The most dangerous events
When every Winter Olympics passes, conversation quickly turns to how dangerous everything seems to be. Well, almost everything. The Winter Olympics is largely about speed at extreme temperatures, trying to tame conditions that maybe shouldn’t always be tamed.
Four athletes have died during the Winter Olympics in the history of the games. Two deaths have unfortunately come in luge, one in alpine skiing and one in the demonstration sport of speed skiing.
Tragically, the alpine skier to die was Australian Ross Milne, a young speed specialist at his first Olympics in 1964. Milne’s brother, Malcolm, would later be the Australian flagbearer and compete at two Olympics. Malcolm would also be the first non-European to win a World Cup downhill race, breaking ground for skiers around the world.
For experts, these are still likely the most dangerous disciplines on show, but what about for the beginners and intermediates.
HPN has decided to rank the various disciplines on offer, from the perspective of those on the couch at home.
While you can fall over a fair bit when launching a stone, it’s relatively safe. The ice is surprisingly sticky, and the slider only takes a little bit to get used to. You might fall over, trip on a stone or have one bang into your ankle at some speed. Pretty safe.
14. Cross-country skiing
You are going to get real tired, but you should be pretty safe. Falling at speed down a hill might be a challenge, but you might throw in the towel before then.
13. Figure skating
Realistically, a beginner isn’t going to do crazy jumps. You might fall over, it might fell pretty bad. But your figures are going to be pretty basic, and the real danger ramps up with the difficulty.
This is a balanced rating – it’s all pretty dangerous by this point. As a brake in the two or four-person bobsleigh, not much is required beyond the push. From there, it’s all in the pilot’s hands.
But if you are a pilot, or in the monobob? Extremely challenging. Would not try. This one could easily be higher, but they are all pretty dangerous from here. The sled also protects the body to some degree, and keeps it from shooting off the track.
This one has a gun and it comes in as the fourth safest. A GUN. That says more about the other sports than it does biathlon. The mitigating factor here is the safety measures in the range and how many people would quit before even getting to the range. But, if things go poorly, it’s pretty dangerous.
10. Speed skating
Yes, HPN has seen the giant knives on the feet. But long track sees plenty of space between opponents, and the knives are a fair way away from the body. Most would crash within meters of start line, but if you can get going, you should be safe from your opponent.
9. Ice Hockey
Nope. You are going to fall, you are going to get hit. Maybe you will be bad enough in your first shift that it is your last. And you shouldn’t be hit hard off the puck, which you surely will be considering a lack of any skill.
Anyone who has seen a beginner snowboarder knows how unpleasant an experience it is to watch. Thankfully, true beginners would be unlikely to gain enough speed to damage themselves on the jumps of the slopestyle, big air or halfpipe. Intermediates have a fair chance of holding up enough to go over the edge, but most would figure it’s a bad idea.
And in the snowboard cross, Markus Schairer broke his neck after crashing at the 2018 Winter Olympics. So pretty dangerous all up.
7. Alpine skiing
Again, another sport where the potential for harm increases the better you are at the sport. True beginners would likely crash and eliminate themselves before they could get into real trouble. Intermediates who try to compete might get themselves into real trouble, especially in the downhill and super-G. And this event has killed Olympians before.
6. Short track speed skating
Yes, this is the event that Steven Bradbury nearly died in. Yes, it has many people with super sharp blades going around the track, close to each other. But for a beginner or intermediate, it’d be hard to be in that mix. Accidents are pretty common in the sport, but dangerous ones are less so. And you have to be good enough to be put in that position.
The biggest obstacle is hopping on the sled here – it takes a fair amount of practice to event start this event, let alone finish it. There’s a fair chance that most would fail to stick the landing, ending the race before it starts.
Those who do land it? They are in for a scary, scary time.
4. Freestyle skiing
This one gets a bump on the snowboarding due to the aerials, which is a short ski run followed by being launched up to 20m in the air. Again, beginners would possibly crash before the jump, but unlike the other events above the only skiing is in a short, straight line. If you go over the edge, it’s going to hurt, and you could die.
3. Ski jumping
Unlike the other skiing events, the ski jump places athletes on a track. There’s no turning, no real ability needed to get down to the bottom.
You are going off the edge.
If, somehow, on the way down you fall, then you might fall down the track or through scaffolding at significant speed.
But when you get off the edge, you are faced with the increasingly important issue of how to land at between 80 and 100km/h while a few meters in the air.
A whole lot of nope.
2. Nordic combined
This is slightly more dangerous because the marginally dangerous cross-country follows the ski jumping, amplifying the difficulty very slightly.
Unlike the skeleton, you don’t have to mount the sled mid-flight. Unlike the bobsleigh, there’s nothing to really protect you, or no good way to steer. Or no brake or pusher spot to hide in.
There’s no way out, just ice, concrete and gravity. People die doing this. You can’t really see while going down, and gravity speeds you up on the way.
Pretty much any of the top 12 have claims to this spot, especially the final three. But the luge is absolutely, fundamentally scary.
There are six medals up for grabs today, five of them in women’s events.
Ice hockey – Women’s (1510 AEST)
It’s Canada v USA for gold for the fourth consecutive Olympics. The whole tournament has been nearly inevitably leading to this clash, with no other nation getting within three goals of either side. It’s going to be fun.
Canada has never failed to make the final at the Olympics, and won four in a row before going down to the USA in Pyeongchang after a shootout.
The two rivals are often fairly evenly matched but Canada may have the edge on recent form. Their 2021 World Championships overtime win broke a streak of American wins and they’ve looked better in Beijing.
Canada won the preliminary engagement with the US 4-2 despite a substantial American shot advantage to the US, with the Americans failing to convert power plays. That’s been a theme at this tournament, with the US team looking more vulnerable in some games, seemingly struggling to score while Canada have posted some substantial totals.
This is one to watch.
Watch rating: 5/5
Alpine skiing – Women’s combined (1700 AEST)
The final individual event of the alpine program is the ultimate test of the skill of a skier – the combined. Athletes first take off on the high speed downhill course before backing up on the short and technical slalom course. The best combined time will take the title.
There’s a host of big names in the field, but no gold medalists from Beijing. Mikaela Shiffrin will be hoping to put it all together and be in contention to win her first medal at the Games. Defending champion Michelle Gisin has taken one bronze home already in these Olympics, and has the runs on the board. The talent runs deep here, and there could be a surprise winner.
Australia’s Greta Small has made the 26-skier field, and will be hoping for a top half finish.
Watch rating: 4/5
Freestyle skiing – Women’s ski cross (1810 AEST)
The ski cross is the cousin of the snowboard cross, an exhilarating race alongside three others on the course. The ski cross sees athletes build up speed and hit jumps while jostling for position.
Sandra Näslund from Sweden has dominated the competition in recent years, but the cross throws up surprises regularly. Marielle Thompson has also taken away a world cup win this season, while Fanny Smith has a Olympic medal to her name and several podiums this year.
Sami Kennedy-Sim from Australia is back at another Olympic games, and will be hoping to compete for a podium spot.
Watch rating: 4/5
Speed skating – Women’s 1000m (1930 AEST)
American Brittany Bowe, who gave up her 500m spot (before winning another one back) to friend and eventual gold medallist Erin Jackson, has a shot at the event where she is strongly favoured. She’s the world record holder and reigning world champion and world cup leader, so the form line is all with her.
Her nearest challengers in recent times have been two Japanese skaters, Nao Kodaira and Miho Takagi, who also won silver and bronze in Pyeongchang. The Dutch 1000m winner, Ireen Wüst, must also fancy her chances.
Watch rating: 2/5
Figure skating – Women’s singles (2100 AEST)
The world record holder Kamila Valieva leads after the first of the two programs. Having been allowed to provisionally compete after testing positive for trimetazidine, should Valieva finish in the medal placings, the medal ceremony will be delayed for the case outcome. The case is complicated by her young age and a claim of unknowing ingestion.
The top 5 are all ROC and Japanese, with the reigning world champion Anna Shcherbakova in second and Kaori Sakamoto third. The spread across the top five is about ten points, with the higher scoring free skate capable of providing a swing of that size.
Watch rating: 3/5
Nordic combined – Team (2200 AEST)
This is the last Nordic combined event on the program, which will be devastating to the dedicated fans out there. The team relay sees four athletes hit the jumps, before their scores are combined to calculate a starting advantage/disadvantage for the cross-country portion. The better the jumps, the bigger head start they get.
The team then completes 20km on the skis over four legs of five kilometers each. The medals should be fought out between Germany, Norway, Austria and Japan.
Watch rating: 1/5
Alternative Medal Tally
Some events take a team of participants, but in the end, the country is credited with just one medal. But what if every individual counted separately?
As it turns out, Norway manages to extend its lead over other teams. They’ve won some biathlon relay golds and a team pursuit gold, holdng them in good stead against the Germans with their swag of team sliding golds.
The big team medal winner is ROC, thanks to cross country skiing and especially figure skating,m those large teams giving them more individual medal winners than rivals USA and China. Canada also makes a jump with team wins in both kinds of speed skating, while the individual focused Dutch slip back in the pack.