It is the rare and probably Canadian person who grew up near a luge track or a curling sheet. Though they become temporarily high profile when the Winter Olympics roll around, many winter sports are practiced only in very specific places by very specialized athletes. That makes fully appreciating the achievements that will be showcased at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, far more difficult than, say, understanding how exceptional Hussain Bolt is on the track. In order to gauge a competitor's mastery of a sport, it helps to have tried your hand at it.
But you can't just nip out to the local ski jump. If you want to try Winter Olympics sports, you'll have to either visit the few facilities around the country that offer tutorials for beginners or fly to Sochi and try to sneak into the Olympic Park. And we don't recommend the latter. Not surprisingly, it's probably easier to get to one of the following places to take part in the Winter Olympic sports you've never tried.
Pull on your razor-shaped, 18-inch-long blades at the Utah Olympic Oval, located 20 minutes from Salt Lake City in Kearns, Utah. The Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation holds Learn to Speed Skate programs after the national team's high-performance sessions. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday classes last about an hour and are led by Olympic gold medalist Derek Parra and his coaching staff. Ideally, participants should have some comfort on ice skates, but runners looking for a new way to train during winter often participate. "It uses a lot of the same muscles," says Ryan Shimabukuro, one of the head coaches of the U.S. national speedskating team. "The athletes on TV spend a lifetime making speedskating look easy, but it's incredibly demanding on the body. After a race, they can't even stand. If you come into this sport out of shape, it's going to be a painful, eye-opening experience."
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