The Winter Olympics flurry into motion

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The Winter Olympics bring together countries around the world to watch unique sports.

Athletes and coaches worldwide are beginning to prepare for the upcoming 2021 Winter Olympics.

The highly anticipated festival of sports will be held in Beijing and is scheduled to begin on Feb. 4. The Olympic Games attract millions of international viewers every four years. The most popular sports in the Winter Olympics include ice hockey, skiing, and curling.

The most-watched snow sport is ice hockey, a game where two teams compete against each other to get the puck into the goal while ice skating. 

According to the International Ice Hockey Federation, Canada has taken home the most gold medals for this multi-skill required sport. In an exclusive interview with CBC Sports, the Team Canada manager Doug Armstrong spoke on how team lineups are put together — a crucial step in preparing for the Winter Olympics.  

“You really have to incorporate the coach’s philosophy on how he wants to add different players he wants in different areas of the lineup,” Armstrong said.

As each individual player brings different skills to the team, athletes must practice together to maximize their success as a group. National Hockey League (NHL) players typically train on ice, as well as off, to practice skating and conditioning.

This helps players with multi-directional speed and movement skills, rhythm, and special awareness, according to the USA Hockey organization.

However, hockey is not the only multi-skill Olympic activity. Alpine skiing is another popular snow sport. 

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Alpine skiers often face as many mental preparations as physical, as the extreme sport can be challenging in both aspects. Breezy Johnson, a 25-year-old Olympic skier, spoke on the difficulties she faced on the slopes with the Olympic Channel podcast

“There’s this myth that downhill skiers are fearless and we’re not,” Johnson said. “But what I’ve always come to terms with is [that] you can be scared to death of something and do it anyway.”

According to the U.S Ski and Snowboard Organization, alpine skiing is a “race between skiers, the mountain, and the clock.” It requires the players to overcome all the physical challenges as well.

Not only are professional skiers preparing to win medals, but young hopefuls also train hard to achieve their goals. 

“We focus on improving technique and skiing the most efficient line down the course in order to get down as fast as possible,” said Samantha Crowther, a freshman. “My friends who want to go to the Olympics or a higher level of skiing train five to six days a week, while I train two to three.”

While maybe not as physically demanding as alpine skiing, another sport requires years of mental training: curling. 

Curling teams require players trained in different abilities, similar to ice hockey. Athletes must prepare to glide the stone towards the target while a teammate sweeps the area ahead to warm the ice and create a clear path. 

Three curling players work as a team to glide the stone as close to the target as they can. (Olympic Curling/Jonathan Pope/Wikipedia Commons/CC BY 2.0)

Jennifer Jones, a 47-year-old Canadian curler, described to CBS Sports the importance of having good team dynamics. 

“What makes us a true team is we are always there when somebody misses, we’re the first people to each other up,” Jones said.

Team dynamics are not something that builds overnight, which is why curling teams must practice together for long periods of time before the Olympics. While it may be an unfamiliar sport to many, curling is a graceful but difficult game that attracts millions of viewers during the Olympics. 

“It mixes elements of shuffleboard, chess, and hockey in its intricate dance of stones and brooms,” said Sean Gregory, a writer for Time magazine. “This might be less well-known than big events like halfpipe and figure skating. But it’s just as compelling to watch, as many viewers are now discovering.”

While the Olympics began as a festival in which viewers tune in to watch their favorite sport, it evolved into something way bigger. It provides a period of time in which countries all over the world unite with a shared interest and learn about other cultures. 

Regardless of age, the Olympics provide excitement, and the expectations are high as millions anticipate the unique and extreme sports that come with the Winter Olympics.

Crowther said, “I think the Olympics are important because they are entertaining to watch, as well as inspiring for younger athletes to work harder and show people that it is achievable to get new personal records and higher athletic levels.”