Another small slice of history was made on Tuesday at the Winter Olympics. For the first time in the sport, Germany managed to sweep the podium in the two man bobsleigh. Nations have been able to get multiple teams onto the podium several times in bobsleigh’s rich history, but this was the first time a sweep had happened.
But it’s less rare than you’d think at the Winter Olympics. The bobsleigh sweep was the first since waaaaaay back in…2018, where the Germans swept the Large Hill Nordic Combined podium. There were three sweeps at that Olympics, the others being in the 3000m speed skating where the Dutch totally dominated and in the Norwegian-led 30km Skiathlon.
Dutch sweeps of speed skating events were commonplace in 2014, with four on the long track skating program. Interestingly, each of the four events were won by different skaters, with only two skaters appearing twice during the sweep.
Time is running out for another sweep to join the ranks in 2022.
Of the seven medals today, five are forms of skiing and two are speed skating.
Alpine skiing – Men’s slalom (1645 AEST)
The men have hit the last solo alpine event of the game, which also is the shortest. The slalom is physical, a combination of short turns and hit poles. This is an event for the technically perfect skiers, those who start on the next turn before the previous one is done. Skiers also wear arm and leg guards to protect themselves from the plastic poles, creating that telltale sound of the event.
A multitude of big names, such as Sebastian Foss-Solevåg, Linus Straßer and Henrik Kristoffersen will hit watch lists, but the field could be wide open.
Watch Rating: 3.5/5
Biathlon – Women’s relay (1845 AEST)
The women’s relay, four legs of 6km, brings the biathlon program closer to the end. France, Sweden and Norway should battle it out for the win. Nowegian biathlete Marte Olsbu Røiseland is going for her third gold and fourth medal of this Olympics, and her 7th medal all-time.
Watch Rating: 1.5/5
Cross-country skiing – Men’s team sprint (2200 AEST)
Cross-country skiing – Women’s team sprint (2330 AEST)
More cross-country skiing, this time without the James Bond bits. This is the two-skier classical team sprint, realtively fast and furious racing lasting about a quarter of an hour.
On the women’s side, Maja Dahlqvist and Jonna Sundling of Sweden go in as firm favourites. They topped the dais in the individual sprint, and should be expected on the podium again. Switzerland, Slovenia and Russia will push them all the way.
For the men, Johannes Høsflot Klæbo of Norway will be looking to get his fourth medal of the games, and is the defending Olympic and World Champion. Alongside partner Erik Valnes, Klæbo will be trying to fight off Finland, France and Russia.
Watch Rating: 1.5/5
Freestyle skiing – Men’s aerials (2300 AEST)
The final aerials event on the program, the men’s aerials is set to launch the highly suspecting athletes high in the air before they plummet back to earth. In the meantime, they are expected to do multiple twists and several flips while still airborne.
Two Chinese athletes, Qi Guangpu and Jia Zongyang topped the qualifying runs, while World Champion Maxim Burov is also lurking. With just one jump in the big final, almost anything could happen once the athletes get there.
Watch Rating: 2/5
Short track speed skating – Men’s 5000m relay (2344 AEST)
This is a five team final, meaning 20 skaters on the ice. China were advanced by the judges after a fall during an attempted pass, with no disqualifications being made from what looked like fairly fleeting contact. Defending world champions the Netherlands, and defending Olympic champions Hungary, both missed the cut, the former by two-hundredths of a second.
Among the qualifiers, Canada has the best World Cup results this season and had the fastest semi final run. Also qualified are Italy and South Korea, with ROC perhaps the surprise having pipped the Netherlands. It’s probably Canada’s to lose, but the 5 teams will add some chaos.
Watch Rating: 3.5/5
Short track speed skating – Women’s 1500m (0018 AEST)
Suzanne Schulting is at the peak of her powers at this game. The 24 year old Dutch skater is going for her third gold medal at these Games, and fifth medal overall, and there’s no reason to think she won’t get it. She set a world record in the 1000m a few days ago and holds the world championship in all individual distances.
Her nearest rivals should include this season’s number one world cup skater, South Korean Lee Yu-bin and her teammate, defending Olympic champion and 1000m silver medalist Choi Min-jeong. Also lurking is the Canadian world championship silver medallist Courtney Sarault.
Of course, short track can be chaotic, but when you skate out in front like Schulting often does, it reduces the margin for error.
Watch Rating: 3.5/5
Alternative Medal Table
The country by country medal tally of the 2022 Olympics suggests a multiplicity of winners, from 27 countries, but there’s something quite notable about the spread of medals across those countries. Here’s the medal tally presented instead by continental Olympic association:
The Winter Olympics are an extremely Eurocentric competition, with many events that are simply inaccessible for many athletes around the world. Elsewhere, Asia is edging out the Americas so far, as Canada and the United States have had relatively less successful Games while China does well as host.
The European predominance is a fact of life with the current selection of winter sports built from European winter traditions, and these sports are operated accordingly with elite competition in some disciplines based almost exclusively around central or northern Europe.
Regardless, it is worth highlighting the preponderance, and questioning whether winder spread competition in existing events, and the addition of other sports and traditions from elsewhere in the world could shift the balance a little.