So the winter olympics of 2014 started February 6th. The day before I came across an article on defunct Olympic sports. Many of them are eye catching and the winter ones are my favorites and I had to highlight three of them.
Let’s start with sled dog racing.
This sport only made one appearance at the 1932 Lake Placid Games. “Seven American and five Canadian athletes with six dogs apiece ran twice over a 25.1 mile course.” It was only a demonstration sport in the Olympics though Emile St. Goddard from Winnipeg finished first with a time of 4:23:12.5. While it is no longer a Winter Olympic sport, sled dog races are still held annually. In fact, currently there is a race called Yukon Quest which is happening right now! Yukon Quest is 1,000 mile international sled dog race that starts in Fairbanks, Alaska and ends in Whitehorse, Yukon. The race has run since 1984 and lasts for between 10-16 days. This year it started on February 1. There’s a countdown available on the site and more information on the race, mushers, and their locations. Go check it out!
Like sled dog racing, the winter pentathlon was also used once as a demonstration sport in the 1948 St. Moritz Games.
While the winter biathlon (still present in today’s Olympics) requires athletes to be highly skilled in both cross-country skiing and shooting, the pentathlon required athletes to be highly versatile to win a medal. If the sport had carried over, Winter Olympic pentathlon athletes would need to be skilled in downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, shooting, fencing, and horse riding. in 1948 Sweden’s athletes swept the medal stand.
While polo does mention a merit as a Summer Olympic sport as it is an equitation sport (my favorite category) one more winter sport snagged the most of my attention: Skijoring!
Skijoring is “a wonderful hybrid between water skiing, horse riding and dog sledding.” The sport requires a person riding skis being tugged over the snow by a horse. The word Skijoring is derived from skikjøring, the Norwegian word for ski driving. The sport probably originated as a method of single person winter season travel. This was only used once in the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland but is still used as a competitive sport today. Usually a single horse is outfitted with a harness by which a skier holds on by an extended tow rope. Sometimes the horse is guided by a rider but it is possible for the skier to direct the horse on his/her own. I believe when the skier navigates the horse it a flat stretch during a race. When a rider guides the horse the skier is more free to navigate jumps and obstacles.
So what do the skiers use during skijoring? Modified water ski towing equipment. If you’re looking to try it and cut down on costs you could use a tow rope looped around a saddle horn or otherwise attached to the western saddle. There are two main types of skijoring competitions: a straight course and a horseshoe-shaped course. On a straight course a horse can run at top speed in the middle of a course. This way the skier can navigate slalom gates and jumps of different heights, grab rings or other items at unique stations. Leadville, Colorado has been organizing equestrian skijoring competitions with a highlight on speed since 1949.
Here’s an example of skijoring competitions still practiced today:
It looks like so much fun! It’s been years since I skied but I would love to try this! Follow this link to learn more about skijoring!