Excitement, trepidation aplenty for competitors in Olympics' 12 new events

By Joe Paisley Updated: January 14, 2014 at 9:54 am • Published: January 13, 2014 | 11:35 pm 0

Even a three-time Olympian can be nervous, especially when competing in one of the 12 new events that will debut in Sochi in less than a month.

Women's luger Erin Hamlin is excited for another chance at a medal with the addition of the mixed team relay. But she also feels some nerves taking the world stage in an unfamiliar event.

"It is an interesting concept," she said. "I am not sure how they will do it to be honest. The reaction time will be critical."

The new event resembles a track relay with a running clock. To start, a women's single sledder starts her run and must hit a pad at the end, alerting the men's single racer to start his attempt. He hits the same pad to alert the doubles team, which must hit the pad for the final combined team time.

A missed pad - like a dropped track baton - disqualifies the team. A delayed start for the man or the team will likely make the difference between a medal and finishing well back in the pack.

"It would be so hard to make that time up," Hamlin said. "The last thing you want to do is miss the pad. Lifting your arm too early could slow you down pretty drastically. It shakes things up big time in the luge world."

A lot of sports were stirred up by this Olympic opportunity. The other new sports are: biathlon mixed relay; figure skating mixed team, women's ski jumping; and men's and women's competition in ski halfpipe, ski slopestyle, snowboard parallel slalom and snowboard slopestyle.

"It's an exciting year for us and our sport," U.S. ski slopestyler Tom Wallisch said. "It's like a skate park in the snow and I think it will attract a whole new audience to the Games."

It already has a youthful following.

"They may see someone do something they have never done before or see them land on their head," Wallisch said of the challenging 565-meter course with rails and a variety of jumps. "There are some tricks that are easier on snowboards than skis because some tricks could end up splitting your skis and you getting hit in the groin with a rail."

Another sport that should benefit greatly from more exposure is women's ski jumping. It took a decade of legal battles for International Olympic Committee officials to ratify the sport, considering the event too dangerous for females.

It promises to be a competition - along with the new skiing and snowboarding events - in which Team USA can expect to pick up medals.

Jessica Jerome won the U.S. trials last month over Lindsey Van, who won the first world championship in 2009. Reigning world champion Sarah Hendrickson, 19, is expected to join the team later this month after a summertime crash tore up her right knee. She is expected to make the Olympic team based on past results.

"We have great depth and newcomers and Hendrickson is a definite medal threat if she is healthy," USOC winter sport high performance director Scott Riewald said. "We have a real opportunity to do well in all of them. We have depth and strength in all of them."

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