Winter Olympics in full heat

Eric Benitez, Staff Writer

Watching snowboarder Red Gerard race down the mountain or witnessing figure skater Mirai Nagasu land a historic triple axel is only part of the excitement that comes from watching the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, this month.

The Winter Olympics will feature 102 events in over 15 sports and 93 teams. For the first time in history, he North Korean teams will be allowed to cross the Demilitarized Zone and enter South Korea for the first time since the Korean War split the country in two.

The last time the Olympics were held in South Korea in the summer of 1988, the North Koreans boycotted the Games. Some speculate that the Winter Olympics will ease the tensions between North and South Korea. The 2018 Winter Olympics will be the first time the two nations meet peacefully, and this year politicians hope that conversation between the two countries will continue.

One of the longest standing traditions of the games is the Olympic Torch Relay. The torch, a symbol of the games, is held by cities along the torch route designated by the International Olympic Committee; for this Olympics, the relay began on Oct. 24 in Olympia, Greece. The torchbearers are selected based on the quality of their application essay.

Kurt Kim, an undergraduate student at the University of Pacific, was a torchbearer for the 2014 Winter Olympics and has fond memories of when he carried the torch through South Korea.

“I had a lot of things on my bucket list and being a torchbearer was one of them,” Kim said. “I never imagined that I would carry the Olympic flame in South Korea.”

Although the Winter Olympics, which began in 1924, aren’t watched by as many viewers as the Summer Olympics, which began in 1896, sports fans still have a variety of games and sports to enjoy this season.

Some find the Winter Olympics to be more diverse than the Summer Olympics because of the different selection of sporting events. The Summer Olympics traditionally display year-long sports and events, while the Winter Olympics feature sports that are mostly played or performed on ice or snow.

Figure-skating is one of the more popular games of the Winter Olympics. The sport features skaters performing intricately choreographed routines on ice. Figure skating receives attention as the sport is only showcased during the Winter Olympics.

Figure skating includes different categories and events, such as singles, doubles, and long-dance performances. Figure skaters that have recently performed include Adam Rippon, Mirai Nagasu and partners Yura Min and Alexander Graemlin.

“I think it’s a beautiful thing to watch people dance across the ice and make it look so easy,” senior Miniya Brisbane said. “There’s an element of grace to it.”

Additionally, the International Olympic Committee announced that four new sports have been added to the games this year: big air snowboarding, freestyle skiing, mass start speed skating and mixed doubles curling.

The luge, ski jumping and biathlon events will take place at night under floodlights, according to the Games’ official schedule posted on the IOC’s website.

Shaun White, an American snowboarder who qualified for the Olympics after landing a perfect score in the US Grand Prix, is among the most anticipated performers of the Games. White already has two gold medals to his name, and he has a high chance of earning another gold medal this year. White’s chief rival is Australian snowboarder Scotty James.

The Opening Ceremony of the Olympics was held on February 9. Teams marched together during the Parade of Nations, including North Korea and South Korea walking under a unified flag, and the Olympic Flame was lit by South Korean figure skater and gold medalist Yuna Kim.

The first weekend of the Olympics saw 17-year old Redmond “Red” Gerard place first in slopestyle snowboarding, winning the United States its first gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Lim Hyo Jun helped South Korea claim its first gold medal in speed skating.

NBC will continue to broadcast the Olympics on television and on their website throughout the month.