(NEXSTAR) – This year’s Winter Olympics are getting a little more extreme, and a lot more balanced.
The seven official sports of the Winter Olympic Games are currently divided into 15 disciplines, which are further subdivided into a whopping 109 individual medal events.
Yes, that’s a lot of events. And no, it wasn’t always this way.
New events are routinely added to the Winter Olympic program every cycle, and in rarer cases, whole new disciplines are adopted. This year’s games are no exception, with seven new events making their debut in 2022. What’s notable about the new program, however, are the addition of a few new “extreme” events and gender-inclusive competitions.
The women’s monobob, new for 2022, is described by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as a one-person version of the bobsleigh discipline. Obviously, it differs from its sister events (the two-man, four-man, and two-women bobsleigh) in that competitors are tasked with pushing, steering and braking all on their own, without the help of a team.
Similar events were included in the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer 2016 and Lausanne 2020, according to the IOC, though both genders were allowed to compete.
In adding the women’s monobob, both male and female Olympians are now offered two exclusive bobsleigh events.
Big Air freestyle skiing (men and women)
Big Air snowboarding events first debuted at the 2018 Winter Games, but a similar program for skiing wasn’t included in the program until 2022. Similar to Big Air snowboarding, a Big Air freestyle skiing event — or Freeski Big Air, as its also called — sees the competitors speed downhill toward a ramp before launching into the air, and hopefully impressing the judges with the execution of difficult tricks before pulling off a clean landing.
Two different events of Freeski Big Air — for both men and women — have been added to this year’s Winter Games.
Short-track speed skating relay (mixed team)
Another new event, the mixed relay for short-track speedskating, is competed with teams of four athletes (two men and two women) taking turns during a 2,000-meter relay.
Sofia Prosvirnova, a two-time Olympian, explained to Olympics.com that mixed relays have long been a part of training programs. “It’s interesting to now try them in real races,” she said.
Prosvirnova added that team events — whether gender-exclusive or mixed — make for more “unpredictable” races.
Ski jumping (mixed team)
The new mixed-team ski jumping event, like the men’s team event, will consist of four athletes — but this time, each team must consist of two women and two men. The hill and the scoring method will remain the same as the men’s team event.
Freestyle ski aerials (mixed team)
Teams participating in the mixed-team aerials event must consist of three people: either two women and one man, or one woman and two men. Each team member attempts to wow the judges with their jump, and scores are combined and tallied to determine the winners.
“If you’ve ever watched an aerial ski competition, you know that you’ll see at least one crash,” said Laura Peel, a two-time freestyle aerials world champion, in an interview with Olympics.com. “So I think in the mixed-team event, anything can happen. You need all three athletes to nail their jumps.”
Snowboard cross (mixed team)
Until 2022, male and female teams have competed in their own snowboard cross events. This year, the program is adding yet another snowboarding event consisting of one man and one woman, racing together on the same team for a medal.
It works like this: Each team’s male athletes will race toward the finish line. Once their times are recorded, their female counterpart will inherit their advantage when it’s their time to race. (For instance, if a male team member beats his next-closest opponent by a half-second, his female team member will earn a half-second head start when it’s her turn to race.) First woman over the finish line wins.
According to the IOC, the newest games of the Winter Olympics were added to this year’s program in an effort to increase gender equality.
“The Beijing 2022 events programme will be the Olympic Winter Games the most gender balanced in history, with more women athletes (45.44%) and more women’s events than at any previous Games,” Olympics.com explains in an FAQ page.
The IOC has also previously announced its goal to reach “full gender equality” (or a 1-1 ratio of male to female competitors) by the 2024 Summer Games. The closest any games have gotten, thus far, were the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, during which 48% of the athletes were female.