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The Six Most Underrated Sports of the Winter Olympics

February 7, 2022

If there is one fact to know about me, it is that I absolutely love sports, not only do I love all the main stream sports like American Football, Soccer, and Hockey, I also love all the other sports that people tend to push to the backburner, such as freestyle skiing, curling, and skeleton.

The Olympic Games are some of my favorite times within the sporting world because these sports often get lost in the mix; but not for these next two weeks. With over 3,000 athletes and record 109 events the Olympics is the biggest sporting event in the world.

As the World gathers to watch these athletes compete, most people begin to watch these sports that they never would be watching otherwise. When watching the Olympics with friends and family, people begin to make snide comments that annoy me. They’ll say things like “why is this sport even in the Olympics?” or “come on this sport is so boring.” These specific comments made me realize that so many Olympic sports are incredibly underrated, and very misunderstood.

I want to bring light to some of these underrated sports and give some perspective as to why they are so difficult and worthy of our admiration. There is much more going on in each of these sports that the untrained viewer is not even aware of and we want you to show you there secrets so that you truly enjoy these winter games.

1. Skeleton

Oftentimes in the sled race competitions, most people talk about the Bobsleigh competitions and although I do not have any bad blood towards Bobsleigh athletes, one discipline seems to always be lost: the skeleton.

The skeleton is a single sled and I know what you’re thinking. “it’s the one sled where you lay down feet first and go really fast down the track made of ice!” WRONG. The Skeleton is one of the most death defying activities because the rider takes a dive head first down the track. Athletes surpass the speed of your average highway speed limit and they do it without a comfy and fully enclosed car with an engine. They can clock in speeds as fast as 90 miles per hour (145 kilometers).

This is not an adventure for the faint of heart as one wrong maneuver can cause severe and life-threatening crashes. 

2. Cross Country Skiing

We all are very familiar with downhill skiing, it’s fast, explosive, and dynamic, but there is not the same appreciation for cross country skiing; part of this has to do with the unassuming nature of the sport. You simply ski upon a flat surface; How hard can it be?

The answer is monumentally hard. What makes this sport so misunderstood is that anyone can do it on the entry level. Not everyone may be able to complete an Olympic skeleton run, or go full speed of a ski jump, but on the contrast, anyone can pick up skis and cross country ski. Anyone who does so will quickly realize that the sport is an excruciating full body workout that works you to the very core.

Not to mention, the longest Olympic race is 50 kilometers (31 miles). Cross country skiers burn the equivalent of a Chipotle burrito in an hour on terrain that is unforgiving. The races may belong and not as flashy as downhill skiing, but the strength needed is one of extremes. These athletes are a level of superhuman that I cannot even dream of achieving.

3. Biathlon

Ever wanted to ski on a flat surface as fast as you possibly could in order to immediately slow down and shoot at a tiny target? Oh, and if you miss the targets you have to do penalty ski laps. Nether have I, but some absolute superhumans are doing just that in the Olympics.

The Biathlon is viewed as one of the most difficult sports in the world. It is a fusion of two polar opposite tasks; a sprint, and then a controlled shooting of 5 targets. What makes this sport so difficult is that athletes need to immediately slow their heart rate and their breathing after the sprint and focus on shooting during their exhale, when, for a split second, the body is at it’s calmest.

Missing these shots requires extra skiing that leads to nail biting finishes and final rounds of shooting. It is hard to find another dynamic like this sport. The athlete needs to have an all around talent in order to excel.

4. Curling

Everyone looks at curling and just thinks “the fact that it is in the Olympics is insulting” to which I say bullshit. Curling is one a sport with one of the lowest rooms for error in addition to strategic gameplay not often seen in many sports.

The object of the game is that each team throws (glides) multiple stones on ice, as two sweepers control the speed and the “curl” (curving of the stone’s path along the ice. What makes this sport unique is that instead of focusing on simply “going fast, or high” the athlete needs to have a multitude of game plans and strategies.

Just getting the feel for how hard to throw the stone is difficult enough, but then you add the fact that in order to get your stones the closest and win you have to “curl” the stone in such a way where it dodges all of the opponents stones, but still ends up in the center of the target. Not only do you need brute force and strength but deep intelligence and strategy.

5. Ski and Snowboard Cross

If anyone has gone downhill skiing you know how fast, invigorating and dangerous it is, now add multiple obstacles and jumps, now add the fact that you are racing multiple people on the same track at the same exact time, and you have on of the coolest sport to watch in all of the winter Olympics.

This is like a full contact sport from hell, if someone falls, they could easily run into you causing you to lose. Every single athlete needs to be aware of all the course obstacles, but where the other athletes are. In fact, an athlete from behind can try to take a corner sharply only to be cut off and lose all chances of winning the gold. They may not be doing all the flashy tricks, but these athletes are hardcore on multiple different levels. 

6. Aerial Skiing

When people think of freestyle skiing, they think of the halfpipe, or slopestyle. However, there is a form of skiing that completely goes under the radar and it’s only the highest acrobatic sport in the Winter Olympics: skiers go off one fourteen foot (4.26 meter) jump that sends them into the air as high and do twice as many twists, flips, and tricks to heights as high as 50 feet (15 meters).

Skiers perform skills such as “the daddy” which is a quadruple twisting triple backflip. They get such big airtime and are rotating so fast that they have no way of knowing how to time there jump so that they don’t land on their head, so because of this they need a spotter to shout “faster, good, or slower” so the athlete has a chance at landing a jump clean.

On a really cool note, Aerial skiing has also produced some of the most exotic and from an outsiders view, unlikely Olympic Medalists from  the tropical land of Australia, which, for obvious reasons is known for their summer sports. But make no mistake, these athletes are here to win just like any other slow blanketed countries. 

As the world’s biggest sporting event begins, I hope that you can find a new appreciated for all the sports the Olympics has to offer and develop a new sense of wonder and awareness of just how talented these athletes have to be in order to compete at the highest level of sport. Too often we can get caught up in all the mainstream sports that we forget about how vast the sporting world actually is in the first place. Have a great time watching the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

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