Antoine Adelisse

Antoine Adelisse, who will represent France at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, competes in a slopestyle skiing event in Val Thorens, France, on Saturday. Slopestyle skiing is one of several sports making their Olympic debut this year. (Jean-Pierre Clatot / AFP/Getty Images / January 25, 2014)

The luge seemed tough enough already.

Racing down an icy track at 80-plus mph. Flying through twists and turns on your back.

Now the Olympics have added one more challenge.

In the new mixed relay — each country racing a man, woman and doubles team, one right after the other — sliders must look up and slap a touchpad as they zip across the finish line.

"The last thing you want to do is miss the pad," U.S. luger Erin Hamlin said. "That would be devastating."

The luge relay will not be the only newcomer at the 2014 Sochi Games. The International Olympic Committee has expanded the program to historic proportions with a dozen events making their debut in Russia.

Biathlon will get a mixed relay of its own, figure skating will have a team competition and women can finally show their stuff in ski jumping.

But the biggest expansion will take place in the action sports of snowboarding and freeskiing, with the Games hoping to add more sizzle.

Scott Blackmun, chief executive of the U.S. Olympic Committee, said it is all about luring "a younger audience." New events include:


Competitive freeskiing has grown steadily since the 1990s. The rebellious sport combines downhill speed with daring tricks off rails, boxes and jumps.

At the Games, freeskiers will compete in two events.

The halfpipe will greatly resemble its snowboard cousin as competitors launch themselves off the pipe's sheer walls, doing flips and spins to earn points.

The ski slopestyle event is more complex with a downhill course that has three "jib areas" — the rail features — and three jumps. Judges score on style, technique and big air. "You're like, oh, are they going to land it?" U.S. team member Devin Logan said. "You're on your toes the whole time."

Freeskiers know that, as the new kids on the block, they will be under the microscope.

"Not only am I competing for myself and for my country, I'm also competing for my sport," Gus Kenworthy said. "I'm hoping that when we introduce it to the Olympics, people will be excited."


The Olympic trend toward youth actually began with the addition of the snowboard halfpipe in 1998. That event quickly became a marquee attraction, so the IOC wants more.

The parallel slalom takes its cue from skiing, but adds a twist. Riders race side by side, two at a time, zigzagging down a tight course marked by gates and flags.

Slopestyle has a more artistic vibe as competitors string together tricks on those rails and jumps.