Winter Youth Olympic Games: Lillehammer hosts event

By David McDaidBBC Scotland
Winter Youth Olympics speed skaters
The Winter Youth Olympic Games is taking place for only the second time ever in Lillehammer in Norway
Winter Youth Olympic Games
Dates: 12-21 February Location: Lillehammer, Norway
Events: Alpine skiing; biathlon; bobsleigh; cross-country skiing; curling; figure skating; freestyle skiing; ice hockey; luge; Nordic combined; short track speed skating; skeleton; ski jumping; snowboarding; speed skating

The Winter Youth Olympic Games are a relatively new event.

This edition in Lillehammer is only the second of its kind, with the first coming in Innsbruck in 2012.external-link

Over 10 days about 1100 athletes from 70 countries, aged between 15 and 18, will compete in 15 sports disciplines.

Lillehammer 2016 will use many venues refurbished from the 1994 Winter Olympics, while Oslo, which is more than 100 miles away, will host the halfpipe events.

The ethos of the Youth Olympics is cultural education and personal development, as well as an early introduction to the multi-sport environment,

At Lillehammer 2016 the Sjoggfest [culture festival] offers athletes about 150 cultural and adventure experiences, such as ice climbing, parkour and live music acts.

What sports are on show?

There are 70 gold medals at stake within the 15 disciplines at Lillehammer.

Events familiar to Winter Olympic schedules, such as alpine skiing or speed skating, are part of the Games.

But there are also some new formats on display in Norway.

Alongside the regular ice hockey team format, there is an ice hockey skills challenge event where the individual must demonstrate their prowess with the skates, stick and puck in six different skill areas.

In bobsleigh, rather than standard two-man or four-man bobs, the Olympians will compete in the monobob - where a single athlete rides by his or herself.

And curling in Lillehammer will have not only mixed team curling - comprising a foursome of two boys and two girls from the same nation - but also a mixed doubles event, where boys and girls from different countries will pair up and compete together.

Team GB

The British Olympic Association has sent a team of 16 athletes to take part in alpine skiing, bobsleigh, curling, freestyle skiing, ice hockey skills challenge, luge and skeleton. This team size is down from the 23 who took part in Innsbruck in 2012.

The youngest member of the team is Verity Lewis, who will be a month past her 15th birthday on Friday. She is Team GB's ice hockey skills challenge competitor.

Leading team GB is chef de mission, Adam Pengilly, a former GB skeleton athlete who competed at the Winter Olympics in 2006 and 2010.

Winter Olympics bronze medallist curler Claire Hamilton is with the team in the role of youth ambassador.

Medal chances

GB's best medal hopes appear to lie in the sliding sports.

In monobob, 17-year-olds George Johnston and Kelsea Purchall are both ranked number one in the world.

Another monobob athlete, 17-year-old Annabel Chaffey, was also ranked top in the world at the end of the 2014-2015 season.

Also in medal form at the sliding centre is Ashleigh Pittaway in the skeleton. The Munich-born 15-year-old won four qualifying races for Lillehammer 2016 and took her first senior bronze medal at the European Cup in Konigssee, Germany, in January.

Winter Youth Olympics graduates

Developing young people is one part of the Winter Youth Olympics, but nurturing the next batch of senior level Olympians is also an objective.

From Innsbruck 2012, Team GB included the freestyle skier, Katie Summerhayes, who went on to compete at the Sochi Winter Games two years later.

She then became the first British woman to win a freestyle skiing World Championship medal when she took silver in the 2015 slopestyle event.

As well as Summerhayes, Jazmin Sawyers was part of the silver-winning bobsleigh team in Innsbruck. However, she subsequently returned to her track and field roots, where she won another silver - this time in the long jump at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Disciplines breakdown

  • Alpine skiing - combined, giant slalom, slalom, super-G and parallel mixed team
  • Biathlon - sprint and pursuit and mixed single and team relay
  • Bobsleigh - monobob
  • Cross-country skiing - 5km free (girls), 10km free (boys), sprint classic, cross-country cross and mixed Nordic team
  • Curling - mixed team and mixed doubles
  • Figure skating - singles, pairs, ice dancing and mixed NOC team
  • Freestyle skiing - halfpipe, Slopestyle, ski cross
  • Ice hockey - team and individual skills challenge
  • Luge -singles, doubles and mixed team
  • Nordic combined - normal hill individual 5km (boys)
  • Short track speed skating - 500m and 1,000m
  • Skeleton - singles
  • Ski jumping - normal hill individual and mixed team
  • Snowboarding - halfpipe, slopestyle, snowboard cross, team snowboard ski cross
  • Speed skating - 500m, 1500m, mass start, team sprint