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Not Just Downhill Skiing in the Olympics


You flipped on the Winter Olympics because you don’t want to miss an opportunity to chant U-S-A, even though you’re alone in your living room. You’re hoping for snowboarding or maybe speed skating. Instead, you find that strange sport where the competitors ski for a while, then shoot rifles, then ski some more. Weird, right?

That strange sport is called Biathlon, since it combines two sports into one – cross-country skiing and marksmanship.

According to olympic.org, “Biathlon has its roots in survival skills practised (sic) in the snow-covered forests of Scandinavia, where people hunted on skis with rifles slung over their shoulders.” Cross-country skiing is hard work.

After skiing a long distance, your arms would be tired, making holding a rifle and shooting accurately a challenge. This became a sought after skill for members of the military in snow-covered countries like Norway and Sweden. The skill eventually transitioned into athletic competition.

Biathlon is one of a multitude of skiing events that happened during the Winter Olympics. Cross-country skiing features races between groups of athletes over varying distances. It includes relays, just like track and field. The more exciting version of skiing you are probably picturing is Alpine Skiing. That includes downhill events like Giant Slalom and Super-G. Well-known American athletes who compete in Alpine Skiing are Lindsey Vonn and Ted Ligety.

Olympic championess and inspiration to skiers male and female alike, Lindsey Vonn, is set to appear in her fourth Olympics.

Her best Olympic results came in Vancouver in 2010 when she took gold in the downhill and bronze in the super-G. She missed the 2014 Olympics due to a knee injury, but after extensive rehab is back and skiing better than ever.

Joining Vonn on the 2018 Olympic Team is rising star Mikaela Shiffrin. Though her name may not be as well-known as Vonn’s yet, her record is no less impressive.

Shiffrin was only 18 when she won Olympic gold in Sochi, making her the youngest ever to win an Olympic gold medal in slalom.

Additionally, she recently became the first woman in 78 years to win three consecutive slalom world titles. Reigning Overall World Champion, Shiffrin, has an exciting career ahead of her, and will no doubt shine in Pyeongchang in a few weeks.

Freestyle skiing features tricks and jumps and includes events like moguls and the newly added halfpipe. You may remember American skier, David Wise, from Sochi in 2014. He became the first Olympic champion in men’s ski halfpipe, winning a gold medal in the sport’s Olympic debut. He will be returning to the Olympic halfpipe, along with American Maddie Bowman who also took home a gold medal in halfpipe in Sochi.

This is just a tiny selection of the skiing events and athletes involved in them that you will see in the Olympics. You can meet the entire Team USA over at teamusa.org, and watch skiing and all the other cold-weather Olympic events beginning Thursday, February 8th. Find the complete TV schedule online at https://www.nbcolympics.com/full-schedule, and don’t miss your chance to proudly chant U-S-A!

By: Kateri Swavely-Verenna

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