When the IOC agreed the event programme of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 in June 2015, there were four notable additions.
New medal events for curling mixed doubles, speed skating mass start, Alpine skiing team event and snowboard big air were all added to the schedule for next year’s Games, reflecting the continued evolution of the Winter Olympic programme and building on the success of recent editions of the Games.
The additional events are sure to add a new dimension to PyeongChang 2018, with the emphasis very much on increasing the appeal of the Olympic Winter programme to young audiences around the world.
So what’s new for 2018?
Curling mixed doubles: In mixed doubles curling, two players – one woman and one man – compose each team. They play with six stones, rather than the usual eight and there are only eight ends, instead of the traditional 10.
The idea for mixed doubles developed from a similar event at the Continental Cup of Curling, and the first World Mixed Doubles Curling Championships were then held in 2008. A mixed doubles event has also been held at both editions of the Winter Youth Olympic Games – Innsbruck 2012 and Lillehammer 2016 – with teams also featuring curlers from different National Olympic Committees. The Russian duo of Anastasia Bryzgalova and Alexander Krushelnitskiy are the reigning world champions, with the 2017 edition of the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championships due to be held in April.
Speed skating mass start: Long track speed skating’s mass start events were first introduced to the World Cup circuit during the 2011-2012 season. The event consists of a 16-lap race where all skaters start simultaneously, and includes four sprints where points are awarded. The first three athletes to cross the finish line will win the medals, while all other skaters are ranked based on points given out for the four sprints. As with curling mixed doubles, the mass start event has been included in both editions of the Winter Youth Olympic Games. At the recent World Single Distance Speed Skating Championships – which were held at Gangneung Oval, the venue for next year’s Winter Games – the mass start events were won by the USA’s Joey Mantia (men) and Korea’s Kim Bo-reum (women).
Alpine skiing team event: The new event features a mixed team of two men and two women competing against other national teams in head-to-head slalom races. In each pairing, two female and two male skiers from each team race a parallel slalom in a best-of-four contest. Traditionally, 16 teams start the event, competing in a knockout format over four rounds. The event made its debut at the FIS World Championships in 2005, with the parallel format being used since 2011. France won gold in the event during the recent FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in St Moritz, with Slovakia taking silver and the bronze going to Sweden.
Snowboard big air: Big air sees snowboarders riding down a steep ramp before launching off a large ramp known as a kicker to perform their tricks. With the total height of the ramps reaching up to 49 metres and a maximum slope angle of 40 degrees, snowboarders have plenty of time in the air to wow the judges. The event has featured in the FIS World Championships since 2003, with Finland’s Roope Tonteri winning the men’s title in both 2013 and 2015, and China’s Xuetong Cai claiming women’s gold in 2015. The event is also part of the X Games, with the USA’s Hailey Langland and Canada’s Max Parrot winning the 2017 women’s and men’s titles respectively.