There are winter sports (curling), and there are winter SPORTS. The kinds of events that leave you on the edge of your seat, holding your breath until the athletes cross the finish line. And then there’s figure skating. Of all of them, here are 10 most worth your time, in no particular order:
Slopestyle has been the most controversial of Olympic sports added this year, its debut marred by injuries and massive falls. And the skiers had it harder than the snowboarders after the weather warmed up, leading to soft snow that was hard to gain speed on. But when it goes well, it’s incredible, letting some of the best athletes in the world take freestyle skiing to the next level with a personal twist.
Short-track speedskating is speedskating’s younger, cooler, but wildly underappreciated younger brother. But short-track is the younger brother we want to hang out with because he’s the perfect balance of disciplined and out of control.
While long-track speedskaters skate two at a time around a 400-meter oval and are racing the clock, short-track skaters set off around a 110-meter oval in packs, racing each other — and greatly escalating the potential for crashes. It’s like roller derby on ice, but the skaters aren’t crashing on purpose; it just happens.
There’s no middle ground with figure skating. You either hate it or DVR it so you don’t have to miss a second. At its worst, it’s boring, but at its best, you just have to wonder how they hold those cartilage-defying positions while spinning so fast it’s a wonder they don’t drill straight through the ice.
Super-G is a perfect balance of speed and discipline. Unlike most other alpine events, it’s about the speed rather than technical skills, but athletes still have to control their speed enough not to wipe out around the curves. And they don’t always do it well.
Downhill skiers regularly hit 80 mph on the course, which trades some of the Super-G’s curves for speed. That’s really all we need to hear to make this one of our favorite events.
Maybe we like luge so much because it feels like a grown-up, more dangerous version of going down the playground slide. We all secretly want to give it a try, even though we know we’d be awful and probably die. But it’s fun to watch.
How is skeleton even allowed? Athletes careen down an icy hill on a tiny sled — similar to luge — but in this case they’re face first. And as anyone who went down a slide face-first as a child can tell you, it’s infinitely more painful when you mess up.
Aerial skiing is basically gymnastics in the air. The athletes may only be in the air for a few seconds at a time, but they pack so many tricks into that time that it feels like longer — and makes the landing even more nail-biting.
Snowboarding being added to the Olympics was a cause for celebration for many Americans, and it’s hard to choose just one event. But slopestyle is incredible, as Sage Kotsenburg showed us on his way to the Olympic gold at Sochi. It’s more dangerous, yes, but absolutely mesmerizing.
That’s not to say, of course, that the addition of slopestyle will kill the main event: We all know the halfpipe is snowboarding’s real bread and butter.
Despite Canada’s claim of hockey, ice hockey feels more like a traditional American sport than perhaps any other Winter Olympic event, and it’s one that the U.S. should just be good at all the time — or at least that’s what it feels like.
The U.S. has more ice hockey medals than any other country, but its intense rivalry with Canada and other powerhouse nations makes for regular intense battles featuring the best the sport has to offer.
Hockey has been especially popular during the Olympics since the 1980 Miracle on Ice, when the U.S. team defeated the powerhouse Soviet Union and went on to win the gold by beating Finland. Is there anything more patriotic than a comeback kid?