10 Past and Present Olympic Sports You Didn't Know Existed
4 min read
Turns out watching some of the fastest walkers in the world can be strangely hypnotising!
The fast and furious sport of BMX makes only its second Olympic appearance at the London 2012 Games.
BMX (Bicycle Motocross) began to take off in the late 1960s in California, around the time that motocross became popular in the US. The motorised sport was the inspiration for the pedal-powered version – a breathtaking spectacle that’s since become popular all over the world.
Team handball was introduced as an Olympic sport for men at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, but dropped after that, only to be resumed at the 1972 Summer Olympics, again on German territory. Women's team handball competition was introduced at the 1976 Summer Olympics. So handball is new to most of us, both on and off the court. But its arrival at the Games has certainly been greeted with enthusiasm. There wasn’t an empty seat in the 7,000-capacity Copper Box arena and people are starting to wonder why they haven’t seen much of the sport before.
As I understand it, the rules are as follows. People run up and down a five-a-side court, throw a medium-sized ball from side to side across the semi-circular penalty area for a while like a hot potato, and then fling it into a small goal with great force.Rhythmic Gymnastics
Rhythmic gymnastics involves team competitions where you can opt for a hoop, ball, clubs or rope, or ribbon. Think of it as synchronised swimming, but with juggling added...
Table tennis competition has been in the Summer Olympic Games since 1988, with singles and doubles events for both men and women.Athletes from China have dominated the sport, winning a total of 41 medals in 24 events, including 20 gold medals.
Solo Synchronised Swimming
Unsurprisingly, this seemingly contradictory sport earned little respect when it made its initial splash at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Despite the absurdity of staying in sync with yourself – though the event’s supporters claim that the synchronization is with the music — the event reappeared at the Seoul Games four years later and again at Barcelona in 1992. From there on out, the solo synchronized swim competition was folded into a team event and the sport has since risen in prominence, though men haven’t been allowed to compete in either Olympic discipline.
Maybe the oddest year for the Olympics was 1900 when the games were held in Paris. They coincided with Paris' hosting of the World's Fair.
A trial event that year that (surprisingly) didn't make it to 1904 was firefighting. According to How Stuff Works, there wasn't much documentation of the event, but buildings in Paris were set ablaze and medals were awarded to the firefighters who extinguished the flames the fastest.
Long Jump for Horses
While the long jump event has tested the athletic prowess of track and field stars from around the world, back in the Paris Games of 1900, horses were given the chance to show off how far they could leap. As part of the equestrian events, horse long jump only had one Olympics to make its mark and it failed to do so spectacularly. No one could accuse equestrian horses of not being athletic, yet the winning leap, from Belgium’s Constant van Langendonck atop the horse Extra Dry, measured only 6.10 meters. Not too shabby, until you consider the world record for long jump, by a human, is 8.95 meters.
Also in 1900, a man named Avril Lafoule was awarded the gold medal in the poodle-clipping event, also a trial competition. He was able to trim 17 dogs in 2 hours, more than any of his 127 competitors and in front of a crowd numbered 6,000.
The bane of physical education classes everywhere, the rope climb was actually an official event in the earliest modern Olympics–Athens, 1896. While competitors were originally judged on both speed and style, Olympian rope climbers competing in the 20th century merely had to race to the top. Arguably the most impressive win in the history of the event – which was taken off the program after the Los Angeles Olympics of 1932 – took place in St. Louis 1904, when U.S. gymnast George Eyser won gold despite having a wooden leg.