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News Navigator: What new events at there at the 2018 Winter Olympics?

Miho Takagi, right, competes in a mass start speed skating race at the national single distance championships in Nagano on Oct. 22, 2017. (Mainichi)

The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers might have about new events at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics given that there are now less than 100 days until the start of the event in February 2018.

    Question: What are the new events at the 2018 Winter Olympics?

    Answer: There will be six new events in total: mass start speed skating (men's and women's), big air snowboarding (men's and women's), mixed team alpine skiing, and mixed doubles curling. As for Japan's medal hopes in these new events, the country can expect to earn medals in mass start speed skating and big air snowboarding.

    Q: What kind of event is mass start speed skating?

    A: Unlike regular speed skating, which typically consists of two skaters racing around a 400-meter rink and also against the clock, mass start consists of a 16-lap race in which all the skaters start together. Points are picked up every four laps according to position, and these points are added to the points received according to their finishing place. Mass start is essentially an individual event, but there is a team element as well. For example, at the World Single Distance Championships in February, 23-year-old Miho Takagi acted as a pacemaker for her older sister Nana, 25 -- after which Nana went onto claim the silver medal following a determined push in the final lap.

    Q: What about big air snowboarding?

    A: In big air snowboarding, competitors fly off a steep slope that resembles a ski jump, and are judged on the brilliance of their turns in midair. The event is particularly popular among young people, as the sight of athletes flying off a slope at angles up to 40 degrees is distinctively "impressive." At last season's World Cup, 19-year-old Miyabi Onitsuka came third in the event.

    Q: How is mixed doubles curling played?

    A: In mixed doubles curling, men and women compete together in pairs over a total of eight ends (a normal frame is 10 ends). The lengths of the games are relatively brief, and the number of times the stones are thrown is lower than usual. Japanese curling veteran Ayumi Ogasawara, 38, who has appeared in three Winter Olympics, was hoping to appear at Pyeongchang for the mixed doubles event but missed out on qualification this time. The International Olympic Committee is positively incorporating mixed events into the schedule for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in the hope of retaining interest in the global sports extravaganza. (Answers by Shun Iwakabe, the Sports News Department)

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