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Winter sports edition

Not all sports fans can tell the difference between giant slalom and slalom skis (slalom skis are shorter). Some struggle to tell slalom and cross-country skis apart (slalom skis are fat and short with metal edges. Cross-country are long and skinny, without a metal edge.) While not as vast as the summer Olympics, the Winter Olympics is often the first chance many spectators get to learn about these exciting winter sports. Here is your primer.

CROSS-COUNTRY 101

Athletes compete in classic (diagonal stride) or skate ski technique.

Individual: Athletes in PyeongChang will start at 15 to 30 second intervals.

Skiathlon: Athletes begin with a mass start in classic technique, and switch to skate at the halfway mark.

Sprint: Athletes qualify in an individual start on a short course 0.8 to 1.4 km course. The top 30 fastest athletes move onto the heats, where the top two athletes in each heat move on in an elimination tournament. The A final winner takes gold.

Team Sprint: teams of two compete on the sprint course, alternating through three to six sections.

Mass start: Athletes start together in long distance event – 30 km for women, 50 km for men.

Relay: On teams of four, the first two racers use classic technique. The second two use skate technique. Women ski 5km each, while the men ski 10 km each.

BIATHLON 101

Combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting: Athletes use .22 calibre rifles to hit five targets, 50m away in each shooting stage. Standing targets are 11.5 cm in diameter (the size of a grapefruit), prone targets are 4.5 cm in size (the size of a Toonie).

Sprint races: Athletes depart in 30 second or one-minute intervals. The men ski 10 km and the women ski 7.5 km.

Athletes shoot twice – five standing, five prone targets. For each miss, the athlete skis a 150m penalty loop. The fastest time wins.

Pursuit Race: start order is decided by sprint race results and includes the top 60 athletes. The sprint winner starts the pursuit first, and other athletes follow based on their previous time.

There are three laps and four rounds of shooting – two standing, two prone. Missed shots result in 150m penalty loops. The men’s race is 12.5 km long. The women race 10 km. The first athlete across the line wins.

Individual race: Men ski 20 km, women ski 15 km with four shooting stages. Athletes start every 30 seconds. Missed shots result in one-minute time penalties. The fastest time wins.

Mass start: Event includes the top-30 athletes, five laps and four rounds of shooting. The women ski 12.5 km, the men ski 15 km. Missed shots result in 150m penalty loops. First across the line wins.

Relay: Includes teams of four. The women ski 6 km. The men ski 7.5 km. Each athlete completes two shooting stages (once prone, once standing). Athletes are allowed to carry three spare bullets for missed shots, which must be loaded manually. Athletes physically tag their teammates.

ALPINE 101

Giant Slalom: Skiers zig-zag down the slope at high speed. Gates are 10m or more apart. GS skiers have two runs. The top 30 skiers advance to the second run.

Slalom: Skiers zig-zag their way through the gates, which rang from a minimum of 75 cm to a maximum of 13m apart. Skiers complete two runs. The top 30 athletes advance to the second run.

Alpine Combined: Event includes a downhill race and a slalom race. Total race time decides the winner.

Nation Team Event: Two men, two women from 16 nations compete in a single elimination tournament. Races are run parallel with giant slalom gates.

MIXED DOUBLES CURLING 101

Compared to regular team curling, mixed doubles requires just two players, one female, one male, with scoring the same.

Each game is eight ends, with five rocks thrown per end, per team. One player throws the first and last rocks, the other the three between. Brushing may be done by the thrower, or the second player, or a combination.

Each end begins with two rocks placed in play; one centre or corner guard and one in the rings behind it, as chosen by the team with the hammer.

No stones can be removed from play until delivery of the fourth stone of each end.

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