All posts by bmallon

Biathlon Factsheet

Olympic HistoryBiathlon consists of cross-country skiing in which the ski runner stops at intervals to shoot a rifle at a target.  Evidence for a skiing and shooting sport exists in cave paintings in Norway from about 2000 B.C.E., depicting hunters on skis while stalking animals for game.  The modern sport has a military basis, in which Scandinavian soldiers were trained to ski while carrying rifles and to periodically stop and shoot.  Biathlon-type events in Scandinavia were held as early as the 18th century.

The first modern biathlon probably occurred in 1912 when the Norwegian military organized the Forvarsrennet in Oslo, an annual event, which consisted initially of a 17 km. cross-country ski race with two-minute penalties for the shooting part of the competition.  A military patrol event was contested at the Olympic Winter Games as a medal sport in 1924, and a demonstration sport in 1928, 1936, and 1948, although it was not precisely the same as the biathlon.

Attempts to introduce a winter multi-event patterned after the modern pentathlon began in 1948, when the Winter Pentathlon was contested at the St. Moritz Olympics as a demonstration sport.  It consisted of cross-country and downhill skiing, and also shooting, fencing, and horse riding.  The first world championships in biathlon were held in 1958 at Saalfelden, Austria.  The sport quickly was placed on the Olympic program, showing up at Squaw Valley in 1960.  Women’s biathlon made its Olympic début in 1992 as a full medal sport at Albertville.

Olympic biathlon events have consisted of a single men’s race and a men’s relay until 1980 when a second individual event was contested.  The event is scored by time.  In the longer individual race a one-minute penalty is assessed for a missed shooting bulls-eye, and a two-minute penalty is assessed for missing a target.  In the shorter individual race and the relay, missing a target is penalized by requiring the biathlete to ski a 150 metre penalty loop.  For 2002, a new pursuit event of 12 km. for men and 10 km. for women was added to the Olympic program.  In 2006, a mass start sprint event for both men and women was added to the biathlon program.

Originally, biathlon was governed by the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne et Biathlon (UIPMB).  However, in 1993, biathlon separated from the modern pentathlon and formed the International Biathlon Union (IBU) to govern the sport independently.  The IBU currently has 68 affiliated national federations, as of November 2013.  All of the nations are also IOC member nations, with the lone exception of Greenland.

The current member nations are as follows: Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Chinese Taipei, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Greenland, Guam, Hungary, India, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United States, US Virgin Islands, and Uzbekistan.

Short-track Speedskating – Factsheet

Olympic History:     Speed skating has been on the program of every Olympic Winter Games, always contested in paired two-person time trials over a track of 400 metres in length, with one exception.  In 1932, the Olympic Winter Games were held in Lake Placid, and the Americans changed the speed skating format, electing to race the events in the American style of mass-start pack racing.  The Europeans protested and several of them, notably Finnish speed skating legend Clas Thunberg, refused to attend, but the Lake Placid Organizing Committee persisted and the events were held in that manner.

Speed skating in the United States and Canada has almost always been skated in mass-start pack races.  It is often contested indoors in this manner, but even the outdoor races were often held pack-style.  The style is actually more exciting than two-person time trials, because the risks are high, and the pack allows for drafting and bursts of very high speed.

In the 1970s short-track speed skating developed as a fully indoor sport in the American mass-start pack style.  The first international competition in short-track took place in Champaign, Illinois (USA) in 1976.  The sport’s popularity spread to Europe as well as North America and official World Championships were first held in 1978.  It is not well known that Bonnie Blair, who won five gold medals in full-track speed skating, started out and won the 1986 World Championships in short-track.

Short-track speed skating was a demonstration sport at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary.  It was added to the Olympic program as a full medal sport in 1992 at Albertville.  The program originally had one individual race and one relay race for men and women.  However, at Lillehammer (1994) and Nagano (1998), a second individual race was added.  For Salt Lake City in 2002, the individual 1,500 metres for men and women was added to the short-track speed skating program.  The program is almost the same for men and women with both racing individually over 500 metres, 1,000 metres, 1,500 metres, and a relay (5,000 metres for men, 3,000 metres for women).

The length of the indoor track for short-track speed skating has varied over the years.  It was initially set at 125 metres in 1967, but later changed to 110 metres (1977) and in 1980, changed to its current length – the rather unusual distance of 111.12 metres, which is nine laps to the kilometre, but corresponds to no known Imperial distance of any significance.

Short-track speedskating is governed internationally by the International Skating Union (ISU), which was founded in July 1892, making it the oldest winter sport IF.  The ISU governs all skating on the Olympic Program – figure skating, speed skating, and short-track speed skating.  As of November 2013, the ISU lists itself as having 87 affiliated national federations, but this is only technically correct.  There are actually only 68 nations affiliated with the ISU, as follows: Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, DPR Korea (North), Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Grenada, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States, and Uzbekistan.

Seventeen nations have two federations – one for figure skating, and one for speed skating.  These seventeen nations are:  Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Sweden, Ukraine, and the United States.  This would make 85 affiliated federations, but the ISU also recognizes two “Club” members, who were among the earliest members of the ISU.  These “Club” members represent Stockholm, Sweden (Stockholms Allmänna Skridskoklubb) (1892) and Davos, Switzerland (Internationaler Schlittsschuh-Club Davos) (1896).

 

Freestyle Skiing – Factsheet

Olympic History:          Freestyle skiing is a newer discipline within the sport of skiing.  It has roots in Scandinavia, similar to all skiing disciplines, but its primary development occurred in North America.  In the 1930s Norwegian skiiers used ski acrobatics in training for cross-country and alpine competitions.  It was considered an acceptable part of training but not a true competitive sport.

In the United States, freestyle skiing developed as a part of professional ski exhibitions early in the 20th century.  Standardized competitions began in the 1960s with the first freestyle skiing event taking place in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire in 1966.  The first professional competitions were held in 1971 and the World Cup freestyle tour began in 1980.  In 1979, the Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) recognized freestyle skiing as an amateur sport.  The first World Championships were contested in 1986 in Tignes, France.

There are multiple different events in freestyle skiing – moguls, aeriels, halfpipe, slopestyle, and skiier-cross.  A combined event has also been contested at the World Championships, and ballet (later called Acroski) used to be a popular freestyle event, but less so in the 2010s.  Freestyle skiing was contested as a demonstration sport at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games, with competition for men and women in moguls, aeriels, and ballet.  Freestyle became an Olympic medal sport beginning in 1992 at Albertville.  The only event at Albertville was moguls, but aeriels were added in 1994.  In 2010 a new event was added, termed skiier-cross, similar to the boardercross event in snowboarding. In 2014 at Sochi, halfpipe and slopestyle events will be added to the Olympic Program.

As of November 2013, there are 120 member nations affiliated to the FIS.  This makes it the largest International Sporting Federation for any winter sport.  The FIS governs what it terms six disciplines of skiing – alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, Nordic combined, freestyle skiing, and snowboarding.  Cross-country, ski jumping, and Nordic combined are often termed one sport of Nordic skiing.

The 120 member nations of FIS are as follows: Albania, Algeria, American Samoa, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, China, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, DPR Korea (North), Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Great Britain, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Marocco, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Palestine, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United States of America, Uruguay, US Virgin Islands, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.

 

Alpine Skiing – Factsheets

Olympic History:          Alpine ski racing is the newer form of ski racing, as Nordic, or cross-country, competitions were held in the Scandanavian countries for many years before alpine racing was developed.  The first known race was in 1911 at Montana, Switzerland, when the British organized a race for a challenge cup given by Lord Roberts of Kandahar.  The first slalom style race was held in 1922 at Mürren, Switzerland.

Alpine skiing was first placed on the Olympic program in 1936 at Garmisch-Partenkirchen.  The only event that year was a combined competition of both downhill and slalom.  In 1948, this was held along with separate downhill and slalom races.  Alpine combined was not contested at the Olympic Winter Games again until 1988 when it returned to the Olympic program.  In 1952, the giant slalom was added as an event, and in 1988, the super giant slalom (Super-G) became a fourth separate event, with combined the fifth event when it returned to the program. In 2010 (and 2014), the traditional combined of downhill and two slalom runs was replaced by the super combined, consisting of a shortened downhill (or Super-G) and a single slalom run.

Men and women contest alpine skiing separately.  Events for both sexes were held in 1936, and have been held at all Olympics since.  Interestingly, the program for men and women has been identical at all Olympics.

As of November 2013, there are 120 member nations affiliated to the FIS.  This makes it the largest International Sporting Federation for any winter sport.  The FIS governs what it terms six disciplines of skiing – alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, Nordic combined, freestyle skiing, and snowboarding.  Cross-country, ski jumping, and Nordic combined are often termed one sport of nordic skiing.

The 120 member nations of FIS are as follows: Albania, Algeria, American Samoa, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, China, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, DPR Korea (North), Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Great Britain, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Marocco, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Palestine, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United States of America, Uruguay, US Virgin Islands, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.

Sochi 2014 – Winter Sports Factsheets

Over the next week or so, we will be providing factsheets on the 15 Winter Olympic Sports / Disciplines. These will include all the data you’ll ever need to know concerning what has happened at the Winter Olympics previously in these sports. We’ll start with a short background on the sport, followed by multiple statistical files that will be attached as a PDF file for your use – they need to be in PDF files because of their complexity in terms of statistical tables and such.

After we finish with the Winter Olympic Sports / Disciplines, we’ll then provide a series of similar factsheets for the Nations that will be competing at Sochi, or that have competed before at the Winter Olympics.

Finally, our final factsheets in the run-up to Sochi will be a General Overview of the Olympic Winter Games. Hope you enjoy. Let us know if there is something else you want to see that we’ve missed. – Bill Mallon

Summer / Winter Olympic Sports Doubles

Simply making an Olympic team is often considered among the ultimate athletic accomplishments. It signifies that you have reached the highest level of competition in your sport. But in some cases athletes have competed at both the Summer and Winter Olympics, which has to be an even rarer feat. How common is it?

Actually, it has happened 128 times. And it has been done in a dizzying array of 47 different sport combinations. By far the most common both season Olympians are in athletics (track & field) and bobsledding, with 40 Olympians competing in this combination.

The first to do that was the Belgian Max Houben,  who competed in athletics in 1920 and bobsledding in 1928-48. He was followed by Austrian Johann Baptist Gudenus, a 1932-36 bobsledder and Olympian in athletics in 1936. There was then a large gap before this occurred again, with Britain Colin Campbell (1968/72 ATH, 1976 BOB), and Swiss Edy Hubacher (1968 ATH, 1972 BOB).

In 1980 at Lake Placid Willie Davenport competed in bobsledding for the United States. A four-time Olympian (1964-76), and gold medalist in the high hurdles in 1968, Davenport was recruited to bobsledding for his leg strength and drive, to help with the push starts. It began a trend of top track & field athletes competing in bobsled. The best known was likely East German 1988 decathlon silver medalist Torsten Voss, who pushed a bob at Nagano in 1998 for Germany.

From the United States, another famous athlete who competed in Olympic bobsledding (1992) was NFL running back Herschel Walker. Walker was a top track & field in high school but never competed in the Summer Olympics.

Multiple athletics stars have been recruited since, with the United States possibly including Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams on their women’s bobsled squads for Sochi.

Prior to this trend of athletics/bobsledding doubles, the most common both season sport double was cycling and speedskating, and it is still the second most common with 16 athletes having accomplished it. This combination occurred because the muscles and the training for both sports is similar, and athletes would often use the “other” sport for off-season training.

Two cyclists / speedskaters have won Olympic medals in both sports – Canadian Clara Hughes and German Christa Rothenburger-Luding. No athlete / bobsledder has yet pulled off the Winter / Summer medal double. This has been done by other athletes – notably Eddie Eagan, an American who won a gold medal in 1920 boxing and 1932 bobsledding, the only Olympian to have won gold medals at both the Winter and Summer Olympics. Norwegian Jacob Tullin Thams won Olympic medals in both ski jumping and sailing – there’s a combination for you.

It was even rarer for athletes to compete in the Summer and Winter Olympics in the same year, although that can no longer occur. This was done 41 times. Most notable was the accomplishment of Japanese female cyclist / speedskater Seiko Hashimoto who competed at the Winter and Summer Olympics in 1988 and 1992. The only other Olympian to have done this twice was the Swiss Charles Stoffel, who, in the days of more gentlemanly bobsled competition, competed in equestrian and bobsledding in 1924 and 1928.

Here are the sport doubles for both season Olympians, in order of frequency:

Summer                               Winter                                                                         ###

Athletics                              Bobsledding                                                                40

Cycling                                 Speedskating                                                              16

Cycling                                 Cross-Country Skiing                                               9

Hockey                                 Ice Hockey                                                                      7

Athletics                             Cross-Country Skiing                                               4

Football                               Ice Hockey                                                                      4

Athletics                             Cross-Country Skiing / Nordic Combined   3

Cycling                                 Short-Track Speedskating                                     2

Equestrian Events         Bobsledding                                                                   2

Hockey                                 Bobsledding                                                                   2

Rowing                                 Bobsledding                                                                   2

Sailing                                   Ice Hockey                                                                      2

Athletics                             Biathlon                                                                            1

Athletics                             Figure Skating                                                               1

Athletics                             Ice Hockey                                                                      1

Boxing                                 Bobsledding                                                                    1

Canoeing                           Cross-Country Skiing                                                1

Canoeing                           Luge                                                                                     1

Cycling                                Biathlon / Cross-Country Skiing                        1

Cycling                               Bobsledding                                                                     1

Fencing                              Bobsledding                                                                     1

Fencing                              Ice Hockey                                                                        1

Football                             Bobsledding                                                                     1

Handball                           Alpine Skiing / Cross-Country Skiing                1

Judo                                    Bobsledding                                                                      1

Modern Pentathlon   Cross-Country Skiing                                                 1

Modern Pentathlon   Military Ski Patrol                                                        1

Modern Pentathlon   Nordic Combined                                                         1

Modern Pentathlon   Speedskating                                                                   1

Rowing                               Cross-Country Skiing                                                1

Rowing                               Ice Hockey                                                                        1

Rowing                               Ice Hockey / Speedskating                                      1

Rowing                               Luge                                                                                      1

Rowing                               Military Ski Patrol                                                        1

Rowing                               Speedskating                                                                   1

Sailing                                 Alpine Skiing                                                                    1

Sailing                                 Bobsledding                                                                     1

Sailing                                 Ski Jumping                                                                       1

Shooting                            Biathlon                                                                              1

Shooting                            Figure Skating                                                                 1

Softball                               Ice Hockey                                                                       1

Swimming                         Bobsledding                                                                    1

Swimming                         Figure Skating                                                                1

Swimming                         Ski Jumping                                                                      1

Water Polo                       Bobsledding                                                                     1

Weightlifting                  Bobsledding                                                                      1

Wrestling                          Bobsledding                                                                     1

Totals                                                                                                                               128

How many will add to this list in Sochi? Certainly there will be a few athlete / bobsledders. Anybody else?

 

(Note: the author has a personal connection here – see the photos below of the cyclist / speedskater (guy on the left in the cycling picture). That guy went to the US Olympic Trials in cycling and speedskating in 1948, but did not make either Olympic team. That guy, however, was an Olympian of a Dad. And that folks, for your information, is how I first became interested in the Olympic Games.)

Dad Skating

Dad Cycling

(Note: tomorrow we will start providing factsheets for the 15 Winter Olympic sports to be held in Sochi. Stay tuned.)

Olympic Ski Jumping Hills

From 1924-60 there was one ski jumping event held at the Winter Olympics, termed the normal hill event. In 1964 a second competition on the large hill was added. In 1988 a team event on the large event became the third Olympic ski jumping event. Women will compete in ski jumping at the Olympics for the first time at Sochi in 2014, jumping off the normal hill.

But “normal” hill and “large” hill are not fixed definitions. The hills have varied significantly over the years and the hills have continued to get larger over time. The design of a ski jumping hill is complex with numerous tables and charts defining the mathematical analysis available in multiple sources.

Ski jumping hills are often defined by what is known as the K-point (for K/critical, or construction, point). Currently, a normal hill has a K-point of about 90 metres, while a large hill K-point is usually about 120 metres. But as you can see below, the last two Winter Olympics, and Sochi, have had slightly larger hills, at 95 and 125 metres, respectively.

The K-point defines the average point on the landing hill where the jumpers are expected to land, for maximum safety. It can actually be defined as the inflection point where the landing hill curvature changes from convex to concave.

There are also larger hills used, but not at the Olympics. These are termed ski flying hills, in which the K-point is at 180-185 metres, usually, although the largest hill is at Vikersund, Norway, with a K-point of 195 metres. Ski flyers often jump over 200 metres, with the current world best 246.5 metres (809 feet), set by Norwegian Johan Evensen on the Vikersund hill in February 2011.

In addition to the K-point, jumping hills used to be measured by Table Point, but this was usually within a few metres of the K-point and K-point was used more frequently. Table Point was introduced at the Olympics in 1972, but in 1984 Table Point and K-point became synonymous and Table Point is no longer used.

Another measurement now seen is called the Hill Size, which is larger than the K-point or Table Point. Hill Size is measured to the end of the landing area, or L-point, which is beyond the K-point. Another measurement that may be seen is called the Norm Point, which measures the distance to the P-point, or the beginning of the landing area, which is just above the K-point, usually approximately 80% of the distance to the K-point. The area between the P-point and the L-point, which includes the K-point, is basically the flat part of the landing area, where it is safe for the jumpers to land. See the accompanying diagram from the FIS rules, which also shows the complexity of the design of a ski jumping hill:

 

SkiJumpHills

 

There are occasions in ski jumping where the jumpers will start “out-jumping the hill.” This is when, because of ideal conditions of wind, snow, or ice, the jumpers start landing well-below the K-point, and especially below the L-point. If that happens, it can be dangerous for the jumpers because they are not coming down in the landing area, and the officials may stop the competition, and re-start it with a lower start on the jumping hill in-run.

The Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) uses Hill Size to define which events must be held at the Olympics and World Championships. “OWG [Olympic Winter Games] and WSC [World Ski Championships] jumping competitions shall be held on hills of two different sizes. A World or Olympic champion will be selected for each hill size. The smaller hill should have a Hill Size (HS) of at least 100 [m]. The difference between the hill sizes must be at least 25 m.” (see http://www.fis-ski.com/inside-fis/document-library/ski-jumping/, under link Ski Jumping, and then International Competition Rules, p. 66)

The FIS actually defines hills by Hill Size, with the current specifications as follows: 1) Small hill – up to 49 m; 2) Medium hill – 50-84 m; 3) Normal hill – 85-109 m; 4) Large hill – 110 m and larger (presumably up to 184 m); 5) Flying hill – 185 m and larger.

Below are the measurements of all the Olympic ski jumping hills since 1924:

Olympic Ski Jump Hills Specifications

Normal Hill

Year              K-Point      Table Point            Hill Size

1924              71.0 m                    —                     —

1928              66.0 m                    —                     —

1932              61.0 m                    —                     —

1936              80.0 m                    —                     —

1948              68.0 m                    —                     —

1952              72.0 m                    —                     —

1956              72.0 m                    —                     —

1960              80.5 m                    —                     —

1964              78.0 m                    —                     —

1968              70.0 m                    —                     —

1972              86.0 m             78.0 m                     —

1976              82.0 m             77.0 m                     —

1980              86.0 m             78.0 m              94.0 m

1984              90.0 m             90.0 m                     —

1988              89.0 m                    —                  95.0 m

1992              90.0 m                    —                  96.0 m

1994              90.0 m                    —               100.0 m

1998              90.0 m                    —                  98.0 m

2002              90.0 m                    —               100.0 m

2006              95.0 m                    —               106.0 m

2010              95.0 m                    —               106.0 m

2014              95.0 m                    —               106.0 m

Large Hill

Year              K-Point      Table Point            Hill Size

1964              81.0 m                    —                     —

1968              90.0 m                    —                     —

1972             110.0 m           100.0 m                     —

1976             104.0 m             95.0 m                     —

1980             114.0 m           102.0 m            125.0 m

1984             112.0 m           112.0 m                     —

1988             114.0 m                    —                122.0 m

1992             120.0 m                    —                132.0 m

1994             123.0 m                    —                138.0 m

1998             120.0 m                    —                131.0 m

2002             120.0 m                    —                134.0 m

2006             125.0 m                    —                140.0 m

2010             125.0 m                    —                140.0 m

2014             125.0 m                    —                140.0 m

One thing to note is that the hills for Torino (2006), Vancouver (2010), and Sochi (2014) are exactly the same size, both in terms of K-point and Hill Size. The other thing of interest is that until 2006, both the normal hill and large hill tended to get bigger at each Olympics.

Finally, note that the normal hill used at the 2002-10 Winter Olympics, at a hill size of 106.0 m, is approaching the maximum for a normal hill (109.0 m), as defined by FIS regulations. The large hills, however, remain well below ski flying specifications and could theoretically be made larger at future Olympics.

Death at the Olympics

At Vancouver in 2010, Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili went off the course during a training run on the morning of the Opening Ceremony, crashing into a stanchion next to the track, and was killed instantly. This cast a pall over the Opening Ceremony, where a moment of silence was held in his memory, and the Vancouver Games in general, and was later termed by former IOC President Jacques Rogge as the worst moment of his Presidency.

This was not the first time athletes have died at the Olympics, nor was it the first time a luger died in training runs at the Olympics. The best known instance of death at the Olympics, of course, occurred at the 1972 München Summer Olympics when Arab terrorists from the Black September faction invaded the Israeli section of the Olympic Village at 31 Connollystraße and kidnapped and killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches, with five Israeli Olympic athletes dying either from a shoot-out or bombs at the Fürstenfeldbruck air base. The athletes killed were David Berger (WLT), Ze’ev Friedman (WLT), Eliezer Halfin (WRE), and Yossef Romano (WLT), and Mark Slavin, a wrestler who was scheduled to compete on the day of the attacks. The coaches and administrators killed were Yossef Gutfreund, Amitzur Shapira, Kehat Shorr, Andrei Spitzer, Yacov Springer, and Moshe Weinberg.

Other athletes have died during training at the Olympic site. In 1964 at Innsbruck, two athletes died during training events just prior to the start of the Winter Olympics. In a macabre coincidence, one was another luger who crashed off the course, Polish-born British luger Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypecki, while the other was Australian downhill skiier Ross Milne. The IOC had the Olympic Flag flown at half-mast throughout the Games, with two black ribbons attached to its bottom edge.

Only two Olympians have died during, or as the result of, actual Olympic competition in medal events. The first was Portuguese marathoner Francisco Lázaro who collapsed during the 1912 marathon race, and died early the next morning. The second was Danish cyclist Knut Enemark Jensen, who collapsed during the 1960 cycling team time trial and died shortly thereafter. It was a very hot day in Rome when Enemark Jensen collapsed. His death has been variously attributed to heatstroke, to a closed head injury from striking his head when he fell (he did not wear a helmet, as was standard in that era), or from the effects of drugs, as he was rumored to have had Ronicol, an amphetamine-like stimulant, in his blood at the time of his death. (Note: Multiple different versions of the cause of death and the status of his drug-related blood tests can be found.) Jensen’s death, and the later death of British cyclist Tom Simpson during an ascent of Mont Ventoux during the 1967 Tour de France, after which he was found to have had multiple drugs in his body, were the stimuli that prompted the IOC to begin testing for drugs at the 1968 Olympics. Another Olympic athlete died during a demonstration event at the 1936 Berlin Olympics when Austrian Ignaz Stiefsohn crashed during the gliding exhibition, and was killed instantly.

Preparing the courses can be dangerous as well at the Winter Olympics. In 1992 at Albertville speed skiing was a demonstration sport. Swiss speed skiier Nicolas Bochatay was warming up before the qualifying with his teammate Pierre-Yves Jorand. They came up over a blind mogul, but when landing on the other side, Bochatay crashed into the track of a Sno-Cat preparing the course and was killed from internal injuries he suffered. Jorand was uninjured but withdrew from the competition.

At Calgary in 1988 a similar incident occurred before the start of the second run of men’s giant slalom. The 47-year-old Austrian team physician and orthopaedic surgeon Jörg Oberhammer, who was skiing at the base of the hill, collided with another skier, 55-year-old Brian Nock, a technician for Canadian television. Oberhammer was knocked down into the tracks of a snow-grooming machine and was crushed, killing him instantly. Two Swiss skiers, Pirmin Zurbriggen and Martin Hangl, witnessed the event and were badly shaken. Zurbriggen managed to start the second run and would win a bronze medal, but Hangl collapsed at the top of the hill and had to withdraw.

There have been other Olympics-related deaths, more due to acts of God or accidents and not related to training, course preparation, or competition. In 1936 at Berlin, Romanian boxer Nicolae Berechet lost his first round match in the featherweight class on 11 August. In that pre-antibiotic era, three days later he was dead of sepsis from an infection due to a carbuncle. At the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Italian rower Arrigo Menicocci competed and then a few days later went for a car ride, but was killed in a crash before the Olympics had ended. One other athlete who died during the Olympics, but without ever competing, was Czechoslovakian female gymnast Eliska Mišaková. While training in London before the 1948 Olympics Mišaková contracted poliomyelitis and died on the day the gymnastics competition started. Her sister, Miroslava, was also on the Czechoslovak team and helped them win a gold medal.

Finally, shortly after midnite on 27 July 1996 at the Atlanta Olympics, a bomb went off in Centennial Olympic Park, a gathering place for the world’s spectators and many of the athletes. One spectator, Alice Hawthorne, was killed by the bomb and 111 others were wounded. One Turkish cameraman, Melih Uzunyol, ran to the scene to photograph it, and died of a heart attack he sustained in that effort. The bombing was initially attributed to Centennial Olympic Park employee Richard Jewell, who was wrongly accused, but was later found to have been set by Eric Rudolph, a religious extremist who seemed to be anti-almost everything except life. He was found to have set other bombs as well, was convicted, and in a plea bargain, sentenced to four consecutive life sentences without parole.

So the Olympic Games usually celebrate athletes and humanity at its finest. But they have also been the scene of great tragedy. All honor to their names.

And now, a moment a silence for those who died and have not always been given that memory.

(Note: the above was written prior to the recent terrorist attacks in Volgograd. We sincerely hope and pray that no amendments will be necessary by the end of the Sochi Olympic Games.)

Sochi – the Olympic Program

There will be 98 events contested at Sochi, with 49 events for men, 43 for women, and 6 mixed events, although we’ll have a bit more to say about mixed events in a bit. Now that ski jumping has been added, women will compete in every sport/discipline on the Sochi Program except Nordic combined. Women are underrepresented on the Olympic Winter Program with 1 bobsledding event to 2 for men, 1 ski jumping event to 3 for men, and no events in Nordic combined to 3 for men.

Winter sports/events came into the Olympics in 1908, with figure skating contested as part of the 1908 and 1920 Olympic Games, and ice hockey also contested at Antwerp in 1920. Since then the Olympic Program breakdown has looked like this:

Years   Men  Women  Mixed  Total    %Wom      %Mix

1908            2            1            1            4         25.0%       25.0%

1920            2            1            1            4         25.0%       25.0%

1924           14           1            1          16           6.3%         6.3%

1928           12           1            1          14           7.1%         7.1%

1932           12           1            1          14           7.1%         7.1%

1936           14           2            1          17         11.8%         5.9%

1948           17           4            1          22         18.2%         4.5%

1952           16           5            1          22         22.7%         4.5%

1956           17           6            1          24         25.0%         4.2%

1960           16         10            1          27         37.0%         3.7%

1964           20         12            2          34         35.3%         5.9%

1968           21         12            2          35         34.3%         5.7%

1972           21         12            2          35         34.3%         5.7%

1976           22         12            3          37         32.4%         8.1%

1980           23         12            3          38         31.6%         7.9%

1984           23         13            3          39         33.3%         7.7%

1988           27         16            3          46         34.8%         6.5%

1992           31         23            3          57         40.4%         5.3%

1994           33         25            3          61         41.0%         4.9%

1998           36         29            3          68         42.6%         4.4%

2002           41         34            3          78         43.6%         3.8%

2006           44         37            3          84         44.0%         3.6%

2010           45         38            3          86         44.2%         3.5%

2014           49         43            6          98         43.9%         6.1%

Totals      509       307         46       862        35.6%         5.3%

From 1976-2010 the mixed events were pairs figure skating, ice dance figure skating, and doubles luge, although the luge event is an anomaly. Technically the event is open to men and women as a mixed event. But no woman has ever competed in doubles luge at the Olympic Winter Games or World Championships, nor is the option ever really discussed or considered. Thus, there is some justification to consider it a men’s event.

There are 12 more events on the Sochi Program than there were at Vancouver in 2010. The new events are as follows, along with the time at which they first were contested at World Championships:

Biathlon                  X   Mixed Relay                2005 World Championship

Figure Skating      X   Team Trophy              never contested at Worlds

Freestyle Skiing  M  Slopestyle                    2011 World Championship

Freestyle Skiing  M  Halfpipe                        2005 World Championship

Freestyle Skiing   F   Slopestyle                    2011 World Championship

Freestyle Skiing   F   Halfpipe                        2005 World Championship

Luge                            X   Mixed Relay               1989 World Championship

Ski Jumping            F   Normal Hill, Indiv.   2009 World Championship

Snowboarding     M  Slopestyle                    2011 World Championship

Snowboarding     M  Parallel Sp. Slalom   1996 World Championship

Snowboarding      F   Slopestyle                     2011 World Championship

Snowboarding      F   Parallel Sp. Slalom    1996 World Championship

The figure skating team trophy is interesting, in that it has not been contested at the World Championships. The Olympic Charter used to state that events would only be added if they had first been contested at international competitions, “To be included in the programme of the Olympic Games, events must have a recognised international standing both numerically and geographically, and have been included at least twice in world or continental championships.” That was in the 2004 Olympic Charter, but that text was removed in the next edition, in 2007.

So women are getting closer to full gender equity at the Winter Olympics. They can actually now compete in 50.0% of the events on the program, although only technically, remembering doubles luge. Men can compete in 56.1% of the events, because of the overlap with mixed events.

If women’s ski jumping is successful and expands internationally, it is possible the program will become all but equal, but it is important to remember that Nordic combined events for women are held virtually nowhere and there have been no international competitions in that discipline for women. A recent story talked about Russian women starting to compete in Nordic combined and it was most notable for the rarity of women in that sport. Hard to imagine women’s Olympic events in Nordic combined in the foreseeable future.

Olympic Sliding Tracks

Unfortunately, all Olympic fans sadly remember the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, on the morning of the 2010 Vancouver opening ceremony. There were concerns about the track in Vancouver and its speed and difficulty. What is the sliding track like in Sochi, at the Sanki Sliding Centre? And how does it compare to Vancouver and other Olympics sliding tracks?

Below are the specifications for the Olympic sliding tracks at all the Olympics, although in some of the early years, some data is lacking. The three key factors are the length of the track, the gradient, or steepness of the hill, and especially the vertical drop.

Olympic Bobsledding Track Specifications

Two-Man

Year    Curves   Length  Start Altitude  Vertical Drop   Gradient

1932           26   2,366 m              850 m               228 m          9.6%

1936           17   1,525 m               919 m               129 m          8.5%

1948           17   1,722 m                       —               130 m          7.5%

1952           13   1,508 m               429 m               124 m          8.2%

1956           16   1,700 m                       —               153 m          9.0%

1964           13   1,506 m           1,133 m               138 m          9.2%

1968           13   1,500 m           2,030 m               140 m          9.3%

1972           14   1,563 m               495 m                 70 m          4.5%

1976           14   1,220 m            1,133 m                 97 m          8.0%

1980           16   1,557 m               771 m               148 m          9.5%

1984           13   1,300 m           1,109 m               126 m          9.7%

1988           14   1,475 m           1,250 m               120 m          8.1%

1992           19   1,508 m           1,685 m               125 m          8.3%

1994           16   1,365 m               347 m               107 m          7.8%

1998           15   1,360 m           1,028 m               113 m          8.3%

2002           15   1,340 m           2,233 m               104 m          7.8%

2006           19   1,435 m           1,683 m               114 m          7.9%

2010           16   1,450 m              928 m               148 m        10.2%

2014           18   1,475 m               844 m               132 m          9.3%

Four-Man

Year    Curves   Length  Start Altitude  Vertical Drop   Gradient

1924           19   1,370 m                        —               156 m        11.4%

1928           17   1,722 m                        —               130 m          7.5%

1932           26   2,366 m              850 m               228 m          9.6%

1936           17   1,525 m               919 m               129 m          8.5%

1948           17   1,722 m                        —               130 m          7.5%

1952           13   1,508 m                429 m               124 m          8.2%

1956           16   1,700 m                        —               153 m          9.0%

1964           13   1,506 m           1,133 m               138 m          9.2%

1968           13   1,500 m           2,030 m               140 m          9.3%

1972           14   1,563 m                495 m                 70 m          4.5%

1976           14   1,220 m            1,133 m                 97 m          8.0%

1980           16   1,557 m               771 m               148 m          9.5%

1984           13   1,300 m           1,109 m               126 m          9.7%

1988           14   1,475 m           1,250 m               120 m          8.1%

1992           19   1,508 m           1,685 m               125 m          8.3%

1994           16   1,365 m               347 m               107 m          7.8%

1998           15   1,360 m           1,028 m               113 m          8.3%

2002           15   1,340 m           2,233 m               104 m          7.8%

2006           19   1,435 m           1,683 m               114 m          7.9%

2010           16   1,450 m              928 m               148 m        10.2%

2014           18   1,475 m               844 m               132 m          9.3%

Two-Women

Year    Curves    Length  Start Altitude  Vertical Drop   Gradient

2002           15   1,340 m           2,233 m               104 m          7.8%

2006           19   1,435 m           1,683 m               114 m          7.9%

2010           16   1,450 m               928 m               148 m        10.2%

2014           18   1,475 m               844 m               132 m          9.3%

 

Olympic Luge Track Specifications

Men’s Singles

Year    Curves   Length  Start Altitude  Vertical Drop   Gradient

1964           18   1,058 m           1,133 m               113 m        10.7%

1968           14   1,000 m           1,110 m               110 m        11.0%

1972           14   1,023 m                443 m               101 m          9.9%

1976           14   1,220 m                        —               103 m          8.4%

1980           14   1,014 m                731 m                 96 m          9.5%

1984           13   1,210 m           1,112 m               129 m        10.7%

1988           13   1,251 m           1,309 m               109 m          8.7%

1992           15   1,250 m           1,671 m               111 m          8.9%

1994           16   1,365 m                350 m               110 m          8.1%

1998           14   1,326 m           1,029 m               114 m          8.6%

2002           17   1,317 m                    —               106 m              8.0%

2006           19   1,435 m                    —               114 m              7.9%

2010           15   1,198 m              909 m               132 m        11.0%

2014           17   1,475 m              844 m               132 m           9.3%

Doubles

Year    Curves   Length  Start Altitude  Vertical Drop   Gradient

1964           18      910 m           1,110 m                 89 m           9.8%

1968           —               —                        —                       —                —

1972           11      763 m               420 m                 78 m        10.2%

1976           10      870 m                        —                 72 m           8.3%

1980           11      749 m              695 m                 59 m          7.9%

1984           11      993 m           1,082 m               100 m        10.1%

1988           10   1,080 m           1,281 m                 81 m          7.5%

1992           14   1,143 m           1,652 m                 92 m          8.0%

1994           13   1,185 m                325 m                 85 m          7.2%

1998           13   1,194 m           1,011 m                  96 m          8.0%

2002           12   1,140 m                        —                  77 m          6.8%

2006           17   1,233 m                        —                  98 m          7.9%

2010           14      953 m                883 m                 96 m        10.1%

2014           16   1,384 m                836 m               125 m          9.3%

Women’s Singles

Year    Curves     Length    Start Altitude    Vertical Drop     Gradient

1964           18      910 m           1,110 m                 89 m          9.8%

1968           —               —                        —                        —              —

1972           11      763 m                420 m                 78 m        10.2%

1976           10      870 m                        —                  72 m          8.3%

1980           11      749 m                695 m                 59 m          7.9%

1984           11      993 m            1,082 m               100 m        10.1%

1988           10   1,080 m            1,281 m                 81 m          7.5%

1992           14   1,143 m            1,652 m                 92 m          8.0%

1994           13   1,185 m                325 m                 85 m          7.2%

1998           13   1,194 m            1,011 m                 96 m          8.0%

2002           12   1,140 m                        —                  77 m          6.8%

2006           17   1,233 m                        —                  98 m          7.9%

2010           14        953 m               883 m                 96 m        10.1%

2014           16   1,384 m                836 m               125 m          9.3%

 

Olympic Skeleton Track Specifications

Men

Year    Curves   Length  Start Altitude  Vertical Drop   Gradient

1928           15   1,231 m                       —               157 m        12.8%

1948           15   1,231 m                       —               157 m        12.8%

2002           15   1,335 m           2,233 m               104 m          7.8%

2006           19   1,435 m           1,683 m               114 m          7.9%

2010           15   1,450 m              928 m               148 m        10.2%

2014           18   1,475 m              844 m               132 m         9.3%

Women

Year    Curves   Length  Start Altitude  Vertical Drop   Gradient

2002           15   1,335 m           2,233 m               104 m          7.8%

2006           19   1,435 m           1,683 m               114 m          7.9%

2010           15   1,450 m              928 m                148 m        10.2%

2014           18   1,475 m              844 m                132 m          9.3%

If everything else is equal, the vertical drop is what determines the speed. On a frictionless track, with no curves, the velocity one obtains would be as follows, if you remember your elementary physics:

V = √2gh

In the above, V = velocity, h = vertical drop (or height), and g = gravitational acceleration (=9.8 m/s). With no other forces, such as friction, the speed at the bottom can be determined by the equation relating potential and kinetic energy:

mgh = ½mV2

Which yields the above formula for the final velocity.

Now obviously there is friction, and there are curves. Modern sliding tracks really began in the 1960s with refrigerated tracks which are basically sheets of ice. Friction is pretty minimal now, but its still there. And some of the curves will slow down the sleds, although the highly banked tracks minimize that.

So looking at the above, we note that the Sanki track is a long one, at a maximum length of 1,475 metres. It is the longest ever luge or skeleton Olympic track, although several bob tracks have been longer.

The Vancouver track had a greater vertical drop and gradient than Sochi, however. In fact Vancouver had the steepest gradient and biggest vertical drop of any of the modern, iced Olympic tracks, although equalled by Lake Placid in 1980, which had the same vertical drop but less of a gradient. For bobsled and skeleton, the track in Vancouver dropped 148 metres at a gradient of about 10.2%, while Sochi drops 132 metres at a gradient of about 9.3%. The luge drop in Vancouver was less, but remember that that track was shortened, and started from lower down, after the fatal accident.

So if you are looking at the differences in the two tracks maximal potential speeds, they are as follows (using bobsled and skeleton drops):

Year           Vertical Drop                         Max Speed

2010          148 m drop        194 km/hr (121 mph)

2014          132 m drop        183 km/hr (114 mph)

Now obviously the sleds never get that fast, as this assumes a frictionless surface and no curves. Maximum speeds hover about 90 mph, or 145 km/hr in skeleton and luge, and can get to 95 mph, or 150 km/hr in bobsled. But what this does show is that the Sanki Sliding Centre track is not as fast as Vancouver’s was, by a factor of about 6% potential maximum speed.