Not Quite Medal-Worthy: 7 Winter Demonstration Sports


Through the 1992 games, most Olympics would feature a few demonstration sports, with no medals up for grabs. Many of these, like speed skating, short track speed skating, freestyle skiing, and curling, eventually landed on the official program for later Olympics. What about the sports that didn't quite make the cut, though? Let's take a look at some of the winter events that fell a bit short.

1. Skijoring

Have you ever stood on a skateboard and had your dog pull you along? Replace the pooch with a horse and the skateboard with cross-country skis and you've got skijoring. The equestrian version, which is still practiced around the world, was a demonstration event at the 1928 Olympics in St. Moritz but never made it to the official program. [Photo credit: Canada's Guide to Dogs.]

2. Military Patrol

Skijoring wasn't the only up-and-comer at the 1928 Games.

Military patrol was a biathlon precursor that involved teams of four soldiers who skied across a 30 km course with an 1100 m elevation gain. Like biathlon, they also shot along the way, but unlike biathlon the competitors had to wear heavy military backpacks on the course. The Norwegian team dominated the event and won by a nearly four-minute margin in 1928, and although the event was a demonstration sport again in 1936 and 1948, it never made the official program.

3. Winter Pentathlon

Think of this event as a cold-weather modern pentathlon. The 1948 Games in St. Moritz featured a pentathlon that consisted of shooting, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, horseback riding, and fencing. Sweden really could have padded its medal count had this been an official event; the top three finishers were all Swedish soldiers.

Although the event never appeared again, it turned out to be a hotbed of future Olympians. Second-place finisher William Grut went on to win the gold in modern pentathlon at that summer's London Olympics. Sixth-place British finisher Derek Allhusen later won gold and silver medals in equestrian twenty years later at the 1968 Mexico City Games—when he was 54 years old.

4. Sled Dog Racing

The 1932 Lake Placid Games were the only Winter Olympics to feature a sled dog race. Twelve competitors—including an American woman who raced under the name Mrs. Milton Seeley—ran a 25.1-mile course twice for the event. The race had plenty of star power, too. Legendary Canadian musher Emile St. Godard beat out his American rival Leonhard Seppala to win the event, while Norman D. Vaughan, an American musher who had been a part of Admiral Richard Byrd's 1928-32 expedition to Antarctica, finished 11th.

5. Bandy

The 1952 Oslo Games featured the first-ever international tournament in bandy, a hockey-like game that is played on a larger field of ice with a ball. The game is big in Russia and Scandinavia, so it makes sense that the only three countries that turned out teams for the event were Sweden, Norway, and Finland. The Swedish team emerged from the small tournament with a victory.

6. Ice Stock Sport

The 1936 and 1976 Winter Games featured demonstrations of ice stock sport, a competition that's also known as "Bavarian curling." As the name implies, ice stock sport is similar to curling. Players slide a disc-like stock that's outfitted with a vertical handle across the ice. Depending on the event, they either compete to see how far they can slide the stock or who can do the best job of sliding the stock at a target.

7. Disabled Skiing

During the 1980s, the IOC cleverly used demonstration sports to help get exposure for a variety of Paralympic events. The 1984 Games featured an alpine giant slalom race for disabled male athletes in four categories: single-leg amputees, above-knee amputees, single-arm amputees, and double-arm amputees.

The inspiring events were well received, so the 1988 Calgary Games featured more disabled skiing, including men's and women's modified giant slalom for above-the-knee amputees and a 5 km cross-country ski race for blind competitors. The American women swept the modified giant slalom event.