And 5…4…3… 2…1…beeeeep

February 6th, 2014 | By Marjie No Comments

olympics

That’s the sound we’ll be hearing every time a skier’s gate opens at the 2014 Sochi Olympics begin. For me, it’s only one of many inspiring, exciting, stirring sounds that I look forward to hearing whenever the Olympics are in progress.

Like many of you Athens MOVE readers, I stay up late every night of the Olympics, trying to see and experience as much of the competitions and human interest stories as I can in just a couple of short weeks. I love it all … from the exhilaration on the faces of the winners, to the smiles of those who simply compete, enjoying the experience without a medal at the end of the day … from the joy of the children who carry flowers and gifts to the athletes, to the incredible back stories the media share so we can get to know the athletes a little bit … from the scenery of the host country, to the history and culture of participating nations. I find it all fascinating and invigorating. And yes, I have intentionally used all those action words I can because that’s how I feel about the Olympics!

We know that you have many opportunities to watch the Olympics on television over the next couple of weeks. We thought we’d give you some information on a few sports that you may not know as much about. So enjoy learning, and watch for these sports and many other sports when they’re broadcast from Sochi! Maybe you will be inspired to try one of them yourself some day.

Biathlon

The biathlon combines the endurance of long distance cross-country skiing with rifle marksmanship. Born as a way to practice survival skills in Scandinavia, the biathlon was first seen in 1948 at the Olympics as a demonstration sport. But biathlon-type competitions were held as far back as the 1700s. Here are a few things you should know as you watch the biathletes in Sochi:

Venue: Usually in a wooded and hilly area, the course is a loop that includes hills, slopes, turns, straight a ways and shooting stations. The range is 50 meters with five targets that are 1.8” for prone (lying down) shooting position and 4.5 for standing position.

Equipment: Similar to regular cross country skiing, competitors use long skis, poles, tight-fitting ski suit, gloves, and hat. The rifle is a .22-caliber bolt action that weighs at least 7.7lbs without ammunition. The rifle must be carried by the skier at all times using a harness on their back.

Events: In Sochi there will be 11 total for men and women including individual (long distance), sprint, pursuit, mass start, and relay. The number of laps determines the distance which can vary between 7.5 – 20km. With each lap, competitors stop and shoot at each of the five targets. Half of the stations are from a prone position and half from a standing position. For each missed target, they either get a time penalty or have to ski an extra distance.

Curling

This team sport is played by two teams of four players. Nicknamed ‘The Roaring Game’ because of the rumbling sound the 44-pound (19.96kg) granite stones make when they travel across the ice, curling is one of the world’s oldest team sports, and it has been an Olympic sport off and on since 1924 … ‘on’ since 1998.

Venue: Curling is played indoors on a large ice rink that is divided into lanes called curling sheets. Each sheet is about 150 feet long by 15 feet wide with a target called the house marked on the ice at each end. The ice is sprayed with water droplets to create frozen pebbles or bumps on the ice that help the stones to grip.

Equipment: The rock is a thick stone disc with a colored handle on the top. The stone is usually made from a rare granite quarried in Scotland and it is highly polished. A curling broom or brush is used by the sweepers to alter the ice in front of the moving rock. Curlers where shoes with two different types of soles. One shoe can slide on the ice and the other grips it so they can push off on one foot and glide on the other.

Events: There will be both men’s and women’s curling in Sochi. In both cases, each team takes turns “throwing” (really pushing) their eight stones toward the target. A lot of strategy is used to either place a stone or knock out a competitor’s stone from the target. The speed, distance, and direction of the stone are determined by the person throwing the stone and the sweepers. They can even curl the stone to the left or right around another stone, which is how the sport got it’s name.

Speed Skating

Speed skating, which began as a way to travel quickly across frozen lakes and rivers, debuted with male skaters only at the 1924 Winter Olympics; women began competing in 1960. Usually, speed skaters compete two-by-two. The ‘mass start’ was an American invention and eventually led to short-track speed skating, which was added to the Olympics in 1992.

Venue: Speed skating is now usually held indoors and a 400m oval ring is used for traditional speed skating and a 111 meter ring (size of international hockey rink) is used for short track. The large oval has a lane for each of the two skaters with a cross over section where they switch from the outside to the inside lane to keep the distance equal.

Equipment: The skates are called clap skates. At the end of each stride, when the skater picks up the skate, the blade disconnects from the heel of the boot; this keeps the blade on the ice longer and, when the blade is completely extended, a spring snaps the blade back up to the boot (that makes a clapping sound, which is where the name ‘clap skate’ comes from). The blade is between 42-46cm long. Racing suits are skin-tight and hooded to be aerodynamic. Speed skaters wear helmets because of the frequent falls that occur.

Events: Men and women compete in all the speed skating events. Short track events include 500m, 1000m and 1500m. There is also a 5000m relay for men and a 3000m relay for women. Between four and six skaters start from the same line and race around the ring at high speeds trying to outwit and maneuver their opponents to cross the finish line first. The traditional speed skating events include 500m, 1000m, 1500m, 5000m, and a team pursuit. There is also a 10000m for men and a 3000m for women. Two skaters race in each heat but the individual time is what determines the standings and winners.

This year, as you enjoy the Winter Olympics from the comfort and warmth of your living room, you will have a little more understanding of some of the sports. So enjoy the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and allow yourself to be amazed and inspired by these world class athletes!

Check out www.teamusa.org and www.sochi2014.com for more Olympics news and coverage information.

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