With less than 50 days until the Winter Olympics officially kick off in Sochi, anticipation is building for both fans and competitors. Ninety-Eight events will take place in fifteen different winter sports, several of those events will be held for the very first time. There is a lot of hype surrounding this years games, and I caught up with a couple of Olympians to get some insight from their prospective.
I was fortunate enough to speak with Tom Wallisch, who is a four-time X Games medalist and a three-time Dew Tour gold medalist in ski slope-style. He was named ESPN’s 2012 action sports athlete of the year as well. Wallisch, who hopes to qualify and represent the U.S. in ski half-pipe during its inaugural Olympic event at Sochi said “these are really exciting times for all of us at Copper Mountain competing for spots on team USA.” A lot of the intrigue is surrounding the free-ski half-pipe event this year, which will mark the first time it has ever been an Olympic event. Tom explained to me how it is very different than the standard aerials you see during ski jump, where you normally know what you will be seeing.
The belief is that ski half-pipe, both men and women’s, will attract a much younger and edgier age group than traditional ski events. The most interesting aspect is the creativity and personality the athletes can incorporate into their runs. “While your watching me as an athlete, you never know what your going to see. You have no idea; you just have to wait and see” said Wallisch. The element of surprise adds to the thrill of this new event. The women’s ski jump will also be an olympic event for the first time this year. It is understantable why there is so much excitement and anticipation for skiers world wide leading up to Sochi.
Another event we will be witnessing for the first time in the olympic games is the luge team relay. The new race format comprises three teams: a doubles sled, a woman’s single sled and a men’s single sled. Each sled slides one after the other as teams compete for the fastest combined time. A touch pad at the finish line must be activated by a teammate to open the gate for the next sled in line. (NBC Olympics)
I spoke to Erin Hamlin, who will be representing team USA for the third time in the Olympics, to get some insight into what the luge world is saying about this new event. When I asked Erin what the most challenging aspect to team luge is, she told me “the biggest thing for us is that the clock doesn’t stop, all members must have perfect runs. The reaction start is the key to success, and since luging largely comes down to fractions of a second, it is difficult to recover from a bad reaction start.”
The reaction time at the beginning is so crucial that the team purchased a gate system so they can train for the reaction start. Erin informed us that it will be the men responsible for the start. Another different aspect in team relay than standard luge is that the finsish line is further than normal. “I have to be perfect and have everything come together, hit the pad at the finish and try to have the best race of my career,” said Hamlin.
Some other new events we will see this year in Sochi for the first time in the Olympic games is a biathalon ski-relay and a figure skating team event. Six events in total will be making their debut this February in Sochi. With the cost of the Olympics surpassing 50 billion dollars already, making it the most expensive Olympic games ever, there is sure to be fireworks in Sochi, Russia this February.