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2022 Winter Olympics: Which sports cost the most to enter?

The Winter Olympics diversity problem has a lot to do with the high cost of entry into Winter Sports.

Illustrations of winter sports equipment.
This story was published on our Need to Know: Beijing Olympics newsletter, An informative, entertaining email about a controversial Winter Games.
  • Susan Howson
By Susan Howson

News Editor


Hi Olympic fans!

It’s been an emotional couple of days with scandals, redemptions, and the passing of the baton—or whatever the winter sports equivalent is of a baton—from one generation to the next. Unless you’re Lindsey Jacobellis, in which case you snatch that winter baton equivalent right back. Let’s get into it.

Here’s what you need to know

  • 15-year-old figure skater Kamila Valieva helped ROC to gold, then results of a failed drug test came to light. The IOC won’t award the medals until the situation is resolved.
  • US athletes Lindsey Jacobellis and Nathan Chen won gold after past Olympic disappointments, and Mikaela Shiffrin, who had struggled earlier in the week, finished ninth in the Super-G. What can the rest of us learn from their recoveries?
  • Legendary US snowboarder Shaun White ended his Olympic career with a fourth place finish and was thrilled to pass along his place at the top to his younger competitors—namely Ayumu Hirano, who landed a triple cork and will take the gold home to Japan.
  • One of the new coed team sports—mixed snowboard crosshits the slopes on Saturday. Italy is favored to win, but if the US team consisting of Lindsey Jacobellis and Mark Baumgartner medal, the former will have to give up her just-won title of oldest medaling snowboarder to the latter (40).
  • Also up this weekend, medal events in curling, biathlon, ski jumping, skeleton, speed skating, cross-country skiing, and Alpine skiing. And hockey’s heating up.
  • Sunday’s Olympic events will be sandwiched between Super Bowl LVI and the English Premier League on various NBCUniversal channels—just think of the ad revenue!
  • Bing Dwen Dwen has the voice of a middle-aged man.

Room at the top

US speed skater Erin Jackson during training, wearing the US uniform and sunglasses, with her hands behind her back.
Image copyright: Reuters/Susana Vera

Erin Jackson is the world’s top-ranked woman in 500-meter speed-skating. But when she slipped on the ice during the Olympic trials in Milwaukee in January, finishing third, Jackson seemed to have missed her shot at representing the US in Beijing.

Then, in a remarkable gesture, her teammate Brittany Bowe, who’d finished first, gave up her spot so that Jackson would qualify. “It’s just the spirit of the Olympics and being a great teammate,” Bowe told NBC, adding that Jackson represents the team’s best chance at bringing home a medal in the 500-meter event.

Bowe was still set to go to Beijing regardless, having qualified in the 1,000-meter and 1,500-meter events (she finished 10th in the latter). But call it luck, or good karma, Bowe will actually be alongside Jackson in the 500-meter event after all, thanks to some quota changes.

The story underscores the broader trend of elite athletes deemphasizing the win-at-all-costs mentality long associated with sports. Last summer, Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka each made headlines for choosing their mental health over competition, while two athletes in the men’s high-jumping event at the Tokyo Olympics decided to share the gold medal rather than break a tie. Sometimes success still looks like one person standing at the top of a podium. But athletes are increasingly demonstrating the rewards that come with making room for others.

In the US, watch Jackson and Bowe in the women’s 500-meter speed-skating event on Feb. 13 at 8am ET on NBC.

Flashing that ice

Erin Jackson is one of just a handful of Black athletes in the 226-person US delegation. The Winter Olympics has long had a diversity problem, which can be chalked up to a number of factors, including the snowball effect of winter sports associations failing to do outreach, causing younger generations to stick to the sports where they see more athletes who look like them. But winter sports are also expensive to get into, much less pursue at the Olympic level.

We broke down the cost of entry for each sport.

A bar chart showing the Winter Olympic sports an ascending order of costliness of entry. Figure skating is at the top of the least, so least expensive, and bobsleigh or bobsled is at the bottom, along with Alpine and Nordic combined skiing.

Figure skating, while the cheapest, still costs hundreds to even begin learning. And sports like skeleton, luge, ski jumping, and bobsleigh require tracks that are often only found in former Olympic host cities. In the US, that means Park City, Utah or Lake Placid, New York, which in turn means a lot of expensive travel.

❄️At any rate, this email is free, so all your Olympic fan friends have a low barrier to entry. Here’s where they need to go to sign up.

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