13 Conversation Starters About the Winter Olympics

Bobsleigh racer Marvin Dixon of the Jamaica Olympic team carries his country's flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
The Jamaican bobsled team returns! Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images

There’s a lot going on with these Winter Olympics in Sochi, much of it having to do with sub-par preparation, a fear of terrorist threats, shower spying, and a plenty of other concerns about the host country. But what about the games, man? After tonight the focus will (hopefully) be shifting from infrastructure and politics to athletics. So, for your cocktail conversations this weekend, we present this list of thirteen interesting facts about the athletes, the sports, and their stories. Leave the fear-mongering to Fox News. The Olympics are here, and we are excited as hell!

The Jamaican bobsled team’s triumphant return is powered by dogecoin. The two-man team, piloted by Winston Watts, finally qualified last month for the first time since 2002. But they were short of funds to make the trip to Sochi, so supporters raised some $25,000 in the Internet currency dogecoin to help them make the trip.

Women may finally do ski jump without fearing for their lady parts. The nominal reason for banning women from the ski jump previously was that there were neither enough participants nor infrastructure for them to compete at a high level. But some observers have also suggested that lingering, outdated concerns about women’s reproductive health contributed to the IOC’s reluctance to let them participate.

Crazy-haired Shaun White is clean-cut now. The two-time snowboarding gold medalist became well-known for his long, unruly red hair, which earned him the nickname “the flying tomato.” But he cut it off in 2012 and donated the clippings to Locks of Love, a charity that helps kids who’ve lost their hair for medical reasons.

Yes, the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center is called that on purpose. According to the olympics’ official site, the name for the ski jump center “plays on the abbreviation Rus and the word ski, together denoting the English slang word for a Russian person.”

All curling stones come from Scotland. Specifically, they come from an uninhabited island called Ailsa Craig, where quarries provide the “distinctive, water-resistant microgranite” that makes for the best curling stones, according to the New York Times. The island had been up for sale last year for $2.4 million but finally found a buyer in an as-yet-unnamed nature conservancy.

Lolo Jones brings the buzz. Photo: Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

Lindsey Vonn may be out, but Lolo Jones is in. After injuring her right knee for the second time during training, Vonn, who won the U.S. women’s first downhill gold medal in 2010, pulled out of contention for the 2014 Games, costing the U.S. team (and NBC) some star power. Fortunately for the network, few Olympians have more star power than hurdler Lolo Jones, who recently qualified for the U.S. bobsled team. Hopefully she’ll be an asset to the team as well. 

Sochi sure is nice this time of year. Oddly, for a winter Olympics venue, Sochi enjoys pretty mild temperatures this time of year. Highs average about 50 degrees in January and February, and the ten-day forecast calls for them in the mid-50s with lows in the low-to-mid-40s. But fear not: The outdoor events requiring more winter-like conditions will be held in the hills a short drive out of town.

A bigger hockey rink awaits. The United States and Canada squared off in the gold-medal game in Vancouver four years ago, but that tournament was played on an NHL-size rink, which is smaller than the one typically used at the Olympics and benefits North American-trained players. Now the question is whether the Americans (or the Canadians, for that matter) will stumble with so much more open ice, especially against the stacked rosters of Sweden and Russia.

America’s first biathlon medal is so close we can almost taste it. This is the only pre-existing Olympic sport in which the United States has never medaled, and we want it SO BAD. Everybody’s looking at you, Leif Nordgren of MinnesotaNordgren has been doing this since he was a little kid, and while he’s not exactly a favorite to win an individual medal, he might just bring the Americans to victory in a relay.

Nordic Combined is the last remaining sausage fest. All the other events now include men and women, except this combination of ski jumping and cross-country skiing.

A real-life German prince is skiing for Mexico, and he’s pretty old. Prince Hubertus von Hohenlohe was born in Mexico when his parents were on a business trip there. He’s the only athlete representing Mexico, and if he wins, the 55-year-old will be the second-oldest winter Olympian ever. The oldest was a Swedish curler named Carl August Kronlund, who was 58 during the first-ever winter Games, in 1924.

’The most interesting man in the Olympics,’ Prince Hubertus von Hohenlohe Photo: Mexican Olympic Comitee

Canada also has a skeleton medalist who’s no spring chicken. Canada’s Duff Gibson won the gold in 2006 when he was 39, becoming the oldest individual gold medalist at the winter Games. He’s now 47 and will compete again this year. Skeleton, by the way, is totally badass, and involves hurtling down a track face-first at about 80 miles per hour on a sled the size of a handkerchief.

The Olympic torch has been to space. As part of the world’s longest torch relay, cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin brought the torch to the International Space Station last year for a 166-day mission. Obviously, they did not light it while it was there.

How to Sound Smart About These Winter Olympics