What's New at This Year's Winter Olympics

As many as 24 skaters will tow the line at the same time during the mass start speed skating event. (Photo: Barbara Gindl/Getty Images)
New sports at the 2018 Winter Olympics
Mass start speed skating, alpine team skiing, mixed doubles curling, and big air snowboarding are the four new events you’ll see at this year’s Winter Olympic Games. (Photo: Getty Images)

Four new sporting events will make their debut at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Six countries will also compete for the first time at the winter events. Here’s what (and whom) to watch at the 2018 Olympic Games.

Big air snowboarding

The ramp at the big air snowboarding event will propel athletes 20 to 30 feet in the air. (Camilla Rutherford/Getty Images)

As its name implies, big air snowboarding involves snowboarders flying high in the sky. Similar to ski jumping, big air snowboarding involves athletes racing down a ramp and performing maneuvers while racing through the air. Athletes will get three runs down the ramp with jumps scored on difficulty, execution, amplitude and landing. The 160-foot ramp in South Korea will propel snowboarders 20 to 30 feet on their jumps. Now that’s some big air!

Mass start speedskating

As many as 24 skaters will tow the line at the same time during the mass start speed skating event. (Photo: Barbara Gindl/Getty Images)

As many as 24 skaters will tow the line at the same time in the mass start speedskating event. (Barbara Gindl/Getty Images)

As if speedskating was not challenging enough, Pyeongchang will feature a new event in which skaters begin in a mass start rather than racing in heats. Skaters will race 16 laps around a 400-meter oval with as may as 24 skaters towing the line at one time. Joey Mantia from the U.S. (pictured above) has a strong shot at a medal in this event.

Alpine team skiing

Sixteen mixed-gender teams comprised of six members each will compete in the alpine team skiing event. (Fabrice Coffrini/Getty Images)

Unlike the individual focus of other skiing events, skiers will work together on six-person mixed-gender teams to compete for their countries in the alpine team skiing event. Pairs of skiers will race head-to-head down the slalom course with scores combined as a team. For example, in the first round, two countries will race first with two women from each team, then two men, two more women, and then the remaining two men. Each team has two additional skiers that can be alternates if needed.

If there’s a tie, the lowest combined score for the best female and best male on each team will win the round. The losing team of each round is knocked out while the winning team moves on to the next race.

Mixed doubles curling

Eight countries will send mixed doubles curling teams to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. (Neil Kerr/Getty Images)

Unlike other curling events, in mixed doubles curling one rock is placed as the center guard and another at the back of the button at the beginning of each end. The choice of which position to play is given to the pair that did not score in the previous end. A power play, in which a team can place its rock at a better spot, is also part of the action in mixed doubles.

If you’re a curling fan, this likely makes perfect sense to you. If not, well, you’re just going to have to watch and learn. Look for sibling team Becca and Matt Hamilton to represent the U.S. in this event.

New countries represented

Nigerian bobsledders Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga. (Photo: Seun Adigun/GoFundMe)

In addition to the new events added to the roster, six countries will make their Winter Olympic debut in Pyeongchang: Ecuador, Eritrea, Kosovo, Malaysia, Nigeria and Singapore.

Ecuador will send one cross-country skier, while Eritrea, Kosovo and Malaysia will each send one alpine skier. Malaysia will also send one figure skater to compete in the men’s division. Nigeria plans to send one skeleton racer as well as their widely popular women’s bobsled team. Singapore will send one short-track speedskater to compete in the female division.