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Olympic Sports

This year the Olympics are in Pyeongchang, South Korea, which is the northern part of South Korea, but not North Korea. It’s a little bit confusing. The northern part of South Korea. And all the regular events are there, so I’m going to walk you through them and make sure you know which ones you like, which ones you want to watch, adjust your calendars, your timetables because if you live in a different part of the world, you may have to watch them during the night. So, we’re going to start with the events and then I’ll give you some general Olympics’ vocabulary.

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As about the games there’re different events for skating. There’s speed skating which happens around a long track, an oval track, and people basically race each other; then there’s short track speed skating-sorry-and basically this is like a very short… It’s almost like a little circle, and you have five or six guys, and they just basically have a race and they’re trying to finish first; and whoever finished first, second, etc., they go on and they have a few rounds of this. Okay? They have different rounds, and the winner of each one or the top two of each race go to the next round, the next round until you have a final round, and then the winner gets gold, second place gets silver, etc., or in bronze. So, this is a very exciting event because there’re always crashes, and they go around really, really fast, and they’re like… Basically almost sideways because they’re on their skates going around in a circle all the time, very exciting to watch.

Then, of course, there’s figure skating, which is one of the more… One of the most popular events during the Winter Olympics. There are men’s, women’s, and pairs figure skating, and I think there’s also a dance figure skating, it’s a little bit different. And basically they’re on the rink, so the ice surface, or the…

The building they’re in is the arena and the actual ice surface is called a rink. And there they do all kinds of performances. It’s very acrobatic.

Now, you might hear all the different names of the movements they make, like double axel and cow something, these I don’t actually know because you have to actually know something about figure skating, but you can just watch it. It’s very beautiful to watch, beautiful music and they wear their costumes. Their costumes are just basically they create for themselves, they’re custom-made costumes you can call them, and they go around, they do all these acrobatic things. There’re two components to it, there’s the technical and then there’s the artistic. So they do this on two occasions, and they get a scaled score, basically up to six or five, 5.2, 5.5, etc., and whoever has the best score, obviously gets the gold medal. And the one component is the technical where they have to do certain number of routines, certain number of movements.

And the second one is artistic where they have to basically involve those movements, but also according to the music, according to the style, etc. Okay? Very popular.

And of course they’re wearing figure skates. That’s the only real equipment they need, except for their costumes. Speed skaters, they wear a different type of skate.

It’s a much longer blade, okay? So they’re basically on blade. They’re basically on, like, two or three milli-… Or three or four millimetres of metal, that’s all that’s holding them up. Very sharp edges to the blades, and that’s what they go around on, etc. Okay? So, figure skating.

Skiing, that’s another common and very popular sport in the Olympics. All types of different events that involve skiing. Alpine skiing is basically coming down a mountain, and there’s a slalom, basically it’s a very long…

They’re on the slope of the mountain, and it’s a very long course. Okay? And they come down and whoever has the best time…

So, there’s two ways to do it, there’s time and there’s also races for different things, but Alpine is usually time trial. Now, there’s cross-country skiing which is flat but long distance. It’s like a marathon for runners, except they’re doing it on skis.

They’re different types of skis. Their boot… Their ski boots are not tied down on the back so they can take steps, and they have much longer poles than the race skiers. Then there’s the Nordic-combined. The Nordic-combined is both Alpine and cross-country.

So sometimes they go down hills, and then sometimes they go across flat land, then down hills, etc. Now, there are mogul races. Moguls are basically like bumps, and they go… And they have to go between the bumps, over the bumps, and whoever does it the fastest is the winner. Sometimes there’s a race, sometimes it’s by time. Okay?

A biathlon. So, a biathlon is a combination of cross-country skiing, so they go for like a couple of kilometres, then they stop, and then they have rifles on their backs. They take the rifle, they aim, they shoot at a target, they put the rifle back, cross-country skiing some more, another rifle shot, another range, and targets, etc. Then there’s ski jumping.

Now, there’s two types. When they say ski jumping, basically this is the long jump. So they’re coming down a long ramp-okay?-and then they take off, and then they’re, like, flying like birds as far as they can, and they land and everything’s good. Then there’s freestyle ski jumps, which means it’s a very, very steep and short ramp, and they jump, and they have to, like, upside down, summersaults, and twists, and all kinds of interesting things. That’s the freestyle. Then there’s also snowboarding, which basically has the same events, obviously not cross-country, it’s only down hills.

And they have races and they have to qualify. So they have all kinds of qualifying rounds, and then when they have the best of the best, then they have races, and they have times, and they have to get the best time. Now a lot of this, the qualifying is about trials. So they have many rounds just to qualify, and then the official races begin, and then the official time counts begin.

The equipment that they use for skiing or basically the skis, there’re two skis that they stand on, the two poles that they use. And again, cross-country and Alpine are different. And then they wear goggles, they wear boots, they usually wear helmets these days as well.

The snowboarders just wear… Just use a snowboard, which is basically like just a long board, one board, both feet are on it. The board is this way and they’re facing… They’re horizontal or perpendicular to it, and then they go down and try to win. Okay.

So that’s the main events, now we’re going to look at a couple more. Okay, so now we’re going to see the other events. Now, the thing about the Winter Olympics, there are much fewer events… A lot fewer events than the Summer Olympics, but they’re very exciting events. They’re all very exciting because there’s always something happening, there’s always some drama. Unfortunately there’s a lot of accidents, but they also… That’s part of the excitement, part of the fear of what can happen, especially when you’re talking about sledding.

Now, this is a very exciting sport. You have bobsledding, luge, and skeleton. Super, super dangerous sport, but very interesting to watch.

So, a bobsled or some… a bobsleigh, as… However you want to say it, both are okay. It basically looks like a big tube and the top… It’s hollow and open at the top, and four guys or two guys have to push it on the track. They basically go down a track, but it’s like a curved track like this, and they’re going inside.

And it goes all the way down the mountain and they go really fast. So this tube, it looks like a canoe a little bit, and it’s on blades, long blades, and they go down the ice, and they go like up and down, and really fast around all the curves and stuff. And the two or four guys, they push it down the track, once it starts getting to move they have to jump inside, tuck in and start going down. Very exciting. And then there’s a luge, which is one person with a shorter little tube or sled, is the correct word, and they just do it by time.

So all of this is about time, whoever has the best time down the track is the winner. Okay? Now, skeleton, I personally think the people who do skeleton are a little bit crazy because this is basically a flat sled, it’s just a board on blades, on ice… Like, basically long ice skates, right? Just blades with a flat board, and they take it, and they run, they put it down, jump, and they lie down flat on their stomachs, head first, and they go down the track, and whoever has the best time. Super dangerous, but very exciting to watch. Okay?

Then there’s, of course, the best event and this is the marquis event of the Olympics because… So we call it marquis, because this draws the most attention, this and figure skating I would say are about equal. Hockey is very popular in especially northern countries that have… that play hockey.

And they play on a rink, it’s a much bigger rink… If you watch NHL hockey, it’s a much bigger rink, it’s an international-size or Olympic-size rink, and the national teams play. And every child in these countries, like Canada, US, Sweden, Finland, etc., everybody grows up wanting to play on a national hockey team and win the gold for their country. Hockey involves a stick, a hockey stick; a puck, a little, round, rubber thing that they play around with. You have to get goals and if at the end of the game the score is tied, then you have a shootout, just like in soccer. Whoever gets the most goals on the goalies win the medal.

Okay? Then there’s curling. Curling is relatively a new sport.

It hasn’t been in the Olympics all the time. It’s basically played on a sheet. It’s on ice, but they’re not wearing skates; they’re just wearing shoes that they can grip the ice with. And they take a stone, it’s basically like a stone and it has a handle, and they grab the stone, they lift it, and they throw it down the sheet.

And there’s like a target and they have to land it in the middle of the target, and they have to knock the other team’s stone out of the target area, and they go back and forth. And they use the stone and then a broom. So one guy throws the stone down the ice, and then two guys walk down the ice in front of the stone and broom the ice to make it smooth so the stone goes faster or slower as they need it.

It looks like fun to play. It’s not that much fun to watch, but again, people love it, that’s why it’s become a sport. So, now, a few things you need to know in terms of the Olympics, and this applies to Summer and Winter Olympics.

The people who compete are mostly amateur athletes. Now, some sports like hockey was full of professional hockey players, this year it will not be. The NHL, where most of the hockey players play, did not allow them to come to Korea to play, so there will be amateur hockey players, and it’s all about sportsmanship. Now, this is a very important word: “sportsmanship”. This is about competing, but remaining friendly and gentlemanly.

Okay? If the other team is hurting, you don’t hurt them more. You beat them, but you don’t embarrass them, you don’t hurt them more than by beating them.

Okay? It’s about showing respect to each other. The winners stand on the podium, and the podium often looks like this. You got your gold, silver, bronze medalists. Sometimes it could be like this, whatever. Whoever’s the highest has the gold.

When they present the medals to the winners, they will always play the national anthem of the gold medal winner. Okay? Whoever won the gold, that person’s country’s anthem is played. And at the beginning, just like in the Summer Olympics, somebody comes in running with a torch, a big stick that has a little flame, and they come and they light the Olympic flame, and the games begin. Opening ceremony, closing ceremony, etc.

Now, you might not be very interested in the Winter Olympics; Summer Olympics are still more popular, but if you live in an English-speaking country or if you live in a country, a northern country where these sporting events are very popular, you may need to discuss or have a conversation with people about the Olympics. For example, if you’re in Canada, people will talk about the Olympics. They will especially talk about the hockey team. Okay? If they have a good Canadian figure skater, they will talk about him or her. So it’s very important that you know what’s going on in the Olympics if you’re living in these countries, and it’s a good way to start talking to people, make new friends.

If you go to a bar in Canada, for example, during a hockey game, when there’s a hockey game playing, everybody will be there, the bars will be full, people will be talking and having a good time, and talking about the Olympics and hockey.