Alex Hall competes during the Freestyle Skiing Men's Ski Slopestyle qualification on day nine of the Winter Olympic Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 18, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.
One year out from the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, athletes around the world are working to prepare for that moment they will remember all their lives.
For competitors in several sports, 2022 will offer additional opportunities that weren’t available at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, with seven new events added to the program. Most are additional competitions for athletes who already would be at the Games, a welcome expansion of opportunities in those sports.
The new snowboardcross mixed team event represents exactly that to three-time Olympian Faye Gulini. After finishing fourth in Sochi in 2014, she ended up 21st overall in PyeongChang following a last-place finish in her quarterfinal heat.
She had a bad day on the one day she couldn’t afford to, and that was it.
“It’s four years, it’s this massive buildup, and you get this one moment, and for me, I crumbled,” Gulini said. “It would be nice just to have one more day.”
Some snowboardcross competitors in Beijing will get that second chance.
The mixed event is a relay, with each team consisting of one male and one female athlete from a country. The mechanics are similar to a swimming relay: once the male competitor has crossed the finish line, his teammate is released from the starting gate. The first team to have both members cross the line wins.
Though the pair aren’t on the course at the same time, the addition of a true team dynamic in an individual sport is welcome, even as it creates an extra layer of responsibility.
“It’s cool for us to really become teammates with our teammates and actually operate as a unit,” Gulini said. “Your result is based on their performance and vice-versa. But, that’s more pressure. I’ve only ever had to really compete for myself, and if I fall, I get to beat myself up about it and that’s it. I don’t want to be the one to lose somebody’s gold medal for them.”
The flip side is also a possibility, of course. The U.S. won the first mixed team world championships gold in 2019 when Lindsey Jacobellis rallied to cross the line first after teammate Mick Dierdorff finished fourth on his run.
Gulini and others on the U.S. team invariably mention the strong bond within the group, which travels and trains together. She believes the mutual support that already is second nature within the team provides an advantage in competition.
“Having that good dynamic and that support network and knowing that your teammates are behind you and your staff is all behind you, I think it produces results,” said Gulini, who opened this season with back-to-back second-place finishes last month. “You feel that energy and you kind of fire with that energy. You know you’re not just doing it for you, you’re doing it for the bigger picture. I think it does make us a bigger threat when it comes to this team event.”
Whatever the result, though, the opportunity is key.
“It’s hard to work four years — or 10 years — for one day,” Gulini said. “To get to double that chance is incredible. It’s huge for us, it’s huge for our sport.”
Here’s a look at the other new events added for the Beijing Games, which will begin with the Opening Ceremony on Feb. 4, 2022:
Bobsled - Monobob
The women’s monobob joins the Olympic program, the first addition for the sport since women’s bobsled and men’s and women’s skeleton events came on board for Salt Lake City 2002. The monobob is what its name implies: one woman in the sled, doing the pushing, steering and braking. It was first contested at the international level in the 2016 Youth Olympic Winter Games, and an international circuit debuted this season. Team USA’s Kaillie Humphries won two of the three races so far, while Elana Meyers Taylor medaled in two as well.
Aerials - Mixed Team Event
Individual men’s and women’s aerials events have been part of the Olympic program since the Lillehammer Games in 1994, with skiers launching themselves straight in the air and completing a dizzy array of tricks before landing back on a snowy slope. In mixed team aerials, each country enters three skiers — it can be two men and a woman, or two women and a man. The trio’s scores are added together for the final total. The timing is right for Team USA, with U.S. women having won three world cups so far this season and the mixed team claiming its first world cup podium in January.
Freestyle Skiing - Big Air (Men’s and Women’s)
Big air snowboarding made its Olympic debut in 2018, drawing on athletes who also qualified in slopestyle. The skiing event debuting in 2022 follows the same basic concept, with skiers flying off a huge ramp and performing the biggest trick they can. One athlete to watch for is 2018 Olympian Alex Hall, who finished fourth when the event made its world championships debut in 2019.
Short Track Speedskating - Mixed Team Relay
The mixed team relay is a 2,000-meter race in which two women and two men from a country combine to cover 18 laps. Each skater races twice, with the order going woman-woman-man-man-woman-woman-man-man. The mixed relay has been part of the world cup series since the 2018-19 season.
Ski Jumping - Mixed Team Event
The mixed team event trend continues here, this time with four-person squads consisting of two men and two women from each country. The competition, which takes place on the normal hill, was first held at the world cup level in 2012, and it’s been part of the world championships since 2013. A mixed team world cup event scheduled for this year is later this month in Rasnov, Romania, and the event will also be contested Feb. 28 at the world championships in Oberstdorf, Germany.