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Winter sports

A freestyle skier performs aerial skiing.A freestyle skier performs aerial skiing. Winter sports take place on snow or ice. Once only possible in winter, they can now be practised all year in any climate on artificial surfaces. Major individual sports include skiing, skating and snowboarding, while team sports include ice hockey, curling and bobsleigh. Each sport has its own events, but the major winter sports tournament is the Winter Olympics, begun in 1924 and now held every four years on a separate cycle to the Summer Olympics.

Speed skatingSpeed skating

Ice skating 

Ice skating includes three sports: speed skating, figure skating and ice dancing. All of them use skates: shoes with metal blades on the bottom to slide along ice. The first skating competition was in 1676. 

Speed skaters race round an oval track for distances between 500 metres (1640 feet) and 5000 metres (16,400 feet) for women and up to 10,000 metres (32,800 feet) for men. Speed skating was part of the Winter Olympics from the beginning, in 1924. 

The oldest skate, dated to around 3000 BC, was found at the bottom of a lake in Switzerland. The oldest ski, found in a Swedish peat bog, dates back to at least 2500 BC.

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