Once extreme, now popular across a broad range of followers, the event that gave snowboarding its luster is still the standard for flips, spins, grabs and revolutions that never seem to stop.
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Of all the sliding sports, this one has the greatest test of driving and the maddening synchronized push at the start of the race. Sleds reach speeds of 85 miles an hour and races are won and lost by thousandths of seconds.
3 of 12Simon Bruty/SI
Figure Skating -- Ladies
The most memorable face from a Winter Olympics often comes from the ladies' skating event that has produced the likes of Sonja Henie, Dorothy Hamill and Katarina Witt as champions. These days, the epitome of grace is also a test of dynamic athleticism with combination and high-revolution jumps to match the men.
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Alpine Skiing -- Downhill
Who is the fastest alpine skier on the planet? Throw in a few turns and some icy terrain and the question might also be: Who is the bravest?
5 of 12David E. Klutho/SI
It is decades since the once mighty Soviet juggernaut existed, but no medal would mean more to the Olympic hosts than a gold in men's ice hockey. At some point in the medal round, the once powerful Russians will likely tangle with Canada, which has won gold medals in two of the last three Olympics.
6 of 12Nancie Battaglia/SI
What makes this sport so compelling is the close-up view of impending danger. Sliders are inches off the ice, prone and headfirst, with little protection to match the frightening speeds on vehicles that run only partway along the body and have no brakes. A nod forward and the chin protector straps the ice like fingernails on a chalkboard. A tip to the side and the skin-tight body suit is all that keeps the body from peeling the wall until it stops.
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Short Track Relay
For 45 grueling and often frenetic laps, short track speedskaters from five teams take turns sizzling around the track, pulling unimaginable torque on a balancing rod no bigger than the width of a fingernail. When it goes wrong, skaters go sliding into restraining walls only to hustle back for more, because many races have more than one tumble and nobody is ever out of it.
8 of 12Harry How/Getty Images
Figure Skating -- Ice Dancing
Once an afterthought on the Olympic program, ice dancing is considered the purest form of artistry by skating enthusiasts. While North American skaters once struggled to be competitive, they will likely take two medals in Sochi.
9 of 12Richard Wolowicz/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images
Count on these two powerhouses meeting in the gold medal game. In three of the four Olympics and in all 15 world championships, these teams have clashed in the final game.
10 of 12Nancie Battaglia/SI
For years a wayward ski jumper was the picture of the Agony of Defeat on ABC Sports. But a well-executed jump looks like a bird gliding peacefully through the air. Women fought a tough legal battle to make their Olympic debut in this event in Sochi.
11 of 12Bob Martin/SI
It began at the Winter X Games in 1997 and it's been tripping up Olympians since 2006. Watch four snowboarders race down an inclined course with jumps, turns and more than a few nasty collisions.
12 of 12Robert Beck/SI
Freestyle skiers catapult twice up to 20 feet in the air with jumps that can include as many as three flips and five twists. Their scores combine takeoff, jump form and landing and their margin for error is miniscule.
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