Every four years, viewers around the world eagerly tune in to watch familiar Winter Olympic sports such as figure skating and alpine skiing as well as more original events such as short track speed skating and curling. . But over the years there have been even more unusual and extreme sports that were once held at the Winter Games.
Many of these now discontinued events were demonstration sports, often indigenous to the host nations, in which the winners did not receive official medals. The following eight are among the most curious in the history of the Winter Olympics.
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Not all Winter Olympians have been of the two-legged variety. At the 1928 Winter Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland, horses raced on the alpine resort’s frozen lake and competed in the demonstration sport of ski joëring, which has been compared to water skiing on snow. Originating in Scandinavia as a means of transporting and transmitting military dispatches, skijoring (roughly translated from the Norwegian words for “ski driving”) involves skiers being towed by horses, dogs, or other animals. In skijoring’s only Olympic appearance, seven competitors from Italy and Switzerland gripped reins attached to wooden harnesses mounted on riderless horses as they glided across the frozen lake of St. Moritz. Although skijoring never made another Olympic appearance, the niche sport lives on in Scandinavia, Switzerland and the American West.
2. Sled dog race
Following in the footsteps of their equine counterparts, dogs competed in sled dog races at the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. Mushing originated in North America during the Klondike Gold Rush, and the 13 pilots participating in the demonstration sport hailed from the United States and Canada. Competitors included Eva Seeley, the only female athlete at the third Winter Games except for figure and speed skaters, and Leonhard Seppala, 55, hero of the epic 1925 sled dog relay that delivered serum in Nome, Alaska during an outbreak of diphtheria. . The mushers and their teams of seven dogs rode a 25-mile course over two consecutive days. Leading the fastest team on both days, Canadian Emil St. Goddard posted the lowest cumulative time, winning by nearly eight minutes over Seppala.
3. The ballet of skis
Described as figure skating on snow, ski ballet first appeared as a demonstration sport at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada, along with two other freestyle skiing disciplines: jumps and bumps. Aided by ski poles, 12 men and six women performed spins, jumps, dance moves and spins in acrobatic routines on a football field-sized ski slope accompanied by music ranging from The Beach Boys’ “California Girls” at Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. . The judges evaluated the performances on technical difficulty, choreography and overall performance. Ski ballet returned to the Winter Olympics in 1992 as a demonstration sport, but unlike moguls and aerials, it was not elevated to medal status and never returned. In the wake of the Olympic snub, the International Ski Federation held its last World Ski Ballet Championship in 1999.
4. Speed Skiing
Suited to a speed-focused sport, speed skiing took little time to explain itself when it made its only Olympic appearance at the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France. Starting near the top of a mountain, skiers raced down a 59-degree slope in a straight line and attempted to post the fastest speed within a 100-meter timing zone. Wearing futuristic aero helmets, rubber suits and specialized skis, competitors routinely exceeded speeds of 125 miles per hour and left white plumes in their wake. French doctor Michael Prufer (142 miles per hour) and Finland’s Tarja Mulari (136 miles per hour) broke their own world records by winning the men’s and women’s competitions respectively. The event was however marred by a fatal accident on the morning of the final when 27-year-old Swiss speed skier Nicolas Bochatay died of internal injuries after colliding with a snow groomer during practice .
A hybrid of hockey and soccer, bandy first appeared as a demonstration sport at the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway. Organized bandy clubs date back to 19th century England, when field hockey was adapted for an ice rink, but the sport gained its greatest popularity in Scandinavia and Russia after spreading to continental Europe. Playing on soccer field-sized slabs of ice, bandy teams consist of 11 skaters who wield long-handled sticks with curved blades to handle a hard ball, not a puck. Stickless goalies protecting football-sized nets stop shots using only their hands. At the 1952 Games, teams representing Finland, Norway and Sweden played a round robin tournament in which each team had a win and a loss. Despite losing to Norway in a domestic match for the first time in 25 years, Sweden finished first based on goals scored.
6. Military Patrol
Alongside skiers and skaters, soldiers participated in the first Winter Olympics in 1924 in a medal-winning event straight out of training camp: a military patrol. The four-man teams included an officer, a non-commissioned officer and two privates wearing uniforms and 50-pound backpacks. The event combined 30 kilometers of cross-country skiing, mountaineering over hundreds of vertical meters and rifle shooting on balloons. While the officers carried pistols, the other three team members fired 18 shots at varying intervals along the course and earned time bonuses for each target hit. Six countries participated in the 1924 military patrol competition in Chamonix, France, with Switzerland winning the gold medal. Military patrol returned in 1928, 1936 and 1948, but as demonstration sports. His legacy lives on, however, in modern biathlon, an event combining cross-country skiing and shooting that has been a medal-winning sport at the Winter Olympics since 1960.
7. Ice Stock Sport
Curling was not held in the 1936 and 1964 Winter Olympics, but its alpine cousin, the sport on ice (called “Eisstock” in German), was part of these Olympic programs as a demonstration sport. Known as “Bavarian curling”, the sport has been practiced for centuries in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Similar to curlers, competitors grab the handles of the round “ice stock,” which weighs nearly 10 pounds, and swing it back and forth before releasing it onto the ice while trying to close in on a target, a rubber disc called “daube”. ”, or travel the longest distance. Eight all-male teams from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia participated in the 1936 Winter Olympics, in which the Austrians won the team event and the individual distance and target shooting competitions.
8. Winter Pentathlon
The modern pentathlon, introduced at the 1912 Summer Games, is one of the most grueling Olympic events, and it had a chilling counterpart at the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz. In its only Olympic appearance, the demonstration sport of winter pentathlon brought together 14 athletes who competed in five events – cross-country skiing, alpine skiing, shooting, fencing and equestrian – all contested outdoors. As they did in modern pentathlon, Swedish athletes dominated the competition and swept the top three spots. Runner-up William Grut, a Swedish artillery officer, won gold in the modern pentathlon at the 1948 Summer Olympics.
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