HAFJELL, Norway -- Sam Beach could not stop smiling. The 16-year-old had just crossed the finish line at the Lillehammer Olympic Sliding Center where he represented the United States in monobob at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
“I’ve had so much fun being here with all of these other amazing athletes,” he said through a smile. “And it was great to be a part of a new sport.”
Monobob made its debut at the Lillehammer Games and is being viewed as a test event for a potential Olympic Winter Games discipline. Unlike two- and four-person bobsled teams, only one person is responsible for the sled in monobob. The athlete pushes, drives and brakes the 365-pound sled down the track, reaching speeds of excess of 80 miles per hour.
“Although it’s great to be part of a team and have those people in the sled with you, I like how the [monobob] performance rests entirely on the individual,” said Beach. “I didn’t have the result I was hoping for today, but I tried my best and left everything on the track.”
Beach had a two-run time of 1:58.34 and placed 14th.
Monobob aims to make it easier for people to get involved in bobsled, which is typically an expensive sport and requires one or more teammates. Monobob allows athletes to participate on their own. Additionally, the International Bobsleigh and Skelton Federation purchased 30 monobob sleds, which the IBSF is proving for each competition to level the playing field and reduce the costs involved for individual competitors. At the Youth Games, the sleds were distributed by a random draw.
Monobob isn’t the only new medal event featured at the Lillehammer Games. The 2016 program is featuring seven new medal events – including cross-country cross, biathlon super sprint and a Nordic team event – as well as a mass start event for long track speedskating and team parallel alpine skiing, both of which debuted in Lillehammer before they will appear on the Olympic program in 2018.
Another distinction on the Youth Olympic Games program is the mixed gender and international team events, which aim to encourage cultural exchange and collaboration between the athletes. Examples from the Lillehammer 2016 Games include the curling mixed team event – featuring four-person teams comprised of two men and two women – and the ski-snowboardcross team relay, in which both men and women compete representing either the same or different countries.
Team USA athletes have competed in several mixed country events at these Game and were part of two medal-winning teams. Earlier this week, long track speedskater Austin Kleeba claimed a silver medal as part of Team 9 in the mixed country team sprint, joined by skaters from Kazakhstan, Netherlands and Poland. The figure skating competition came to a close Saturday with the mixed country team event, where teams were made up of one man, one woman, one pairs team and once ice dance team from different nations. U.S. pairs skaters Sarah Rose and Joseph Goodpaster won gold with Team Desire, which also included athletes from China and Russia.