From the sound of skis swooshing against the snow, to bullet-like bobsleds speeding down icy tracks, the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics promise fierce and dynamic competition between some of the world’s top athletes.
Nearly 3,000 competitors from 91 delegations will participate at this year’s Games in 109 medal events.
There will be fan favorites such as ice hockey, figure skating and snowboarding, but there will also be seven new events to delight spectators, including the women’s monobob, mixed team events in snowboard cross, freestyle skiing aerials, short track and ski jumping, as well as men’s and women’s freestyle skiing big air competitions.
Haven’t heard of the halfpipe? Need to brush up on your knowledge of spins and jumps? Have no fear, our event-by-event guide is here to help.
Bobsled (February 13 to February 20)
Teams of two or four compete by zooming down an icy track in a curved, cone-like sled, with the fastest total time earning first place. The sport is a bit like Formula 1 on ice because it involves turbulent speeds, consistent pacing and high power, according to the Olympics website.
The addition of a two-man competition was made at the Winter Games in 1932 in Lake Placid, and progressively a two-woman event at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, US. Since then, it’s found a place in popular culture, notably the film “Cool Runnings,” which followed the Jamaican bobsled team as they trained to compete at the 1988 Winter Olympics.
This year, there will be 12 medals up for grabs across four events including the two-man, two-woman and the four-man. For the first time, there will also be a women’s monobob event. The track has 16 curves and a maximum gradient of 18%. At 1,615 meters (one mile) in length, it will be the first track of its kind in the world to have a 360-degree turn.
However, a contender in the women’s monobob and the two-woman’s bobsled event could be Kaillie Humphries of Team USA, who claimed gold when she was competing for Canada in the Winter Games at Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014. US duo Sylvia Hoffman and Elana Meyers Taylor – who has three Olympic medals to her name – could also be in contention for gold.
In the men’s competition – where last Games’ two-man event resulted in Germany and Canada being crowned joint winners – Francesco Friedrich of Team Germany is a firm favorite, having claimed two gold medals at PyeongChang 2018.
Freestyle skiing (February 5 to February 14)
What is it? Featuring balletic techniques and acrobatic skills, the International Ski Federation (FIS) first recognized freestyle skiing as a discipline in 1979.
Athletes ski in a motion that is similar to skating. They perform technically challenging moves during their runs and are scored on different aspects of their performance, depending on the competition they’re participating in.
In the aerials events, slopestyle, moguls and halfpipe, judges score competitors based on the finesse of their tricks and the form of their runs.
However, athletes in the big air are judged by the distance and height of their jumps. As for the ski cross, the competition is a timed event – so the athlete who traverses the finish line first takes gold.
Events include the men’s and women’s aerials, moguls, ski cross, halfpipe and slopestyle, as well as the new men’s and women’s freestyle skiing big air and the mixed team freestyle skiing aerials competition.
Who are the favorites? Two-time world champion Sandra Näslund of Sweden is a podium favorite in the women’s ski cross.
However, China’s Eileen Gu could be a worthy challenger. The 18-year-old made history at the X Games in 2021, when she became the first rookie to earn medals across three events and the first freeskier to ever win more than one world title in a single year.
In the men’s moguls event, defending Olympic champion Mikaël Kingsbury of Canada is the name to look out for. The most accomplished mogul skier in history, he has claimed the highest number of medals of any male participant ever at the Freestyle World Championships.
Snowboarding (February 5 to February 15)
What is it? Snowboarding is one of the more recent additions to the Winter Games, having debuted at the Nagano 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan. Despite its novel status, the sport has fast become a crowd pleaser at the Games.
The snowboard cross events and the parallel giant slalom are all races. Whereas in the big air, halfpipe and slopestyle, judges score and assess riders based on aspects of their performance including the complexity of their tricks, the form of their run and the landing of their jumps.
There will be 11 gold medals available across 11 snowboarding events at this year’s Games including the men’s and women’s parallel giant slalom, snowboard cross, halfpipe, slopestyle and big air – as well as a new mixed team snowboard cross competition.
Who are the favorites? With its roots in 1960s America, snowboarding has given rise to accomplished US athletes such as Shaun White, Jamie Anderson and Chloe Kim. They will be looking to add to the 31 medals under Team USA’s belt – making it the most successful nation ever in the Olympic event, ahead of Switzerland.
Other hopefuls in the women’s draw include two-time Olympic medalist Eva Samková of the Czech Republic, Italy’s Michela Moioli and Charlotte Bankes of Team Great Britain.
Japan’s Ayumu Hirano could pose a threat to White’s ambition for Olympic glory at Beijing 2022 in the men’s events.
Short track speed skating (February 5 to February 16)
What is it? Making its debut on the Olympic program at the Winter Games in 1992 in Albertville, France, short track speed skating dates back to 1905, when athletes in Canada and the United States would compete on oval tracks.
However, the scarcity of 400m long tracks in each country meant that a number of North American skaters chose to practice on ice rinks instead.
One of three skating events at the Winter Olympics, short track speed skating requires tight turns, strategic positioning and high speeds. Athletes compete on an ice track and field without lanes, so they are prone to both crashes and injury.
The competition at Beijing 2022 will feature nine events: men’s and women’s 500m, 1,000m and 1,500m – as well as the men’s 5,000m team relay and the women’s 3,000m team relay, alongside the new mixed team relay competition. There will be nine gold medals up for grabs in total.
Who are the favorites? South Korea, China and Canada have historically been the most successful teams at Olympic short track speed skating events – with 81 medals between them.
Defending Olympic champion Wu Dajing of China is a favorite for gold in the men’s short track speed skating. Hungarian brothers Liu Shaoang and Shaolin Sándor Liu, who were gold medalists in the men’s 5,000m relay event at PyeongChang 2018, could also be worthy contenders – however, Shaoang tested positive for Covid on January 24 putting his competition hopes in doubt.
In the women’s events, South Korea will pin their hopes for gold glory on Olympic record holder Choi Min-jeong, who claimed gold medals in the women’s 1,500m, and the women’s 3,000m relay at PyeongChang 2018.
Choi’s main opponent could be eight-time Olympic medalist Arianna Fontana of Italy. If Fonata wins one more medal at Beijing 2022, she would be the most successful athlete ever at the Olympics in the short track event.
Cross-country skiing (February 5 to February 20)
What is it? Cross-country skiing is the oldest type of skiing and evolved as a form of travel between remote communities.
Cross-country skiers either use the freestyle technique, where they ski side-to-side, or the classic technique, which involves striding forward. The techniques used in each event vary during each edition of the Games, depending on the guidelines set by the FIS.
Cross-country skiing was one of the first ever Winter Olympic sports, debuting at the 1924 Games in Chamonix, France, with men’s events. Nearly 30 years later, women’s events were inaugurated at the 1952 Oslo Olympics in Norway.
There will be 36 medals for the taking across 12 events at this year’s Winter Olympics.
In the men’s events, there will be the 15km classic, 15km and 15km skiathlon, sprint free, team sprint classic, 4x10km relay and the 50km mass start free. Female competitors will participate in the 10km classic, 7.5km and 7.5km skiathlon, sprint free, team sprint classic, 4x5km relay and the 30km mass start free.
Norwegian athletes Johannes Høsflot Klæbo and Simen Hegstad Krüger will be hoping to repeat their stellar performances at PyeongChang 2018, where they picked up six medals between them.
Nonetheless, Team Sweden have a powerful roster in the women’s cross-country events, including three-time Olympic champion Charlotte Kalla, two-time world champion Jonna Sundling and up-and-comer Frida Karlsson.
Ski jumping (February 5 to February 14)
What is it? Sondre Norheim is said to be the father of modern ski jumping, having won what is considered the world’s first ski jumping competition with awards in 1866 in Høydalsmo, Norway.
The sport was added to the Winter Games in 1924 in Chamonix, France. Three decades later, Switzerland’s Andreas Daescher developed the parallel style in the 1950s, where skiers lean forward and brace their arms backwards, close to their body.
Compatriot Jan Bokloev honed the parallel style in 1985, by unfurling the tips of his skis into a V shape – a technique that most ski jumpers use today. Jumps are appraised by the style of the jump and the distance covered.
There will be five gold medals to win across five events at Beijing 2022. The competitions include the men’s normal hill individual, the women’s normal hill individual, the men’s large hill individual, the men’s team – and for the first time, the mixed team event.
Who are the favorites? Norway, Finland and Austria are in the lead when it comes to Olympic ski jumping, having fetched 82 medals between them.
In the men’s normal hill competition, Germany’s Andreas Wellinger defense of his 2018 individual gold medal is in doubt as he tested positive for Covid in January. His compatriot Karl Geiger and Piotr Żyła of Poland will look to take advantage of Wellinger’s absence.
In the women’s draw, Slovenia’s Ema Klinec will be eyeing the podium. Despite finishing 14th at PyeongChang 2018, she recently won the normal hill 2021 World Championships.
Alpine skiing (February 6 to February 19)
What is it? Athletes frequently reach speeds of almost 95 miles per hour in one of the most physically exhausting sports in the Winter Olympics. Athletes can log their fastest times in the downhill and super-G competitions, whereas the slalom and giant slalom events occur over two slower courses.
Modern downhill skiing can be traced back to the 1850s, when Sondre Norheim introduced skis with curved flanks, and bindings with rigid, willow heel bands.
Women’s and men’s alpine skiing events made their debut at the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics in Bavaria, with more categories being added up to PyeongChang 2018, when the mixed team event became the newest competition in the alpine skiing roster.
There will be 33 medals to win across 11 events at Beijing this year, including the men’s and women’s downhill, super-G, slalom and giant slalom, the alpine combine and the mixed team competition.
Who are the favorites? Austria has historically dominated the medal count in alpine skiing, earning 121 medals.
American Mikaela Shiffrin is the one to watch in the women’s draw, having won two gold medals at PyeongChang 2018 and Sochi 2014. Other fierce competitors could include Michelle Gisin of Switzerland and compatriot Lara Gut-Behrami.
France’s Mathieu Faivre could use his three Games’ worth of experience to his advantage this year, while current super-G and downhill world champion Vincent Kriechmayr of Austria is also among the favorites for gold.
Biathlon (February 5 to February 19)
What is it? The biathlon event is a combination of skiing and shooting. It can be traced back to Scandinavia, where people would hunt using skis and have rifles draped over their shoulders.
At the Winter Olympics, skiing and shooting take the form of a race, where competitors ski along a trail and the distance is punctuated into shooting rounds. Penalties for missed shots vary with each event and take the form of either additional time, or distance, being added to a participant’s total.
Before the biathlon was introduced to the Games at the 1960 Winter Olympics in California, an older version of the sport appeared in previous editions of the Olympics. The military patrol involved athletes competing in ski mountaineering, cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.
There will be 33 medals up for grabs across 11 biathlon events: the women’s 7.5km sprint, 15km individual, 10km pursuit, 12.5km mass start and 4x6km relay. In the men’s draw, events include the 10km sprint, 20km individual, 12.5km pursuit, 15km mass start and 4x7.5km relay. A 4x6km mixed relay event is also scheduled to take place.
Who are the favorites? Germany and Norway have previously collected the most medals in the biathlon event, earning nearly 100 medals combined.
Five-time Olympic medalist Tiril Eckhoff of Norway is a favorite for gold this year, alongside Swedish sisters Hanna Öberg and Elvira Öberg.
In the men’s draw, Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Bø and compatriot Sturla Holm Lægreid could add to their country’s medal count.
Curling (February 2 to February 20)
What is it? Curling is one of the oldest sports at the Winter Olympics. It has origins in 16th century Scotland, where games took place on frozen ponds and lochs.
Athletes use their own brush and a pair of curling shoes – one with a sole that grips the ice, known as the gripper, and another that is slippery, known as the slider, which helps them to pivot while conveying 20-kg (45-pound) granite stones during the match.
After it debuted at the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France, curling was dropped and temporarily featured as a demonstration sport, before it was reintroduced to the Olympic program at the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan.
There will be nine medals up for grabs across three events at Beijing 2022, including the men’s curling, women’s curling and mixed doubles curling.
Who are the favorites? Canada has been the most successful curling team ever at the Olympics, winning 11 medals – that’s three more than challengers Sweden. Other notable contenders across all three competitions include South Korea, Japan and Switzerland.
Team USA could repeat their success at PyeongChang 2018, where they claimed gold in the men’s curling event. In the women’s draw, defending Olympic champions Sweden could reclaim their victory, but World Curling Championship winners Switzerland could pose a threat.
Ice hockey (February 3 to February 20)
What is it? Despite having just two events, ice hockey remains a crowd favorite at the Winter Olympics.
The rules are simple – the winning team must net the puck and score more goals than their opponent.
During play, a team can’t have more than six players on the ice. The positions are as follows: goalkeeper, two wings, two defenders and a center. In the event of penalties, there can be fewer players on the ice.
Women currently compete in a 10-team tournament, while men participate in a 12-team event.
Ice hockey was first added to the Olympic program at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp and was permanently moved to the Winter Games in 1924 in Chamonix, France.
There will be two medals available to win at Beijing 2022: the men’s tournament and the women’s tournament, Reuters reported.
Who are the favorites? The National Hockey League (NHL) and its union have decided not to dispatch players to Beijing this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, so the Russian Olympic Committee has become a firm favorite for gold in the men’s draw.
In the women’s competition, Canada will be chasing gold after losing to the United States in the final at PyeongChang 2018.
Speed skating (February 5 to February 19)
What is it? First debuting at the 1924 Chamonix Winter Olympics, speed skating involves athletes racing alongside each other, with each skater hoping to set the fastest time out of all the participants in the field.
Athletes race across a 400m oval-shaped track for individual races, where the fastest places first.
In the team pursuit, three-person squads representing two different countries compete in an eight-lap race on opposite sides of the track. Each team must race as a group, and their times are determined by the third person who crosses the finish line.
There are 16 laps in the mass start event, which is a points-based competition. Almost 24 skaters can take part at the start of the event.
There will be 14 medals for the taking across 14 events at Beijing 2022, including the women’s 500m, 1,000m, 1,500m, 5,000m, 10,000m, mass start and team pursuit, and the men’s 500m, 1,000m, 1,500m, 3,000m, 5,000m, mass start and team pursuit.
The number of speed skating events held makes it the largest sport at this year’s Winter Olympics.
Who are the favorites? The Netherlands, the United States and Norway tend to dominate speed skating at the Winter Games, boasting a combined 273 Olympic medals in total.
Nine-time Olympic medalist and Team Netherlands star Sven Kramer will be looking to add to his tally at Beijing 2022. The defending world champion in the men’s 5,000m and 10,000m events, Sweden’s Nils van der Poel, is also a favorite for gold.
Eleven-time Olympic medalist and Dutch athlete Ireen Wüst and Erin Jackson of Team USA will be the ones to beat at Beijing 2022, although Japan’s Nao Kodaira and Miho Takagi could also be worthy contenders.
The Nordic combined (February 9 to February 17)
What is it? The Nordic combined event is comprised of cross-country skiing and ski jumping. It is one of the few competitions at the Games that’s yet to introduce a women’s draw.
Competitors win points for the style and distance of their ski jump. The better-scoring jumpers subsequently get a head start in the staggered cross-country skiing element – the conversion of points to time is known as the Gundersen method.
The Nordic combined was the centerpiece of the Holmenkollen ski festival, which began in Oslo, Norway in 1892. Since then, the sport has garnered an international fanbase and has been an enduring event at the Games since the first Winter Olympics in 1924 in Chamonix.
There will be three gold medals up for grabs at this year’s Games across three events, Reuters reported: men’s individual Gundersen normal hill / 10km, men’s individual Gundersen large hill / 10km, and men’s team Gundersen large hill / 4x5km.
Who are the favorites? Norway has clinched the most medals for the Nordic combined event in the history of the Games, claiming 31. Finland and Austria are close challengers.
However, Eric Frenzel of Germany could bolster his team’s Olympic glory this year, having won a medal in every Nordic combined event at PyeongChang. Japan’s Akito Watabe, who earned a silver medal in Gundersen normal hill / 10km at the Winter Olympics in 2014 and 2018, could also make the podium alongside Norwegian Jarl Magnus Riiber.
Luge (February 5 to February 10)
What is it? The luge is one of three sliding sports at the Winter Games this year, alongside the bobsled and the skeleton.
Competitors can reach average speeds of 120 to 145 kilometers per hour (74.56 to 90 mph) when racing the luge. Athletes race on the same track in the singles competition and get four tries across two days. Their aggregate times are counted to the thousandth of a second, with the quickest athlete placing first.
The doubles event has a similar structure but is set across two days, with each pair getting two runs. Three sledges from different nations – the women’s singles, men’s singles and doubles – compete in the team relay, which debuted at the Games at Sochi 2014.
All three sliding sports originated in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
There will be four gold medals to win across four events at the Games this year, including the men’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s singles and the team relay.
Who are the favorites? Germany are usually the frontrunners in the luge, followed by Austria and Italy.
In the men’s draw, triple Olympic gold medalist Felix Loch will be looking to reclaim his title at Beijing 2022, having finished fifth in the men’s singles at PyeongChang. Team Austria’s David Gleirscher ended up winning the event that year, and so could prove a worthy challenger.
Skeleton (February 10 to February 12)
What is it? With its roots in sleighing, the skeleton is a fan favorite at the Winter Olympics.
Athletes participate on the same track across two days, getting four runs each. The competitor with the fastest combined time wins the event.
After British and American holiday goers constructed the first toboggan run in 1882 in Davos, Switzerland, a new steel sledge was built ten years later – which became known as the skeleton. It fell in and out of the Olympic program for a number of years, before it was reintroduced at the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics.
There will be just six medals available across two events at Beijing 2022, including the men’s singles and the women’s singles.
Who are the favorites? Great Britain and the United States are the two main frontrunners in the skeleton event, having earned 11 medals between them.
Team GB’s Laura Deas will have her eye on first place this year, having clinched a bronze medal in PyeongChang. Jacqueline Loelling and Tina Hermann of Germany are worthy challengers for Team GB, as well as China’s Zhao Dan and Lin Huiyang.
In the men’s draw, six-time world champion Martins Dukurs of Latvia will be chasing gold this year, having participated in the event since 1998, but defending Olympic champion Yun Sungbin of South Korea could be a worthy competitor. Geng Wenqiang and Yin Zheng will also be going for gold, hoping to boost the medal count for hosts China.
Figure skating (February 4 to February 20)
What is it? Figure skating is the oldest event at the Winter Olympics. The event first debuted at the London Summer Games in 1908, and again in the 1920 Summer Games in Antwerp, before it was permanently moved to the Winter Olympic program.
Each competition incorporates a long and short routine, within which athletes receive two sets of scores – the program component score and the technical element score. The program component element is mainly determined by presentation, while the technical category assesses the complexity displayed in a routine, for example, spins and jumps.
Even though the Dutch developed figure skating, the sport has been enjoyed by fans the world over, including Marie Antoinette and the 19th century French emperor Napoleon III.
There will be five medals for the taking across five figure skating events at Beijing 2022. The events are as follows: the men’s singles, women’s singles, pairs, the ice dance and the team event.
Who are the favorites? The United States has historically garnered the most success in figure skating at the Olympics, having earned 51 medals.
In the women’s draw, teen prodigy and record holder Kamila Valieva could claim medals for the ROC, alongside teammate Anna Shcherbakova. Chinese duo Sui Wenjing and Han Cong are strong contenders in the pairs events, having won silver at PyeongChang, while France’s Guillaume Cizeron and Gabriella Papadakis are returning favorites in the ice dance competition.