Winter Olympic medals are awarded to winners of various winter sports. Our library provides plenty of materials about these sports; simply clicking the name will take you directly to that subject heading in our on-line catalog.
Skeleton athletes compete with incredible speed on an ice track, reaching 80mph! Here are other fun facts about Winter Olympic.
1. All events take place on snow or ice
The Winter Olympics is a distinct sporting event in that all of its events take place on snow or ice – this sets it apart from its counterpart, the Summer Olympic Games, which include sports held across various surfaces.
Winter Olympic athletes typically hail from nations with cold winters and plenty of snow; however, athletes from tropical nations have also participated in these Games; one notable instance being Jamaica’s 1988 debut bobsled team that would later become immortalized in the movie Cool Runnings.
At first, all Winter Olympic events took place solely on natural snow. But as climate change worsens, more events now take place on artificial snow than natural. Olympic cross-country skier Jessie Diggins discussed this trend on an episode of her show My New Favorite Olympian; her first experience racing on artificial snow occurred during the 1964 Winter Games held in Innsbruck Austria when the army brought blocks of ice and snow from outside into Innsbruck for her race.
2. The first Winter Olympics were held in 1924
As soon as the inaugural Winter Olympic Games were hosted in 1924 in Chamonix, France a global sporting tradition was born. These first Winter Games weren’t officially named “Olympic Games”, yet still enjoyed “high patronage of the International Olympic Committee”. They were known formally as Semaine internationale des Sports d’Hiver (International Winter Sports Week).
These games were an enormous success and in 1928 IOC president Pierre de Coubertin officially recognized them as the Olympic Games. Although originally held a few months after each Summer Olympic event, in 1936 IOC officials decided that they should become an annual celebration.
The Winter Olympic Games have become an international spectacle and boast over thirty events in six disciplines: alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, speed skating, figure skating, ice hockey and curling. Women were not included as competitors until 1948 when skiing became a competitive women’s sport.
3. Women were only allowed to compete in figure skating
Since figure skating became an Olympic sport in 1924, its development has undergone several shifts and adjustments. Women now compete in figure skating events for the first time – something made possible thanks to British figure skater Madge Syers, who made headlines for entering all-male World Figure Skating Championships via a loophole in 1896.
Sonja Henie won her gold medal as the youngest figure skater ever and changed the face of competitive skating forever. Female figure skaters like Sonja Henie gained popularity during the 1920s and 1930s as touring artists or movie stars; as well as setting a fashion standard by wearing short skirts with white boots.
Women now compete in all Winter Olympic events, but certain hurdles still present themselves for competitors. According to Elite Daily, some Olympic skaters have had to withdraw due to mental health issues like anxiety and eating disorders; most recently USA bronze-medalist Gracie Gold withdrew due to anorexia.
4. Animals have never officially participated in the Winter Olympics
Nearly 3,000 top athletes from around the globe have converged in Beijing, China for what officially is known as the Winter Olympic Games, officially known as XXIV Olympic Games. These games are currently taking place from 4-20 February.
Animals do not officially take part in Winter Olympic events, though demonstration events of dog sled racing were shown at 1932 Olympic and skijoring (pronounced ski-YO-ring) was demonstrated for skijoring athletes pulled by dogs were shown off at 1928 Olympics.
Skiers competing in skeleton race down an ice track head-first while lying on their stomachs at speeds up to 80 mph, reaching speeds of over 220 km per hour. Cross country skiers cover long distances on snow within just two hours while ski jumpers jump from heights up to 90 meters but never more than 20 feet from the ground.
The Olympic motto ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ (‘Faster, Higher, Stronger”) was inspired by a priest after hearing one of the world’s top athletes deliver a speech. He believed these words would motivate athletes to push themselves harder in competitions like Winter Olympic. Additionally, these words can also be found engraved onto medals awarded at Winter Olympic games.
5. Athletes competing in skeleton hurtle down the ice track at up to 80 mph
Skeleton is an exciting sport in which athletes race on small sleds down an ice track at tremendous speeds, likened to head-first luge. Two events of this sport will be featured at Winter Olympic.
Sleds made of steel or fiberglass weigh 70 to 115 pounds, while athletes wear helmets and chin guards to protect their faces while traveling at up to 80 mph! Each sled resembles the human skeleton with a flat plane bearing an athlete’s nationality, start number, sponsors’ logos and sponsors’ information displayed prominently atop. Hence the term “skeleton”. All non-essential components of the sled have been removed leaving only essential components remaining, giving rise to its name – hence its moniker!
Sleds are designed to combat gravity, friction, air resistance, vibration and g-force while being tested for safety. Engineers strive to minimize vibration so athletes can see where they’re heading and steer with precision while also managing how much drag the sled generates; too much drag will slow athletes down significantly.
6. In the first Winter Olympics women were only allowed to compete in figure skating
Winter Olympic competitions are thrilling events that showcase some of the greatest athletes from around the globe, yet you might still not know much about these magnificent competitions.
In 1924, the inaugural Winter Olympic Games were hosted by France. Dubbed International Winter Sports Week, these event saw approximately 250 athletes competing across 16 events at Chamonix in France. Women could only participate in figure skating (11 female competitors took part), while men competed in cross-country skiing, four-man bobsleighing, ice hockey and military patrol (similar to today’s biathlon).
The 1924 Olympics were an enormous success, drawing over 10,000 paying spectators and being declared by the International Olympic Committee to have been its inaugural Winter Games. St Moritz in 1928 marked only one exception due to World War I; so when Germany resumed hosting in 1936 at Garmisch-Partenkirchen for Alpine Skiing competition women were permitted to compete for the first time outside figure skating (Alpine Skiing). Furthermore this marked the inaugural use of an Olympic Torch.
7. Marit Bjorgen from Norway has won the most medals of any Winter Olympian
Norwegian 37-year-old Bjorgen was one of the most accomplished female Winter Olympians until she retired three years ago. At Pyeongchang she won five medals, two being gold. This totaled up to 11 career Olympic medals overall!
Bjorgen hails from Trondheim, Norway – known for producing Olympic cross-country skiers. At her Olympic debut at Salt Lake City 2002 without ever finishing in one of the top-10 at World Cup level she earned herself a silver medal in team relay competition.
At the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, Bjorgen captured gold in sprint, silver in 15 km pursuit and bronze in 4×7.5 km relay events before taking second in 30 km classic event just 0.3 seconds behind Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk – earning her the moniker Golden Marit.
“Lyubov Yegorova became one of the most decorated female Winter Olympians ever with 11 medals at Sochi 2014 – breaking a tie with Russian cross-country skier Raisa Smetanina and Italian biathlete Stefania Belmondo as most decorated Winter Olympian ever, winning six golds and four silvers over Lyubov Yegorova (another great cross-country skier) who held on to nine medals”.
8. Snow and ice once had to be brought in by the army
Snow and ice are essential components for hosting a Winter Olympics, yet nature can often prove uncooperative, leading to mild temperatures threatening the Games – particularly prior to climate-controlled arenas and artificial snow sources becoming available.
Lack of snow threatened to derail the 1928 Olympic Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland; therefore organizers called upon soldiers from both armies for assistance – soldiers lined bobsled and luge courses with ice blocks while volunteers piled snow basket by basket on alpine ski slopes.
Norwegian ski jumper Anders Haugen holds the oldest Olympic medal. Competing at Lake Placid in 1924 but receiving his bronze medal 50 years later due to a scoring error, Anders won his bronze in 1998 when snowboarding made its Olympic debut; men’s and women’s snowboarding competition now take place concurrently, and skeleton racing allows athletes to race headfirst down an ice track at speeds reaching 80 mph!