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Here are the 7 new Olympic events to watch in Beijing

Carol Bouvard of Switzerland during training for the Mixed Team Aerials at the FIS Freestyle Ski and World Championships on in 2019. Mixed team aerials is a new event at the Beijing Winter Olympics this year.
Sean M. Haffey
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Getty Images
Carol Bouvard of Switzerland during training for the Mixed Team Aerials at the FIS Freestyle Ski and World Championships on in 2019. Mixed team aerials is a new event at the Beijing Winter Olympics this year.

The 2022 Beijing Olympics are set to include a record 109 sporting events this year, with seven new events in snowboarding, bobsled, and skiing.

With a focus on new events with mixed gender teams, this year's Winter Games offer a greater balance between men's and women's events than ever before, according to the International Olympic Committee.

The IOC says the athlete make-up in Beijing this year is expected to be 55% male and 45% female. This is thanks, in part, to a broader selection of events at this year's Games, giving athletes, especially women, more opportunities to go for gold.

Those seven new events are:

  • Women's monobob
  • Men and women's big air skiing
  • Mixed team relay in short track speedskating
  • Mixed team ski jumping
  • Mixed team snowboard cross
  • Freestyle skiing mixed team aerials
  • "It's just another opportunity for those athletes to compete at the games, and for their sport to be showcased," Jeremy Forster, the director of snowboarding and freeskiing at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, said of these new events.

    Forster was part of the team that worked with the IOC to expand the skiing and snowboarding portions of the Winter Olympic Games.

    Expanding the roster of events also gives athletes another chance at gold, he said.

    Team Hungary (left and first place), Team Russia (rear right and second place), and Team France, (front right, rear left, and third place), compete during the 2,000-meter mixed relay race of the World Cup short track speed skating championship in Dresden, eastern Germany, in 2020. Short track speedskating adds a new mixed relay event in Beijing.
    Jens Meyer / AP
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    AP
    Team Hungary (left and first place), Team Russia (rear right and second place), and Team France, (front right, rear left, and third place), compete during the 2,000-meter mixed relay race of the World Cup short track speed skating championship in Dresden, eastern Germany, in 2020. Short track speedskating adds a new mixed relay event in Beijing.

    The women's monobob event makes its debut

    Unlike the Disney classic "Cool Runnings," which told the story of a Jamaican bobsled team, monobob is a bobsled event done solo.

    This year, women's monobob joins the traditional four-man, two-man and two-woman events. In the two-person or four-person event, athletes work together to heave a massive sled forward and all leap into it before flying down an icy track.

    In monobob, just one person does all the work with a sled weighing at least 162 kg, or over 350 pounds.

    Karlien Sleper from the Netherlands competes in the women's monobob at the Bobsled World Cup race in Igls, near Innsbruck, Austria, last November.
    Lisa Leutner / AP
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    AP
    Karlien Sleper from the Netherlands competes in the women's monobob at the Bobsled World Cup race in Igls, near Innsbruck, Austria, last November.

    Each athlete has the same standard sled, so the event comes down to the athlete's skill and driving ability.

    "Winning isn't down to souped-up equipment. We all have the same runners. We can see who is the top of the top," Canadian bobsledder Cynthia Appiah told Olympics.com in 2020.

    Kaillie Humphries became the first women's monobob world champion last year. Humphries, who is representing the U.S. in Beijing, won the Altenberg race in Germany, in December 2021 and another competition in St. Moritz, Switzerland this year.

    As she heads to Beijing, the three-time Olympian in the two-woman blobsled event could also become the first gold medalist ever in women's monobob.

    Snowboard cross adds a team element

    Glenn de Blois of the Netherlands (left) and Nick Baumgartner of the United States cross the finish line during a semifinal of men's snowboard cross at the FIS Snowboard Cross World Cup last November. Snowboard cross is expanding to be mixed gender at the Beijing Winter Olympics.
    Mark Schiefelbein / AP
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    AP
    Glenn de Blois of the Netherlands (left) and Nick Baumgartner of the United States cross the finish line during a semifinal of men's snowboard cross at the FIS Snowboard Cross World Cup last November. Snowboard cross is expanding to be mixed gender at the Beijing Winter Olympics.

    Snowboard cross events have been a mainstay at other tournaments around the world. This year will be its debut at the Olympic stage.

    In the mixed gender snowboard cross event, two snowboarders compete as a team in what is essentially a relay race against other countries. Each team is made up of a man (who starts first) followed by his female teammate. She's able to start her part of the race as soon as he crosses the finish line. The first woman to pass the line wins the race.

    The two best teams out of the four heats advance to compete for a place on the podium.

    While snowboarding is normally an individual event, Forster said adding a team environment "is a great opportunity for athletes to compete with a teammate throughout the season at World Cups and at the Olympics. It's special in that regard. "

    Hagen Kearney of the U.S. competes during qualifications in a U.S. Grand Prix men's snowboarding World Cup event in 2017 in Solitude, Utah.
    Rick Bowmer / AP
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    AP
    Hagen Kearney of the U.S. competes during qualifications in a U.S. Grand Prix men's snowboarding World Cup event in 2017 in Solitude, Utah.

    Hagen Kearney, a snowboard cross rider on the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Team who competed in the 2018 Games, said he's looking forward to the mixed team snowboard cross event. Beijing will be his second time competing at the Olympics in his individual event.

    "When we go into a team event, there are usually less competitors and it's a little more fun. You have a companion going into it instead of every man or woman for themselves," he told NPR.

    It's still unclear who will make the snowboard cross teams. Kearney said that will likely be decided following the results of the individual events. He is hoping to make the cut.

    Skiers and speed skaters will also get an expanded program

    Norway's Halvor Egner Granerud travels down the ramp during the WSC Mixed Team HS106 Ski Jumping event at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany in 2021.
    Matthias Schrader / AP
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    AP
    Norway's Halvor Egner Granerud travels down the ramp during the WSC Mixed Team HS106 Ski Jumping event at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany in 2021.

    Forster said other events were added to expand gold-medal opportunities for skiers as well.

    Ski jumping, a men's team event since 1924, is adding a mixed team event. Each team consists of four athletes (two men, two women) attempting to achieve the farthest jump off a large ramp — all while wearing skis. All individual jump scores are added together for the team score.

    In ski big air, competitors have to execute their best tricks. Their best two runs will count toward their final score.

    And finally, in the fast paced speed skating arena, two men and two women per country will participate in a heart-racing relay around the rink. The short track program's new mixed team relays starts with two women skating first for 2.5 laps, followed by the two men for the same distance — for 200m.

    Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.