At STACK, we've been glued to the tube throughout the Olympics. Like most viewers, we love the big prime-time sports like basketball, soccer, gymnastics, volleyball and swimming. But we've also really enjoyed some of the more obscure events. Have you ever taken a look at the competition list for London's 2012 Games? It's nuts. Here are a few of our favorite "wacky events" at the Summer Olympics.
5. Rhythmic Gymnastics
It's hard to take seriously a sport in which dancers prance around with ribbons and hula hoops. But before you dismiss rhythmic gymnastics, take a look at some of the crazy skills the athletes perform. Individual competitors perform short routines to music using a hula hoop, ball, clubs and a ribbon. In the "groups" competition, athletes perform two routines: one with five balls and one with three ribbons and two hula hoops. The athletes are judged on difficulty, artistry and execution.
Who knew that all those hours spent jumping on the trampoline when we were kids could have taken us to the Olympics? Trampoline made its debut at the 2000 Games in Sydney. It requires gymnasts to perform a series of 10 skill routines, all including some combination of single, double and triple somersaults and twists. Judges award marks for difficulty, execution and time of flight, so to succeed, athletes must maintain precise technique and perfect body control.
During the London 2012 Games, nearly 400 competitors are shooting for gold across 15 events in three disciplines: rifle, pistol and shotgun. For rifle and pistol, competitors aim at a 10-ring target from distances of 10m, 25m or 50m. Depending on the event, athletes must shoot from standing, kneeling or prone positions. Our favorite is skeet shooting, in which competitors fire at moving clay targets launched above and in front of them. Check out our video of skeet shooting gold medalist Vincent Hancock.
2. Canoe Slalom
White water rafting by itself is dangerous enough, so the idea of adding more obstacles seems crazy. The Canoe Slalom competitions consist of timed runs down a white water course with up to 25 gates. Red gates must be negotiated upstream, green gates downstream. Competitors cannot touch the gates. Even grazing one adds a two-second penalty to the run. Missing a gate crushes the athlete with a 50-second penalty. The Slalom includes events for both canoes and kayaks. In Canoe Single and Canoe Double events, athletes sit on their knees and use single-bladed paddles. Ouch. In the Kayak event, competitors get to sit and use two-bladed paddles.
1. Modern Pentathlon
The STACK office has been buzzing about the Modern Pentathlon ever since we learned about it. It's straight out of the Middle Ages, but based on a 19th Century legend about a young French cavalry officer who was sent on horseback to deliver a message. To complete his mission, he had to ride, fence, shoot, swim and run. Today's Modern Pentathlon athletes face the same challenges. In the first event, they must fence every other athlete in the competition. Next up is a 200m freestyle swim and a 12-jump horse-riding course. The event wraps up with a 3K run that includes shooting.
Let us know if you've found a new favorite obscure sport during these Olympics. If you haven't found one yet, join us by marveling at the Modern Pentathlon next Saturday and Sunday. You won't be disappointed.
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