The Winter Youth Olympic Games Lillehammer 2016, which will run from 12 to 21 February, will showcase a host of new and innovative events, in which young athletes form teams that are not split along national lines, in a marvellous atmosphere of friendship and mutual respect.
In bobsleigh, a men’s and women’s monobob competition will be held at the Lillehammer Olympic Sliding Centre. The monobob is a streamlined single-seater sled, in which the rider simultaneously takes on the roles of pusher, pilot and brakeman. The monobobs are all identical and are allocated to teams via a random draw. The competitions (featuring 15 boys and 15 girls) involve two runs, with results and podium places determined by adding together the times of both attempts. Competitors will take part in at least six training runs before the main event. Pilots will need to have completed two valid and trouble-free descents in order to qualify for the actual competition.
The biathlon, meanwhile, will include a single mixed relay, where teams will be made up of a male and female athlete from the same IOC member country. Each participant takes part in two legs of the race, in the following order: girl-boy-girl-boy. Female competitors must cover 3km each time, while their male team-mates start off with a 3km leg and finish by completing 4.5km. The competition features a mass start, and racers ski freestyle. At the shooting range, they alternate between prone and standing positions; target sizes vary according to the position. Five rounds are fired, but shooters have three spare rounds for each bout. The penalty for a missed target consists of a 75-metre penalty loop. The team that eventually crosses the line first is declared the winner.
In Nordic skiing, the disciplines of cross-country skiing, ski jumping and Nordic combined will be merged into a spectacular competition dubbed the Nordic mixed team event. Teams – 20 of which are expected to compete in Lillehammer – will be composed of five athletes from the same country: a male and female cross-country skier, a male and female ski jumper and a male Nordic combined specialist. The competition begins on the “normal” jumping hill, where three of the athletes (the two ski jumpers and the Nordic combined specialist) perform a trial jump followed by an official attempt. The jumping results are then converted into time differences to establish the starting order of the 3x3.3km cross-country component. The Nordic combined athlete also participates in this race, along with the two cross-country skiers. The first team to cross the finish line secures the gold medal.
“Cross-country Cross Free” is a men’s and women’s cross-country skiing event that will make its YOG debut in Lillehammer. The distance involved is similar to a sprint, but the course features several technical aspects such as jumps and turns to increase the difficulty level. Competitors, skiing freestyle and departing every 10 to 30 seconds, start with individual time trials. The quickest 30 then move on to three semi-finals of 10 athletes each, and the first two of those plus the next four fastest finishers qualify for the final, in which all 10 participants set off at the same time.
In the freestyle skiing category, snowboarding and skiing will be combined to create the team ski-snowboard cross event. Each team will be made up of four athletes, and they set off down the snowboard cross course in the following order: female snowboarder-female skier-male snowboarder-male skier. The competition consists of three heats and a final. The second, third and fourth team members only start after the team-mate ahead of them has completed the course, at which point the starting gate will open automatically. If a team member does not finish or finishes outside the set time limits, the subsequent relay participant must wait until a penalty time elapses before he/she can start. The top two teams from each round advance, with four teams reaching the final.
In ice hockey, speed skating, figure skating and short track, most of the YOG-specific events will be the same as those that made their debut at the inaugural Winter edition in Innsbruck in 2012. In the hockey rink, that includes the “skills challenge”, where six skills – lap speed, shooting accuracy, skating agility, shot speed, passing precision and puck control – are judged, while mixed team competitions featuring athletes from different countries make their return in curling, short track and figure skating. In speed skating, meanwhile, the “mixed NOC team sprint” event will get its first ever outing in 2016.