thrill, and each contestant lays their body on the line. The five events are as follows:
Aerials: A no-pole endeavor in which the Olympians shoot straight up a vertical ramp and display their talents.
Moguls: A quick, knee-breaking downhill ski in which participants cruise quickly over small hills.
Halfpipe: same as snowboarding.
Ski-cross: Officially became an Olympic sport in 2010, this 4-man race provides thrills through and through.
Slopestyle: Olympians, similarly to skateboarding, grind the bars and jump the slopes on the quest for Gold.
No NHL players will be participating in the Winter Olympics this year, but that doesn’t degrade the level of intensity that the sport brings in world competition. For the men, the Canadians have won the past two gold medals, but will face stiff competition from the Swedes. The US men’s national team will be coached by Wisconsin’s own Tony Granato.
Women’s hockey has been an Olympic sport since 1998, and the United States and Canada have met in the championship match four out of five times—all eyes will be on these two nations again in 2018 as Olympic hockey is once again must-watch TV.
Stats courtesy of mprnews.com, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and Olympic.org