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30 Sports We Only Talk About During the Olympics

Modern Pentathlon

The modern pentathlon is a doozie of an event. It’s an individual competition where each player must excel in five different events including fencing, swimming, running, show jumping, and shooting. So, athletes that participate in the modern pentathlon have their work cut out for them because they have to be good at all five sporting events, and it isn’t like they cross over much. A good runner may not necessarily be an excellent marksman.

Why so much? Well, this event traces back to the original Olympics. All of these skills were necessary for someone to be the ideal Greek soldier. Riding on horseback, running, swimming, sword fighting, and aiming were all essential for battle. There have been many attempts to remove it, which makes total sense. Even if it’s super fun for us to watch, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone chatting about a pentathlon outside of the Olympics.

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Badminton

Some people may play badminton occasionally, but that doesn’t mean it’s a sport that’s on everyone’s “to watch” list. Badminton is one of those Olympic games you’ll watch if it’s on, and if someone is talking about it, they’re talking about the 2012 scandal. During the Olympics, eight players were trying to fix the game so they could play against easier teams in the finals. It was discussed then, but not so much now.

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Canoe Slalom

Be honest – do you know what canoe slalom is? I didn’t until I started watching the Olympics. Canoeing slalom is extremely similar to canoe sprint, with the exception that the athlete must traverse white rapids. Paddlers must navigate up or downstream through gates without touching the gate, missing the gate, or losing control of their canoe. 

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Biathlon

A biathlon is a winter event that combines cross-country skiing with another classic event. Can you guess which? If you said rifle shooting, you’re right. I wouldn’t have guessed rifle shooting, and I’m not entirely sure it should count as a winter sport. After the cross-country skiing event, participants must shoot a target that’s 50 meters away using a bolt-action rifle. 

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Canoe Sprint

The canoe sprint is a sporting event where athletes race canoes or kayaks on calm water. Unlike the canoe slalom, there aren’t goals to race through. Instead, participants race up to four opponents to the finish line. May the fastest paddler win.

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Bobsleigh

Bobsleighing always looks fun, but we immediately forget it exists when it’s not the Winter Olympics. In this sport, two to four teammates dash the finish as fast as they can down a narrow, twisting track. Due to the speeds, bobsleigh has to be one of the least safe sports during the Games.

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Handball

Handball is precisely what it sounds like. It’s a sporting event where two teams attempt to score as many goals as they can. It’s like soccer (or football for Europeans), but teams use their hands instead of their feet. It’s also a little like basketball since the player that holds the ball has to dribble the ball every three steps or every three seconds.

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Figure Skating

There’s no doubt that figure skating is one of the most popular events at the Olympics. We all love to see amazing skaters performing tricks and dancing to music, but it’s practically forgotten every other year. It makes the figure skating event extra special.

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Luge

Luge is a sport where one or two team members squeeze onto a tiny sled with their legs hanging off the end. Unlike bobsleigh, there’s no protection if they go off track. They hurtle down an icy track while steering their way to the end. If bobsleigh isn’t the most dangerous sport, luge definitely is. 

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Beach Volleyball

Beach volleyball isn’t a topic of discussion unless you’re in a sorority in Florida or watching the Olympics. Outside of the Olympics, it’s not taken very seriously, so most people forget about it entirely until they’re walking down the boardwalk and see a group hitting a ball around.

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Skeleton

Was luge not dangerous enough for you? What if it was one person on a tiny sled, sliding headfirst down an icy track? I just described the sport of skeleton. The name comes from the type of sled that’s used. Thankfully, skeleton riders don’t go nearly as fast as those in luge.

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Diving

Most people don't search the TV for competitive diving. That being said, it's one of the biggest events of the Olympics. Some of the flips and tricks during the Olympics are amazing, but we don’t seek it out on television any other time of the year.

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Curling

While I’m sure someone plays curling outside of the Olympics, it’d be hard to find them. Curling is the sport where players slide stones on a sheet of ice toward a target. The closer to the center they get, the more points they score. It’s like a large, winter shuffleboard.

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Rhythmic Gymnastics

Rhythmic gymnastics is one of the most enjoyable sports to watch during the Olympics. The participants are incredibly graceful and can move in ways we can only dream about. Once the Olympics are over, we completely forget that the event exists, though.

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Synchronized Swimming

Synchronized swimming is another major event during the Olympics, whether you’re fascinated at the coordination or laughing at the way everyone looks. There’s no doubt it makes the funniest pictures from the Olympics, but we only get to see these faces every four years.

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Rowing

Rowing is somewhat a sport at some colleges, but it’s mainly an Olympic sport. It takes a lot of upper body strength and coordination to participate on a rowing team, primarily since they can row up to 14 miles per hour.

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Sailing

Outside of the Olympics, sailing is something people do for leisure. When someone says they’re going sailing, most people picture open waters and lots of sun tanning. In the Olympics, sailing means racing against contestants on either a sailboat or a windsurfer.

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Trampoline

Many of us own a trampoline at home, but it’s only a sport during the Olympics. During this time, athletes perform flips and tricks that you pray your kids don’t try at home. Let’s also hope they can’t jump as high as Dong Dong, the 2012 gold medal winner of the trampoline event.

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Hurdles

Unless you’re in track and field, chances are, you don’t watch competitive hurdles outside of the Olympics. This is the sporting event where athletes race against each other while jumping over obstacles to reach the finish line.

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Discus

Discus is another track and field event that carried over from the Greek Olympics. Other than the Olympics, no one talks about the discus throw. Fun fact, there are championships every two years. Last year, American Mason Finley won third place. 

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Hammer Throw

Hammer throw is a little bit of a misnomer for those that aren’t in the know or don’t watch the sport during the Olympics. The “hammer” used in this event is a metal ball attached by a steel wire to a grip. Basically, the goal is to throw it as far as you can.

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Equestrian Dressage

Personally, equestrian dressage doesn’t seem like a sporting event at all, so it makes sense no one talks about it outside of the Olympics. In this competition, discipline is key. It’s all about showing how well the rider has trained their horse. It dates back two thousand years ago when having complete control over your horse meant life or death.

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Fencing

Fencing is fun to watch, but no one gets together with their buddies to watch a fencing competition at their local bar or pizza joint. During the Olympics, it’s all the buzz, especially since it’s part of the modern pentathlon.

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Water Polo

Water polo is a great way to get wrinkly fingers. In this sport, teams play water rugby – that is to say that two teams attempt to throw a ball into the other team’s goal. It may look like water soccer, but it’s a full-contact sport that could result in injuries.

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Swimming

No one cares about swimming until the Olympics. Maybe we can thank Michael Phelps for making this sport all the rage, but people don’t pay attention outside of the Games. Although, you may notice someone swimming laps at your local gym.

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Javelin Throw

Being able to throw a javelin is an impressive talent, but not an important one nowadays. Javelin throw is one of the ancient Greek skills needed for soldiers. It was pretty significant being able to take out your opponent from a distance. Outside of the Olympics, javelin throw isn’t a huge topic of discussion.

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Pole Vault

Pole vaulting or pole jumping was practiced in several parts of the ancient world, but not a whole lot today. Sometimes, it’s a sporting event at schools that have track and field, but most people only hear about it during the Olympics.

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Race Walk

In this case, I may be stretching the truth a little. Race walking is something many sitcoms have made fun of – Malcolm in the Middle, for example. However, it’s a real sporting event during the Olympics. Do we even remember this event during the Olympics?

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Shot Put

Shot put is one of the other track and field events that involve throwing something extremely heavy as far as you can. The sporting event is mentioned as far back as the Siege of Troy, but Olympians aren’t trying to take down Troy these days when they toss the dead weights 75 feet.

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Speed Skating

Speed skating comes in two forms at the Olympics – regular and short track. Neither event is a particularly uproarious sport that we talk about when the Games aren’t on television. The concept is simple: get to the other side of the track as fast as you can.

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