Pyeongchang 2018: Sport-by-sport guide

February 5 2018 10:00 AM

Over the next two-and-a-half weeks, the thrills, spills and trickery of the Winter Olympics will be on show to the world live from Pyeongchang.

Plenty of skill, bravery, delight and heartbreak will be on show in South Korea as the culmination of four years' hard work comes to a head.

Some of the sports may be unfamiliar to you, so here is our handy guide to the various sports and disciplines involved.



Some of the biggest names in winter sports will be on show in alpine skiing, with American Olympic champions Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin involved, as well as Austrian star Marcel Hirscher.

With five disciplines in total, downhill and super G will take the fancy of speed demons, while for the more technical aficionados among you, the slalom and giant slalom are ones to watch.

Fans of tricks and flicks will be happy to know that big air has been added to the snowboarding and freestyle skiing schedules, whereby competitors show off their best moves after launching off a huge ramp. Slopestyle and half-pipe also earn points by impressing judges, while parallel giant slalom in snowboard is a flat race.

Kamil Stoch will look to add to the two ski jumping gold medals he won in Sochi. Ski jumping is among the more dangerous disciplines to negotiate, with athletes reaching speeds of 60 miles per hour and jumping the length of a football pitch. Distance is the main criteria for success, but style is also a factor.

Cross-country will test competitors' stamina and endurance as opposed to pure speed, while Nordic combined shows off both skiing and ski jumping skills.


Not one for the faint of heart, biathlon is among the more physically demanding sports on the Winter Olympics schedule.

Combining long-distance skiing and shooting, biathletes shoot at targets 50 metres away with a rifle and events vary in distance between six and 20 kilometres.

Among the athletes to keep an eye on are two-time Olympic gold medallist Martin Fourcade and three-time world champion Johannes Thingnes Bo, while Darya Domracheva, Anastasiya Kuzmina and Laura Dahlmeier will fancy their chances of picking up medals in the women's disciplines.


Arguably among the more popular sports, due perhaps in part to the 1994 cult film 'Cool Runnings', which followed the efforts of Jamaica's first bobsleigh representatives. 

Teams of four negotiate their way down a track ranging between 1200m and 1300m long at startling speeds that can reach up to 90mph, while steering around 14 to 22 curves.

Skeleton is another sliding discipline in the bobsleigh category, with the key difference that rather than two or four athlete teams, one person rides a small sled head first down the track.


A game of skill, delicacy and accuracy.

Two teams of four go head-to-head, taking it in turns to throw a granite rock (sometimes referred to as a stone) down an ice rink, with the object being to land the rock nearest the scoring area.

Sweeping is crucial in curling, with the action reducing friction and helping the rock to move straighter.

Team Canada will hope to be among the medals, having won gold in the men's and women's World Championship last year.

Ice hockey:

In a real blow to the hopes of United States and Canada, NHL players will not be involved at this year's Winter Olympics after the IOC decided it would no longer cover the cost of their insurance.

Ice hockey comprises two teams of six playing out three 20-minute periods – with overtime and shootouts used in the event of a tie.

The fast pace, exciting moves and the frequent brawling makes ice hockey one of the most popular sports globally, as well at the Games, and Sweden – having won the 2017 IIHF World Championship – will have high hopes in the men's, while USA were victors in the women's.


Bravery, agility and balance are crucial to success in luge.

As opposed to skeleton, athletes throw themselves feet first down a track at 80mph speeds with no brakes and little protection from the consequences of errors.

As well as singles, there is a pairs event whereby the larger competitor lies on top.


Short track speed skating is popular due to entertaining races involving four to six competitors, over distances ranging between 500m and 5000m. 

There are usually crashes galore due to the tight nature of the track and the high speeds – the most infamous of which saw Australia's Steven Bradbury win gold in the 1000m in 2002 after all his opponents collided in a huge pile up.

Speed skating differs to the shorter format, with speed and technique crucial for competitors who race in separate lanes in a bid to beat the clock.

Figure skating showcases grace on the ice during routines similar to gymnastics, with competitors scored on their technical moves by a panel of judges.

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