The Winter Olympics: Why should you be Interested?

Winter Olympics, as the name suggests, compliments the Summer Olympics. This is a sporting event where the disciplines are performed on ice and snow.

The first Winter Olympics took place in 1924 in St. Chamonix, France. Until 1994, the Summer and Winter Olympics have been held in the same year as it has been the practice to hold these events every four years. Afterwards, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to hold them alternately on separate four-year cycles during even-numbered years. The ongoing Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea is the 23rd iteration.

What Sports Are in the Winter Olympics?

During the first Olympics, there were five sports fielded where athletes compete for medals. But in the following years, more and more disciplines have been added. The following are the sports included in the program of the Winter Olympics:

Bobsleigh – this is a sport where teams of two or four people (divided into two classes) jump into a specially designed sleigh and ride it through a course. Speed is the key criterion and the team with the fastest time during the preliminaries will qualify for the medal round. There is a related individual sport called Luge where a sled is used instead of a sleigh. For more about bobsleigh, go to this Wikipedia entry. To see how it is done, click on this YouTube video link.

Curling – a sport that originated in Canada. It is Canada’s national (winter) sport. In this sport, players slide stones on a sheet of ice towards a target area. It is the job of the teams to make sure it heads towards the target area and will not go astray. To see how it is played, click on this YouTube link.

Ice Hockey – another popular sport similar to basketball and soccer where teams drive a small rubber disk called a puck to the goal with sticks. Teams perform offense and defense like the aforementioned sports. The sport can get very physical sometimes.

Skiing – this is another staple of the Winter Olympics. This is broken down into several events. Go to this link to see skiing action.

  • Biathlon. This is originally designed for soldiers training for winter warfare. Athletes ski through a course carrying a rifle and they have to shoot targets at given locations.
  • Alpine Skiing. This entails skiing down a snow-covered hill on a set course. This is divided into two disciplines – Freestyle where skiers can employ any technique and Racing which can include slalom where skiers weave around markers as they ski downhill. This is also a time trial event.
  • Cross-country skiing. This is the winter version of a marathon or cross-country running (in Modern Pentathlon). Skiers move across snowy terrain getting to the finish line.
  • Nordic Combined. This discipline combines cross-country skiing and ski jumping.
  • Ski Jumping. Skiers ski down a steep slope to gather enough momentum to leap off a ramp. Skiers are judged by the execution of techniques, gracefulness and agility when landing. Scoring is similar to that of diving. They lose points for mistakes committed.

Snowboarding. This is related to skiing and skateboarding. It also negotiates courses similar to skiing, some just like skateboarding where athletes execute daring maneuvers in midair. Click here to see a video.

Skating. This is another popular sport in the Winter Olympics. They are divided into two disciplines.

  • Speed skating. This is similar to sprinting. The first to reach the finish line wins. This is divided into qualifiers. Those who post best times will move on to the next round up to the medal round. This is further divided into short track, long track and marathon. Watch this video.
  • Figure skating. This can be individual or pairs. Skaters perform a program where they execute various techniques. They are scored on proper execution and gracefulness. The more difficult the technique the better when done correctly. They lose points each time they commit an error. Scoring is similar to that of gymnastics. See this video featuring the Philippines Michael Martinez.

Why Should Filipinos Be Interested?

What do Filipinos have to do with the Winter Olympics considering we are a tropical country where it will never snow?

martinez
Michael Martinez became the first Filipino to represent the country in the Winter Olympics, proving we have potential to compete in the disciplines here. Source: GoldenSkate.com

The answer came in 2014 during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia when Michael Martinez represented the Philippines in the figure skating competition. Although he did not win or place, he still had a respectable finish.

With the introduction of skating rinks in SM Malls, a lot of young Filipinos have taken up figure skating lessons and have performed well in international competitions besides the Olympics. Since Martinez’s participation, more and more have signed up to learn figure skating.

phil hockey
The Philippine Men’s Ice Hockey Team won the first Gold Medal in the sport’s debut at the 2015 SEA Games. Source: International Ice Hockey Federation

There is also the gold medal victory of the Philippine Ice Hockey Team in the 2015 Southeast Asian Games which introduced winter sports – Ice Hockey and Skating.

If there is anything this proves, Filipinos have the potential to be champions in these sports if we give them enough support, training and exposure. The sports fit the Filipino physical characteristics (height or strength is not an issue). This is something worth investing rather than depend on sports Filipinos have long excelled, namely basketball, boxing and billiards. Martinez has shown we can also excel in these sports as well. We must not let our geographic location limit us to what we can achieve.

Featured Image Source: NBC Sports

Aaron Ronquillo

Quizzer, Practical Shooter, Martial Artist, Movie Buff, Avid Reader, Amateur Foodie and Photographer, Cat Lover; Someone with a wanderlust; got a keen eye for detail, trivia; enthusiastic but cautious; patient, calculating