Olympics: Winter sports explained


File: Kamil Stoch of Poland reacts after winning the fourth and final stage of the Four-Hills Ski Jumping tournament (Vierschanzentournee) in Bischofshofen, Austria, January 6, 2018.

PARIS - A record 102 gold medals will be awarded in 15 sports disciplines at the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea from February 9-25.

Here’s a brief look at the medal events and how those sports disciplines work.

Alpine skiing

File: Austria&39;s Marcel Hirscher clearing a gate during the first run of the Men&39;s slalom race at the FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup in Adelboden, Switzerland. Credit: AFP

Alpine skiing is divided into speed events and technical events. The downhill and super-G, run over one leg, provide the speed while the giant slalom and slalom, held over two legs, showcase technique. The alpine combined brings together the downhill and slalom. A new event in 2018, the National Team Event, sees teams of four (two men, two women) competing against one another on parallel slalom courses. Alpine skiing accounts for a total of 11 medals.


File: France&39;s Martin Fourcade competing to win the men&39;s 12,5 km pursuit event of the IBU Biathlon World Cup in Oberhof, eastern Germany. Credit: AFP

Eleven gold medals (five for men, five for women, one mixed) are also on offer in biathlon, a sport that combines cross-country skiing with rifle shooting over an array of distances. Speed on skis is crucial but shooting accuracy at designated targets along the way counts significantly towards the final tally.


File: Pilot Lamin Deen with Ben Simons, Bruce Tasker and Joel Fearon of Great Britain compete during the first run of the four-man Bobsleigh event within the 2017-2018 IBSF World Cup Bobsled and Skeleton series. Credit: AFP

In the four-man bobsleigh, two-man bobsleigh and two-woman&39;s bobsleigh, competitors ride a steerable sled down an ice track at speeds averaging 135 kph. A brakeman and pilot make up the two-person bob to which two pushers are added for the four-man format.

Cross-country skiing

File: Norway&39;s Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg (front C) competes in the Women&39;s Cross Country 10 km Mass Start Classic race of the FIS World cup Tour de Ski at Val Di Fiemme Cross Country stadium in Cavalese, northern Italy, on January 6, 2018. Credit: AFP

Competitors compete for a total of 12 gold medals -- six for men and six for women -- over snowfield courses that include an equal measure of climbing, descending and flat racing in various race formats. Two styles of skiing are on show -- classic style which involves competitors pushing their skis ahead in a forward movement, and skate style, whereby competitors move ahead by pushing sideways in a skating motion.


File: Canada&39;s Joanne Courtney (C) watches the stone during the gold medal match against Russia at the Women&39;s Curling World Championships in Beijing on March 26, 2017. Credit: AFP

Curling offers three gold medals at the 2018 Games -- men&39;s team, women&39;s team and mixed doubles (introduced for the first time in Pyeongchang). Four competitors in the team events each glide polished granite stones along a so-called curling sheet of flat ice with the aim of placing their stones closer to the target, or house, than the opposition. Each team has eight stones per round, or end. Games usually run to 10 ends. Players can use brooms to sweep the ice to ease the passage of their stones.

Figure skating

File: Madison Chock and Evan Bates compete in the Free Dance during the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the SAP Center on January 7, 2018 in San Jose, California. Credit: AFP

Skill and grace combine as competitors compete for marks from an international jury who rule on accuracy and artistry. Five gold medals are at stake in men’s and women’s singles, ice dance, pairs, and the team event.

Freestyle skiing

File: Morgan Schild of the United States competes in the Ladies&39; Moguls qualifying during the 2018 FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup at Deer Valley Resort on January 10, 2018 in Park City, Utah. Credit: AFP

Unlike alpine skiing, the freestyle version belongs to the extreme sports category and is all about artistry  -- aerial acrobatics including flips, spins and twists performed while gliding down the ski slopes on various course formats. Ten gold medals are on offer in Moguls, Aerials, Ski Halfpipe, Ski Cross and Ski Slopestyle.

Ice Hockey

File: Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets and Ryan O&39;Reilly 90 of the Buffalo Sabres fight for position in the third period at the KeyBank Center on January 9, 2018 in Buffalo, New York. Credit: AFP

Two gold medals at stake in men&39;s and women&39;s Ice Hockey. Teams of 20 players line up with six players typically on the ice for each team at any one time. Two referees and two linesmen officiate. Players attempt to fire a hard-rubber puck into a small goal while skating at high speeds swathed in extensive padding and helmets to protect them from injury.


File: Participants of the traditional 49th sledge race (Hornschlittenrennen) compete on the one kilometer race track in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, southern Germany, on January 6, 2018. Credit: AFP

Competitors ride a small flat sled in single or two-person format and accelerate feet first, face-up down a sharp gradient on an ice track measuring 1,000m to 1,500m. Maximum average speeds reach 140kph -- faster that bobsleigh and skeleton. Medals are awarded in men&39;s singles, women&39;s singles, doubles and team relay.

Nordic combined

Nordic Combined brings together cross-country skiing, with its demand for strength and endurance, and ski jumping, which requires technical mastery and audacity. There are two individual events for men -- normal hill jumping with a 10km race, and large hill jumping, also with the 10km race. The team events feature large hill jumping with a 4x5km relay.

Short-track speed skating

File: Maame Biney takes the corner on her way to victory in the Women&39;s 500 Meter A Final for a spot on the Olympic team during the 2018 U.S. Speedskating Short Track Olympic Team Trials at the Utah Olympic Oval. Credit: AFP

Short-track speed skating involves a mass start and an all-out dash to the finish on a reduced course the size of an ice-hockey rink. Eight events in total, four each for men and women.

Skeleton competitors ride a small lightweight sled head first down an ice course while lying flat on their stomachs in a sport once considered too dangerous for the Olympics. Two gold medals are on offer, for men&39;s and women&39;s singles. Unlike luge, there are no doubles or team event.

Competitors race two-by-two over a 400m track in the individual events apart from the men&39;s and women&39;s mass start introduced for the first time at the Pyeongchang Games. A total of 14 medals are on offer.

Ski jumping

File: Kamil Stoch of Poland reacts after winning the fourth and final stage of the Four-Hills Ski Jumping tournament (Vierschanzentournee) in Bischofshofen, Austria, January 6, 2018. Credit: AFP

Competitors launched themselves from the take-off ramp in an effort to fly as far as they can before making a touchdown in the landing zone. Five judges mark competitors for distance and style. The four events are: Men’s Normal Hill Individual, Women&39;s Normal Hill Individual, Men’s Large Hill Individual and the Men’s Team.


File: Brenna Huckaby competes in the adaptive banked slalom final during Day 3 of the Dew Tour on December 15, 2017 in Breckenridge, Colorado. Credit: AFP

Competitors ride a board attached to special boots down snow slopes with most of the 10 gold medal events involving jumps and performance of trick routines for which points are scored. Big Air is a new event for Pyeongchang involving huge leaps and ever-more intricate aerial routines while Snowboard Cross offers a spectacular race-off down demanding snow terrain. In all 10 gold medals are awarded.