The Winter Olympics – the coolest and most eye-catching sporting event in the world! By Iain Leggat
17 days. 15 sports. 105 medals.
This year’s Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, is bringing all things ice, snow and just downright awesome back into the limelight.
If you are an Olympic enthusiast like myself, you will probably already have your schedule ready and raring to go. If you are not, here is a quick guide of what to look out for, from the weird and the wonderful, to what promises to be an enthralling three weeks of sport.
My advice with the Winter Olympics is to have an open mind. Sport can be captivating in so many different ways. Whether it’s the drama of extra-time in a football match, or a last-minute drop-goal in rugby.
It’s the exact same with winter sports, you just have to give them a chance to show you what they can do. And with the variety on offer it’s hard not to find one that appeals to you.
Alpine Skiing is a enthralling race against the clock. The downhill is considered the blue ribbon event of the Games, with plenty of big names like Lindsey Vonn back in the spotlight.
Freestyle skiing is as extreme as it gets, watching skiers and snowboarders battle gravity, performing flips and tricks with leaves your mouth wide open. Always worth a watch.
Ski Jumping. Just sit back and be mesmerized by the people that are daring enough to do it.
Curling, a personal highlight for myself. Just give it a chance. I promise it won’t disappoint.
Speed Skating is an art form on ice. You have the action pack Formula 1 style short track speed racing, which can be both heartbreaking and incredible. Arguably the most entertaining of all sports, definitely one to watch out for.
Figure Skating caught my eye in Sochi. I was never impressed or attracted to watching it. After multiple viewings of Blades of Glory, and now an avid viewer of Dancing on Ice, I won’t be able to take my eyes of it this year. It’s beautiful and dazzling to watch.
Bobsleigh, Skeleton and Luge. It’s mad! Why wouldn’t you want to watch?
Snowboard and Ski Cross. Yes, yes, yes – a thousand times yes. Its action packed, fast and electric. It’s a four-person race on snow. It produces tight finishes and showboating to the enth degree. A MUST WATCH!
Ice Hockey. I like many, become a hockey superfan during the Olympics. It doesn’t matter if you are a NHL follower, the Olympics produce some epic clashes. USA vs Canada is a must watch if it comes up – just search the Vancouver 2010 final!
Nordic Skiing. Possibly saved the best till last. I gave it a go last Games and fell in love. I argued that if I can watch Mo Farah run round a track for 10,000m, I could watch people ski, and sometimes shoot and battle it out. It’s epic.
Final Reason: It’s the Olympics! The winter games don’t get the same treatment at the summer games in the UK for obvious reasons. But it’s still the Olympics. The most glorious celebration of sport on planet earth. It produces the moments that live long in the memory, and has the power to put nations, unlikely heroes and sporting good into the limelight.
What to Watch
Great Britain Medal Contenders:
Elise Christie – Sochi 2014 was utterly heart-breaking. 3 races, 3 disqualifications. I, like many, sat close to tears watching an athlete utterly destroyed by referee decisions. Her journey to recovery is breath-taking. From online abuse and nearly quitting the sport, she has returned with a bang. A world champion, world record holder and a Sports Personality of the Year nominee.
Watch her at these times:
- 500m heats – Saturday 10th Feb
- 1500m heats – Sunday 11th Feb
- 1000m heats – Tuesday 13th Feb
GB Freestyle Team – GB Park and Pipe is an ever-growing group of young and experienced riders who are willing to try things no other athlete would dare try, and there is real contention in the events. With the heartbreaking loss of medal hope Katie Ormerod just two days before the start of the games, the gang are even more determined to grab medals.
When to watch:
- Men’ Slopestyle Finals – Sunday 11th Feb – Jamie Nicholls
- Women’s Slopestyle Finals – Monday 12th Feb – Aimee Fuller
- Women’s Ski Slopestyle – Saturday 17th Feb – Izzy Atkin & Katie Summerhayes
- Men’s Ski Slopestyle – Sunday 18th Feb – James Woods
- Women’s Snowboard Big Air – Friday 23rd Feb – Aimee Fuller
- Men’s Snowboard Big Air – Saturday 24th Feb – Billy Morgan & Jamie Nicholls
Skeleton and Bobsleigh Teams – Lizzie Yarnold got Team GB’s only gold medal in Sochi, continuing Great Britain’s tradition of shining in the women’s skeleton event, and with the men’s bobsleigh team doing as good as ever, there is real medal chances for the team.
When to watch:
- Men’s Skeleton Heats – Thursday 15th Feb – Dom Parsons
- Women’s Skeleton Heats – Friday 16th Feb – Lizzie Yarnold & Laura Deas
- Women’s 2 person Bob Heats – Tuesday 20th Feb – Mica McNeill and Mica Moore.
- Men’s Four-man Bob Heats – Saturday 24th Feb – Team TBC
Dave ‘The Rocket’ Ryding – GB’s best alpine skiing hope. In January he launched into the spotlight with his second place in Austria. Click here for goosebumps. He likes the icy conditions that could occur at what is the coldest ever Winter Olympics.
Watch him at this time:
- Men’s Slalom Finals – Thursday 22nd Feb
GB Curling Teams – Great Britain’s long tradition of curling success could potentially continue with the men’s and women’s team looking set to emulate their performances in Sochi 2014. Eve Muirhead returns to Skip the women’s team and hopes to go one better than her silver in Sochi and Kyle Smith is the men’s skip.
When to watch:
- Men’s Round Robin Begins – Wednesday 14th Feb – Matches against Switzerland & Canada
- Women’s Round Robin Begins – Wednesday 14th Feb – Match against Olympic Athletes from Russia
These are just the top medal contenders, and by the look of the talent above there is a huge chance of Great Britain having its most successful games – with the target of five medals easily reachable.
There is also a whole host of other Team GB athletes competing – so get your Union Jacks out and at the ready.
The Cant-miss Athletes of the Games
Cool Runnings, Eddie the Eagle and the Miracle on Ice. All of these are etched into Winter Olympic folklore. The event allows incredible stories to shine through and the Olympic spirit is put on show for the world to see.
Here’s some of the can’t-miss athletes of the games that will promise to bring a smile to your face:
Akwasi Frimpong – The Ghana Skeleton sensation. Raised in Ghana by his grandmother with nine other children in a one-roomed house. He then moved to the Netherlands at the age of eight. He was a track and field athlete, but is now gunning for glory on the ice. Catch him in his striking orange, red and green outfit – Thursday 15th Feb
Nigerian Bobsleigh Team – The first African sled team, and the first Winter Olympians from Nigeria. Seun Adigun, Akuoma Omeoga and Ngozi Onwumere. Swapping the hurdles for the ice, they are looking to create some history and a surprise result. There is also Simidele Adeagbo competing in the Women’s Skeleton. Catch them – Friday 16th Feb (Skeleton) & Tuesday 20th Feb (Bobsleigh)
Cool Runnings 2 – It will be 30 years since the arrival 4 brave Jamaicans at the Calgary Olympics. There was two men competing rather unsuccessfully in Sochi. But pilot Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian, brakewoman Carrie Russell and Audra Segree are in for a real chance. They have had a top ten result in the World Cup this year, so it could be a real life Cool Runnings success story. Catch them – Thursday 20th Feb
Well I hope this was some help. This, of course, is very limited, and in no way expresses the true spectrum that the Winter Olympics offers. But like I said at the start, my number one tip for enjoyment is to have an open mind and watch something you have never watched before.
Iain will be writing throughout the Olympics so keep up to date with my thoughts, feelings and analysis of all the action from Pyeongchang on ENRG Sport.