Winter Olympic Sports: One Size Doesn't Fit All

PHOTO: Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States compete in the Team Ice Dance Free Dance

Training, grit, superb technique. It takes a lot to become an Olympic champion.

Starting out with the innate body type for your sport certainly helps, said Tim Hewett, director of Ohio State University's Sports Health and Performance Institute. So, from small to tall, from light to beefy, check out what Hewett describes as the ideal body type for each of these Winter Olympic sports.

Related: Meet Hottest Athletes of Sochi Olympics

Figure skating

This sport favors shorter, lighter athletes with slightly shorter limbs. Hewett said this body type is best for overall body control and faster spins. Skating athletes also need stronger lower bodies to jump high. But too much bulk and they can't propel themselves into the air. The average American female figure skater, for example, is a petite 5'3" and 108 pounds.

Short track speed skating

These athletes can range from very tall to very short. They're bulk is centered in their legs, which is ideal for generating maximum power and navigating tight turns, Hewett said. Longer distance skaters tend to be slightly taller than the sprinters. The average size in men's speed skating is 5'9" and 161 pounds but there are six inches and 53 pounds separating the smallest and biggest athlete on the team.

PHOTO: Netherlands Michel Mulder celebrates after the Mens Speed Skating 500m.
Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images
Netherlands' Michel Mulder celebrates after the Men's Speed Skating 500 m at the Adler Arena during the Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 10, 2014.

Freestyle skiing

Downhill skiers are best off being about average height with a lot more bulk than say, a figure skater. Shorter, muscular limbs are a bonus because they help absorb the bumps. Plus the lower center of gravity makes it easier to stay upright. The average American female freestyler is 5'5" and 134 pounds. The average male is 5'11" and 171 pounds.

PHOTO: Swedens Per Spett competes in the Mens Freestyle Skiing Moguls finals
Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images
Sweden's Per Spett competes in the Men's Freestyle Skiing Moguls finals at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park during the Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 10, 2014.


Snowboarders are medium-to-short in stature and on the lighter side, with strong and muscular middle and lower bodies. Shaun White, for example is 5'8" and weighs about 139 pounds.

Related: A Look Back at Past Olympics

PHOTO: Shaun White practices the Snowboard Halfpipe at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park
Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images
Shaun White takes part in a Men's Snowboard Halfpipe training session at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park during the Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 9, 2014.

Nordic, Cross Country Ski and Biathlon

To excel at Nordic and cross country skiing events it's good to be tall but not too tall, and lean but not too lean. Think muscular runner versus beefy body builder. A thinner body is better for endurance but skiers still need enough of that muscular engine to push them along, Hewett said. The average American woman on this team is 5'5" and 128 pounds. The average man is 5'9" and 170 pounds.

PHOTO: Kikkan Randall of the United States trains ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics
Harry How/Getty Images
Kikkan Randall of the United States trains ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center in Sochi, Russia, Feb. 7, 2014.


There's a lot of bending over during a curling match, so height can be a disadvantage. However, though many curlers are of average height, there's a fairly wide spread among the Olympic competitors. Curlers want to be muscular but not bulky. Upper body mass is especially helpful for pushing the broom. Average size on the American curling team: 5'6" and 144 pounds for women and 5'10" and 182 pounds for men.

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