Olympics add events for Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games

Sage Kotsenburg
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Snowboard big air, an Alpine skiing team event, mixed doubles curling and mass start long-track speed skating were added for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics by the International Olympic Committee on Monday, bringing the Winter Games program to at least 100 medal events for the first time.

Snowboard parallel slalom, which debuted at the Sochi 2014 Olympics, was taken off the program.

That brings the total number of events at the 2018 Olympics to 102, topping the previous Winter Olympics record high for medal events of 98 in Sochi. The number of Winter Olympic events rises with every Olympiad. At Sarajevo 1984, there were 39 medal events.

On Dec. 8, the IOC’s Agenda 2020 reforms recommended limiting the Winter Olympics to approximately 2,900 athletes and 100 events. Sochi 2014 had more than 2,800 athletes, but reportedly fewer than 2,900, in its 98 events.

In big air, snowboarders do a single trick off a ramp similar to those seen on slopestyle courses.

Men’s snowboard big air has been part of the International Ski Federation’s World Championships since 2003, with Finland dominating, though Canada and the U.S. have fared well at the Winter X Games. Women’s big air debuted at the World Championships this year but hasn’t been added to the X Games yet. Both men’s and women’s snowboard big air were approved for the 2018 Olympics on Monday.

Sochi snowboard slopestyle bronze medalist Mark McMorris is the reigning X Games snowboard big air champion. Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion Sage Kotsenburg has also competed in X Games big air and was eliminated in qualifying the last two years.

Kotsenburg said he would like to compete in both slopestyle and big air at the Pyeongchang Olympics, should he qualify and pending the format.

“I’m a little better in slopestyle than big air,” he said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “It changes quick, the top people. You could be crushing it all year, and then all of a sudden someone can learn a new trick and because it’s just one jump, they can beat you. I think that’s what’s fun about it though.”

An Alpine skiing team event has been part of the World Championships since 2005. At the World Championships, it has included nations competing in knockout-style parallel slalom runs. Olympic slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin and Olympic giant slalom champion Ted Ligety participated in the team event at the 2015 World Championships, but not Lindsey Vonn, who is stronger in the speed events of downhill and super-G.

The Alpine skiing team event and mixed doubles curling become the sixth and seventh mixed-gender events at the Winter Olympics, joining figure skating’s team event, ice dance and pairs, biathlon’s mixed relay and the luge team relay.

Hungary, Sweden and Switzerland have been recent powers in mixed doubles curling at World Championships. Hungary has not won a Winter Olympic medal since 1980.

Long-track speed skating’s mass start, where skaters race 16 laps in a pack like short-track speed skating but on  bigger oval, has been part of its World Cup schedule the last four seasons.

Other sports previously reported to be vying for a spot in the Winter Olympics included team snowboard cross and synchronized skating.

International Ski Federation defends slopestyle’s safety

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated speed skating’s mass start was 6400m.