5 sports you didn’t know were in the summer Olympics
There's a lot more to watch in Rio than just Neymar and Michael Phelps.
One of the most exciting aspects of the Olympic Games – both for the athletes and the spectators – is the sheer number of different sports all being contested virtually side-by-side in a relatively small location.
The first modern Olympic games were held in 1896 in Athens, where athletes competed in wrestling, gymnastics, cycling, fencing and more, for a total of nine sports. At the 2016 games in Rio, there will be 306 medals awarded across 28 sports.
While many of us will be watching closely to see if Michael Phelps can add to his collection of 22 Olympic medals and if Brazil, led by brilliant forward Neymar, can finally bring home the gold in soccer, there are a bunch of lesser-known sports that will be just as hotly contested.
Here’s a round-up of five exciting events you probably didn’t know were in the Olympics.
Canoe slalom was originally modeled on the popular alpine ski event. It was first contested in Switzerland in 1933 on flat water and made its Olympic debut in 1972. Today, competitors must navigate against the clock through a series of up and downstream hanging gates and a barrage of whitewater rapids. There are actually two different events that make up canoe slalom: the single-person kayak and the double-person canoe.
Athletes to watch: Slovakian men lead the overall Olympic medal count in canoe slalom, and the leader board isn’t likely to change this year. Alexander Slafkovsky led a Slovak 1-2 sweep in the final of the European Canoe Slalom Championships held in his home country in mid-May. On the women’s side, look out for Australian canoe slalom star Jess Fox.
Windsurfing, also known as sailboarding, has been an Olympic event since 1994; women’s windsurfing was added in 2004. The rules of windsurfing are very similar to those of sailing. The event for both men and women will be contested over a 12-race series. Points are awarded according to the finishing position: one point for first place, two points for second and so on. The top 10 windsurfers at the end of the 12 races will move on to the final round.
Athletes to watch: Israeli Shahar Zubari will be looking to win an Olympic gold medal – fellow Israeli windsurfer Gal Fridman won gold in the 2004 games in Athens. Zubari took home the bronze in 2008 in Beijing and finished sixth earlier this year at the 2016 RS:X World Windsurfing Championships which were held in Eilat, on Israel's Mediterranean coast.
Fiji's Jerry Tuwai jumps for a catch during the semi-final match against South Africa in the 2016 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. (Photo: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Rugby makes its Olympic return at the 2016 Olympic Games. Rugby Union, with 15 players on each team, was played in the Olympics until 1924. Rugby sevens has seven players on each side; both men’s and women’s teams will compete for medals. Costumes are practically de rigeur for rugby spectators, and the carnival-like atmosphere should be particularly appropriate in Rio.
Teams to watch: On the men’s side, Fiji currently leads the World Sevens series and should be a threat for gold in Rio. The Australians lead the women’s series followed by New Zealand and England.
Who knew shooting a handgun was an Olympic sport? It’s actually called the 25m rapid fire pistol and has been one of several shooting events competed in the Olympics since 1896. Athletes must complete five shots fired at a target 25 meters away within a limited time. All firing must be done with one unsupported hand.
Athletes to watch: Team USA’s Keith Sanderson holds the Olympic record in a qualification round for 25m rapid fire shooting, but he has never won a medal, a fact he’ll try to change in his fifth Olympics this summer.
Fu Haifeng (right) and Zhang Nan of China hit a return during their men's doubles group match against Japan in the 2016 Thomas Cup badminton tournament. (Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)
By far the most underrated of the three Olympic racket sports after tennis and ping-pong, badminton often doesn’t get the credit it deserves for being a fast-action sport, but the shuttlecock can travel up to 250 mph. Badminton athletes must have quick reflexes, while spectators can hardly blink for fear of missing a moment. Badminton has been an Olympic sport since the 1992 Barcelona games; men and women compete in individual and doubles events, as well as mixed doubles.
Athletes to watch: China, Indonesia and South Korea have dominated since the sport’s Olympic debut.
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