Winter Olympic Events-Gone But Not Forgotten

February 19, 2014

Skijor worldsAs the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang come to a close, one can’t help but wonder about the many athletes who couldn’t compete this year since their event is no longer offered in the games.  Here we will pay homage to nine sports that once had their moment in the sun (or snow).

1.  Men’s Special Figures

This event made its one appearance at the Summer Games of 1908 in London.  There were no Winter Games at that time.  It involved skaters making intricate designs in the ice.  And here’s an interesting side note.  Ever wonder why figure skating is called figure skating?  No?  Well, to bad, I’m going to tell you anyway.  Skaters had to make figure eights as a part of the competition.  These skaters had to compete in a figure event prior to making all those leaps, jumps, and spins.  It was eventually eliminated in the 1990’s.

2.  Skijouring

This event was pretty simple; grab a horse or a dog by the reins and have it pull you on your skis.  It made its Olympic debut as a demonstration sport at the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland.  It continues to be a sport today.

3.  Ice Stock Sport

Also called Bavarian curling, this sport is of German origin.  The Olympic organizers must have felt that curling by itself was enough to hold everyone’s interest.  Ice stock was a demonstration sport in 1936 and somehow made a comeback in 1964.

4.  Bandy

This sport has been described as a cross between soccer and hockey.  There are eleven players per side, and they play on a rink the size of a soccer field.  This sport uses  sticks similar to hockey sticks and a ball.  It made its debut and exit at the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway.  This sport continues to this day.  The U.S. even has a National Bandy Team.

5.  Speed Skiing

This sport is for all the adrenaline junkies out there and you have to have nerves of steel to compete.  The most characteristic aspect of speed skiing is the outfits.  Skiers have latex like suits with giant turtle-like helmets that offer maximum aerodynamics.  Speeds reach over 100 mph and the world record is a blistering 156 mph.  The skiers simply race downhill in a straight line, and whoever has the fastest time wins.  Speed skiing was a demonstration in the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France.  Unfortunately, the speeds and danger never allowed this sport to continue in the Games because of the death of skier after he crashed into a grooming machine during warm-ups.  The sport continues to this day, but the speeds are limited to 124 mph by the International Ski Federation.

6.  Synchronized skating

This particular event has to be seen to be believed, and was a demonstration sport as recent as 2002.  Eight to twenty skaters perform on the ice at one time, and you guessed it, they’re synchronized.

7.  Snowshoeing

This event was also an exhibition at the 2002 Olympics.  It’s pretty simple, slap on some high-tech snowshoes and run like the wind.

8.  Ski Ballet

This event involves a skier gracefully executing turns, jumps, rolls, and spins while skiing down the slopes to music.  It made a demonstration appearance in the 1988 Games in Calgary, and in 1992 at the Games in Albertville.  Not sure why, but there is something disconcerting about ski ballet.

9.  Military Patrol

This particular sport made its appearance in 1924 in Chamonix, France, and later was a demonstration sport in the 1928, 1936, and 1948 Olympics.  It involved three things; cross country skiing, shooting, and mountaineering, and its participants were actual military units.  Happily, it later evolved into the modern biathlon, without the military part of course.

Many of these events continue to take place today without being in the Olympics, but don’t be surprised if you see one or two of them crop up again at the next Winter Games.

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Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium, our ad-free subscription sites (you can find out how to join below). I hope you find things here to annoy those around you with your new found knowledge.

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