XXII Winter Olympics bring back memories of Olympic ‘Firsts’

The New Events and Athletes of 2014

Katie Songey, Layout Assistant

 

The XXII Winter Olympic Games of 2014, hosted in Sochi, Russia, had a number of “Winter Olympic Firsts,” holding eight new events this past February.

The Olympic Games began Feb. 6 and lasted through Feb. 23.  This year there were 98 events in 15 winter sports, and 6000 athletes from 85 countries participated in the games.  The first winter Olympics of 1924 in Chamonix, France hosted 16 events and 258 athletes (11 of whom were women) from 16 countries.  The games were referred to as an “International Winter Sports Week” before they were recognized as the first Olympic Winter Games.

Twenty-two games later for the 2014 Olympics, the International Olympic Committee approved the addition of the biathlon mixed relay, luge team relay, ski halfpipe (men’s and women’s), ski slopestyle (men’s and women’s), snowboard slopestyle (men’s and women’s), snowboard parallel slalom (men’s and women’s), women’s ski jump and a figure skating team event.

“I’m really looking forward to the figure skating team event because it will be interesting to see something different,” Athena Ratzman, sophomore, said when asked what new event she wanted to watch this February, “I’ve only heard of individual figure skating, so it should be cool to watch the event and support a team versus a single athlete!”

The new figure skating team event consisted of teams of six (versus the traditional individual and pairs performances): one woman, one man, one pairs skating couple and one ice dance couple.  Ten teams competed in the first round of short dance, and the best five teams advanced to the free skate/dance level.  Skaters were assessed on their technique and presentation.  The country whose team had the highest total score won the gold medal.  Throughout most of the games, the Russians led in the medal count, although the United States did hold third place for a significant amount of time.

Not only did the Sochi Winter Games host new, first-time events, but they also were the first games to start competitions before the opening ceremony.  An early start was necessary because the new team figure skating program required more time to complete the event than the allotted two weeks.

Other significant “Olympic Firsts” include the first Winter Olympic female gold medalist in the 1924.   Herma Planck Szabo of Austria won the figure skating event twenty-two games ago.  And the first African-American athlete to take home a Winter Olympics gold medal was Vonetta Flowers, USA, in women’s bobsleigh, at Salt Lake City in 2002.

“I think these Olympians have encouraged more women to try harder to be a part of the Olympics and break free from the stereotype that women are weak and inferior,” Ratzman said.

With an immensely increased number of female athletes, being 40.7% of the 2010 Vancouver athletes, women have recently taken part in the leading roles of international athletics.

“I feel like women in the past were good and they could equally perform like men.  They introduced a standard of excellence and perfection,” Kareem Hilaire, sophomore, said. “ I’m looking forward to seeing them perform more this February.”

Also included in the recent additions of events are two team relays: biathlon and luge.  Both being four-leg relays against the clock, only the best teamwork and skill brought home the gold.

“I think that the Olympics added new team events because it will stress the importance of working as a whole, instead of individually, showing a nation’s strength in unity as a nation’s team,” Ratzman explained.

As thousands of athletes from around the world competed in Sochi to bring fame and name to their countries and themselves, only the most motivated and most skilled brought home the gold.

“I think that the people who should take the medal should be the most passionate about their sport, who play for their life,” Edwin Urieta, sophomore, said. “I look forward to seeing ordinary people become legends!”

To learn more about the 2014 Winter Olympics and see the results for all events, go to www.sochi2014.com.