Bobsleigh racing may not be the most conventional of all the Winter Olympic sports, in fact, it’s much less mainstream than most others. But with sleighs reaching up to 95 miles per hour while flying around sharp turns over steep tracks covered in ice, it certainly can get exciting. Rant Sports named bobsleigh in its list of top 10 most exciting Winter Olympic events, and this year’s Games should prove no different for the sport. With Lolo Jones vying for a medal in the two-man women’s race and the inspiring underdog story surrounding the Jamaican team its highly likely the sport will be favored by fans at Sochi this year.
One of the reasons spectators seem to love short track speed skating so much is because of the event’s unpredictable nature. And by “unpredictable nature,” we mean that it’s highly prone to crashes. With sharp turns and a tight track participants must maneuver the course ever-so-precisely at extraordinary speeds, but even the most elite skaters can’t compete perfectly every time. This year, keep an eye out for J.R. Celski who is projected to takeover Apolo Ohno’s long-time reign as the king of speed skating.
Ski jumping may be one of the less common forms of skiing, but that doesn’t mean it’s at all lacking in excitement. After all, we’re talking about athletes covering distances of hundreds of feet after launching themselves off the tops of steep slopes. Sports Illustrated included it in their list of most popular Winter Olympic sports, and with the debut of women’s ski jumping in Sochi, there’s no doubt that it’s a must-watch event in this year’s lineup.
Given its mainstream popularity outside of the Olympics, it’s really no surprise that this ice sport is a favorite for Olympic viewers. It was the number one most talked about Winter Olympic sport online during the 2010 Vancouver Games, and this year both the men’s and women’s Canadian teams are out to defend their gold medal titles, a competition bound to keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
Another fairly unconventional sport, Luge snagged its spot on our list because, believe it or not, it was the number three most watched Olympic sport during the 2010 Winter Olympics and the second most talked about online, too. It makes sense, though. Not only is the sport intriguing because it isn't a typical recreational pastime, but with the potential to reach speeds higher than 80 miles per hour (on nothing but a tiny, little luge sled), the lugers certainly do know how to satisfy that need for speed that sports spectators love so much.
Don’t be fooled, long track speed skating (known simply as speed skating by the International Skating Union) is an entirely different competition compared to the previously mentioned short track version of the sport. These skaters race on a 400-meter-long track (as opposed to the much smaller 111-meter-long short track), which means there’s a bit more room and a little less chance for collision. That doesn’t mean the event isn’t well loved, though. It showed up on both of Nielsen’s post-Olympic reports for 2010. Plus, this week alone it’s been getting a bit of buzz online thanks to one rather un-sportsmen-like skater.
Perhaps one of the most classic of all the Winter Olympic sports, alpine skiing features several different disciplines including the downhill, slalom, giant slalom, and super-G competitions. As the number four sport on Sports Illustrated’s “most popular” list and the number two most watched event at the 2010 Games, there’s no doubt that seeing skiers swish down slopes at astonishing speeds is a fan favorite for Olympic audiences. During the games at Sochi, keep an eye out for American skiers Julia Mancuso, Mikaela Shiffrin, Ted Ligety, and Bode Miller; all expected to offer stellar performances and with the absence of superstar Lindsey Vonn, maybe even grab a few extra seconds in the limelight.
Including aerials, moguls, and ski cross, last year Freestyle skiing was the most watched Olympic event on TV. With the addition of slopestyle and halfpipe skiing this year, chances are the sport is a contender to snag that top TV spot again. Of course it’s an adored event, though. Skiers compete by navigating steep, bumpy terrain and executing intricate tricks, making it one of the most unpredictable and thrilling events of the entire Games.
In terms of speed or height, figure skating may be the least extreme Winter Olympic sport, but on the other hand, it is arguably the most elegant. Last year it proved popular both on TV and online, and over the years figure skating has been the sport of many well-known Olympic greats like Peggy Fleming, Scott Hamilton, and Kristi Yamaguchi. With a stellar line up of American breakout athletes like Gracie Gold, Polina Edmunds, and Ashley Wagner this year’s Games have the exciting potential to highlight a new round of skating stars.
According to Bing, snowboarding was the most searched term surrounding the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Not to mention, it showed up on nearly every other list that we consulted when compiling our own, which helped it easily earn the number one spot. According to Rant Sports it’s one of the most exciting Winter Olympic sports (can’t argue with that) and Sports Illustrated featured it in their number one and number 11 spots (snowboard cross, a subcategory of the sport, got its own special shout out) in their list of the most popular. So the consensus across the board seems clear, Olympic audiences love the extreme and energizing aesthetic of this snow sport, which combines speed, height, and style—all the best aspects of each and every Winter Olympic Sport.