Olympic Preview – Sports we don’t understand but still love

So the Olympic Games are around the corner, and despite already meeting its scandal quota before the opening ceremony, Rio2016 will hopefully still be a fun event.

Arguably the best thing about the Olympic Games is being exposed to sports we have no knowledge of, watch only once every four years, or simply don’t care about in any real way… and still being interested in how the drama unfolds.

After all, everyone on Earth watches the 100m Sprint Finals. The floor gymnastics, basketball, soccer and swimming have no problems drawing our attention. And for some bizarre reason women’s beach volleyball is intensely popular.

Made all the more bizarre by the fact that Val Kilmer isn't even involved...

Made all the more bizarre by the fact that Val Kilmer isn’t even involved…

But what about the less-well-known Olympic events that still have us glued to the TV?


Wow, these athletes are amazing. I mean, even if I had 4 – no, make it 8 – solid years of training for the rings in gymnastics, I’m pretty sure come the Olympics I’d probably be doing well to hold myself upright for 10 consecutive seconds.

Never mind the actual skill and strength of doing air handstands, then continuously somersaulting before coming to a complete standstill by holding a perfect plank, then an upside-down plank, before dismounting perfectly. Oh yeah and then afterwards I have to somehow manage to actually LIFT my arms to salute to the adoring, cheering crowd*?

I mean…. COME ON…

Yeah, that ain’t gonna happen.

*note: crowd may not be adoring but rather seen hurling rotted fruit in disgust


During World War 2, trampolines were used to train pilots and navigators, to help them develop their uncanny spatial awareness. Afterwards trampolines were also used in NASA’s space program, which is awesome because it means dudes with PhDs in astrophysics and Masters in Engineering had to go to work for a day of intense trampolining.

Olympic trampolining? I have zero clue about how it’s graded but when they twirl and flip through the air….there’s something so majestic and enchanting about it. It’s indescribable.

There’s also not a large margin for error, it’s either stick a spectacular landing or they face plant gloriously in front of the whole world. High stakes.

In Olympics to come, I just hope they add a ‘Highest Double Bounce’ event, and possibly a ‘Crack the Egg’ contest.

The Pole Vault

There is something childishly joyous about the Pole Vault, and it is intoxicating.

The Pole Vault involves people who have, for some reason, dedicated their entire lives to running very fast while holding a giant pole.

Then they use the terrifying flex of that pole to launch themselves skyward and over a precariously-balanced horizontal bar that has the temperament of a teenager.

Ugh. Yeah. I guess you didn’t knock me over. Fine. *eye roll*

Hey. You knocked me. Should I fall? Nah it’s cool. I’m just bouncing in place. Don’t stress, I won’t fall. Ha! PSYCHE I’m totally falling! LOLZ!

There are few sights at the Olympics more captivating than a Pole Vaulter who has just moved into Gold Medal place. They are like puppies who have just realised they can jump the fence into the neighbour’s backyard. They run left, then right, then left, then they look to find their coach but then they’re not sure where to go but they keep looking back at that horizontal bar to make sure it’s not a dream.

It’s brilliant. I find myself wanting everyone to succeed. I want every Pole Vaulter to set a new record, reach new heights. I want them all to win.

Table tennis

With hand-eye coordination off the charts, table tennis is a sport only for those with the reflexes of a cat, and the speed of a mongoose.

So much skill and grace. My eyes can’t even follow the ball most of the time. Some points are over in a second, others reach that joyous level of back-and-forth where it seems like both players are pranking the crowd by keeping the point running as long as possible with as many angled shots, slices and smashes as possible.

And possibly the best part about table tennis is the moments the ball grazes the table and falls… it is agony and ecstasy in a single moment, with the loser throwing their eyes skyward as if to ask what they did to their deity to deserve such injustice while their opponent channels Denzel Washington’s acting skills in “apologising” for something they’re actually thrilled about.


Now here is a sport we can all enjoy. Why? Well, watch it for 5 seconds and try not to let the thought cross your mind: “I could totally play this! And better yet, I don’t even need 4 years to train – these guys are just tossing a ball around – my 3 year old can do that!!”

The sheer simplicity of this sport is probably it’s most engaging aspect – yes, there are rules but in general, you’re basically playing dancing hand-soccer. It really is not that hard to pick up. I distinctly remember watching this sport when in high school, then playing at lunchtime and genuinely believing this could be a legitimate career option.

Never mind I was about 5ft tall and couldn’t jump that high, I knew I could make the big time. So every 4 years I get to sit back and watch these lucky devils be called “Olympians” and consider what could have been…


What sports have we missed? What sports do you irrationally love at the Olympic Games?


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