Continuing up the list– now we’re into the realm of events I still can’t imagine myself doing, but at least I don’t picture them as pure torture– there’s maybe one thing intriguing about the idea of participating in them.
I’ve enjoyed watching the judo competition, particularly the amazing dominance of American gold medalist Kayla Harrison in her weight class. But the thought of being caught in one of her game-clinching pins makes me cringe. Those big fuzzy blue and white robes the judoka wear in the competition look really comfortable, though, so I had to move judo up the list a few notches just for that.
29. Track events
I admit I’m being pretty arbitrary about whether I keep events separate or lump them together into one huge category. I’m doing the latter here because there are so just many different short- and medium-distance running events at the Olympics. Each length requires its own set of talents and training to master, though, from sprints to endurance running. My cousin Rachel really enjoys running track– she outruns her opponents in a way that looks effortless, but I’m sure it’s taken a lot of practice.
There was a track behind the high school in Danville where I lived when I was growing up– my brothers and I used to take our bikes there to ride around. I remember being fascinated by all of the markings on the track– how the starting lines are staggered so that every lane will finish at the same place even though the distance around the curve is longer for the outer lanes, and also all of the markings for placing the hurdles. There were sometimes hurdles at the track, too– they seemed enormous to me.
The relay is exciting to watch– so much depends on being able to pass the baton smoothly from one runner to another. As for the steeplechase (jumping over hurdles into small pools of water), I like watching it just because it’s so different, but it still doesn’t rank very high on my list of things I’d like to try.
28. Field hockey
Most countries just call this sport “hockey,” but in the U.S. and Canada, we need to distinguish it from the version played on ice. Instead of a black puck on white ice, it’s a white ball on dark blue artificial turf. The ends of the hockey sticks are shorter and curled rather than straight. It doesn’t require the ability to stay upright on ice skates, and there are not as many violent collisions (or fights) as you would see in the NHL, but those issues aside, I think it would be harder to make contact with a round ball than a flat puck.
The field has a lot more open space, and it doesn’t have boards like a hockey rink, so if you miss a pass, the ball will bounce out of bounds rather than giving you a second chance at a rebound. I’m impressed at the amount of coordination it takes for field hockey players to receive and make passes while they are on the run.
27. Synchronized swimming
This has only ever been a women’s event at the Olympics.
I read an interesting article about how some synchronized swimming competitions have begun to include mixed pairs events (a man and a woman). The question is whether it even makes sense to include mixed pairs when the main point of the sport is for the team members to move identically. It seemed to suggest that mixed pair synchronized swimming could be a bit more like ice dancing, where the pair complement each other rather than mirroring each other. But would that be a completely different sport?
Either way, it’s never a sport I’ve imagined myself competing in. I know it takes a lot of skill and strength to keep your legs out of the water while swimming upside-down, but it also looks a bit silly to me.
Or football, as most countries call it. I played soccer in gym class several times, but I was always a defender watching the action at the other end and wondering what I would do if the ball came my way. Once, I headed the ball, but not on purpose. : ) As Mr. Spock would say, “I am not sure that qualifies” as playing soccer.
I’m amazed at the amount of running all the players have to do during the course of a 90-minute match. It has to be exhausting.
I do at least know how to dribble and kick the ball, though– most of my experience with that comes from playing keepaway with my dogs in the backyard.
I may be ranking this too high. I admit that know almost nothing about taekwondo, except that the competitors wear more protective gear than they do in the other fighting sports. Which is a good thing, because the goal is to kick your opponent in the head or chest. But if I had to choose one of the “fighting” sports, it would be the one in which I can wear a lot of protective gear and try to hit the opponent from a distance.
24. Indoor Volleyball
I played volleyball in gym class too. Man, was I bad at it! It’s another sport that doesn’t work very well if you aren’t tall. We usually had at least a dozen players on a team, and we took turns serving. It took me a lot of tries before I worked out how to serve the ball properly, and I never worked out how to play the ball if it came my way, because there were always at least three taller, more coordinated people surrounding me.
Handball is basically Bizarro soccer (football). In soccer, you aren’t allowed to touch the ball with your hands, and you try to kick the ball into the goal. In handball, you only play the ball with your hands, and you try to throw the ball into the goal. It’s an interesting sport to watch. All shots must be attempted without setting foot inside a line that marks 6 meters from the goal, so players will often shoot the ball as they jump into the zone. This can lead to a lot of crowding like in basketball and even midair collisions, which is the biggest reason I don’t picture myself doing very well at handball.
I have conflicting feelings about diving. When I was a kid swimming at our local pool, it took me a lot of tries to work up the courage to jump off the diving board for the first time. But once I had done it, I wanted to try again right away! In my swimming lessons, I eventually learned to dive, first from the side of the pool, and then from the board, and although it took a while to get used to it, I enjoyed it. I know I eventually managed to jump from a high diving board– I don’t remember if I ever dove from it. I certainly didn’t try to do any twists or flips. But I can see how I could work my way up to gradually doing more and more complex things.
But I also shudder a bit every time I watch diving. During the first Olympics I can clearly remember watching, the 1988 Seoul Olympics, I saw American diver Greg Louganis miscalculate his jump on a difficult dive and hit his head on the diving board. Everyone reacted in horror. He could have broken his neck. Amazingly, even though he suffered a concussion, days later he performed the same dive successfully to win a gold medal. With diving there is always a chance– even if it is a slight chance– that a dive may go badly. It won’t if you know what you are doing and perform it correctly. But if you try the same thing hundreds or thousands of times, even if you are excellent at it, it becomes more likely that you will make a mistake, and with diving, it only takes one mistake.
That said, I’m intrigued by how diving both tests and builds confidence. The first time I made a successful dive from the side of the pool, it felt great to have faced my fear and conquered it. Something that I had dreaded, I now feared a little less. And eventually, I even enjoyed it. Still, I imagine my parents are probably glad I didn’t become a diver. ; )
Rugby was added as an Olympic event for the first time ever at the 2016 Rio Olympics. (Well, there was rugby in the Olympics almost a century ago, but that was a different version of the game.)
If you’re familiar with American football like I am, maybe you’ve seen the kind of play that football teams try to pull off when they don’t have any time left– they keep pitching the ball back to their teammates just before they are tackled. In rugby, every play is like that. It also explains why a scoring play is called a “touchdown,” because you literally have to touch the ground with the ball in the end zone in order to score.
We actually played a little bit of rugby in gym class at my school. The amusing thing is that apparently we were not allowed to play American football because it is too rough, but we played rugby, which is even rougher. I didn’t really participate much.
I’m probably ranking this way too high– I know I would never last an entire game of rugby in real life, but I’ve enjoyed watching the sport so much that it would almost be worth it. (Almost.)
Mostly, I’d like to be the guy who gets boosted way up in the air to catch the ball and lateral it to a teammate.
To be continued…