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Friday, July 20, 2012

140

What We Will Be Playing in the London Games

Now that we’ve looked at the sports we won’t be able to watch this summer (pigeon racing, you will be missed), let’s take a look at the sports we will get to see. I’ve attempted to find as many reasons as I can for why each one should be capable of capturing our hearts, and only one of them is penis-related.

Archery

Olympic archery forms the basis of what might be my favorite piece of celebrity trivia, namely that Geena Davis was a semifinalist for the women’s archery team at the 2000 Olympics. While one of the more obscure Olympics sports, archery nonetheless has a certain air of elegance and mystique about it, maybe in part because of its other famous practitioners, most notably Cupid, Ivanhoe, and Robin Hood (especially in his animated fox incarnation). 2012 also seems to be the year of the archery movie, with Hawkeye, Merida, and Katniss Everdeen all making use of a bow and arrow. If NBC wants to get its money’s worth out of the $1.18 billion it paid for Olympic broadcast rights, it might want to get started with some “May the odds be ever in your favor” promos ASAP.

The kind of archery we’ll be watching this summer has only been a part of the Olympics since 1972, when the events were dominated by South Korean athletes, with the Americans doing their best to nip at their heels. This trend has held steady until the present day, which may tell us a lot about the subjectivity of the Olympic moment: while we remember the basketball "Dream Team" of 1992 and Michael Phelps' eight gold medals, Koreans may think of Park Sung-Hyun’s three gold medals in 2004. Archery can also lay claim to the first paraplegic athlete in the Olympics, New Zealander Neroli Fairhall, who competed in 1984.

Archery was also included in the 1900, 1904, 1908, and 1920 Olympics, albeit in a different form than the one we’ll see this year: each Games had archers compete in a unique series of events, with perhaps the most intriguing being the (hopefully descriptively titled) “individual fixed small bird,” “individual moving bird,” and “team moving bird” in 1920.

Canoeing and kayaking

Did you know that Olympic kayaking is oddly thrilling, and not even in the same way as curling? In addition to canoe and kayak sprinting (which is a race across flat water, and is called “sprinting” and not the far less silly “canoe racing” for reasons I’m sure are completely legitimate) Olympic canoers and kayakers also compete in a slalom event, which consists of paddling through whitewater and navigating a series of 18-25 gates, and looks like this. So, as with many of the sports on this list, it’s kind of like another far more popular Olympic sport (skiing), but also very not.

If you look at a list of the records for the highest number of Olympic gold medals won by an individual athlete, you’ll see that Michael Phelps is at the top of the heap, followed by other swimmers, runners, and gymnasts. After the top five, however, the highest number of gold medals awarded to a Summer Olympic athlete went to Birgit Fisher, a German kayaker who became both the youngest ever kayaking champion at 18 and the oldest ever kayaking champion at 42. You can find her website, including her amateur leaf photography, here.

Equestrian

Equestrian events have been at every Games since 1912, though until 1952 they could only be contested by military officers. (Presumably they were allowed to ride civilian horses.) Drug tests began being administered to horses during the 1972 Games, while their riders were allowed to abstain. At this summer’s games, individual and team show jumping, dressage, and eventing will be contested. Sadly absent will be polo and equestrian vaulting (also known as the thing you pretend to do when you put on your tutu and stand on the top of the couch and say you’re a BEAUTIFUL lady on a BEAUTIFUL horse and then try do to a cartwheel and fall off), both of which were present at previous games.

Handball

In lieu of a description of the playing and scoring of handball (which is similar to soccer, but is restricted to two thirty-minute periods and — predictably — uses the hands instead of the feet, and which at past Olympics has been dominated by Russian, German, Swedish, and Eastern European teams), I offer instead this picture of fifteen silver casts of the penises of the Icelandic handball team that competed at the 2008 Olympics, and took home (as one might have guessed), silver. If you watch Olympic handball this year and find the action somewhat lacking, you may have a more satisfying viewing experience if you focus your attention on which teams’ penises you would most like to see rendered in precious metals. (This makes me wonder if gold, silver, and bronze genitalia serve as the prizes for some competition, somewhere, but that’s another story.

Modern pentathlon

The modern pentathlon consists of five events: fencing, pistol shooting, 200 meter freestyle swimming, show jumping on horseback, and cross country running. Having just typed that list I have no idea why it isn’t more popular than it is. It also has the distinction of having been invented by the Games’ modern founder, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, in an effort to simulate the experiences of a 19th century soldier. As we saw in the previous list, the more violent additions to the Olympics (live pigeon shooting, pistol dueling) have been gradually phased out, but the pentathlon remains. It’s also one of the rare sports that’s been consistently present at the Olympics since it was first added to the program in 1912, though women have only been able to compete since 2000.

So I ask: what is our pentathlon problem? Partly, I think, Americans might have a hard time caring much about the pentathlon because no American athlete has ever won a gold in it, and because it’s historically been dominated by Hungary and Sweden. There’s also the problem that relatively long events with several different components are extremely difficult to televise — think of the drama of the gymnastics vault or the 100 meter dash, and then of how diluted any drama inevitably comes when spread across a five-sport gauntlet.

Still, I think we need to give the modern pentathlon a chance. (Of course I’m speaking mainly for myself, as I’m sure many of you are way ahead of the game and have been following the modern pentathlon for years. I salute you.) This year America will send four pentathlates to the games, among them Suzanne Stettinius, a Baltimorean who, due to the relatively few endorsements offered to pentathlates, is currently attempting a fundraising venture that includes auctioning off a date with herself. If there exists a better demonstration of Olympic spirit then I don’t know what it is. I propose that all ‘Pinners attempt to support Stettinius by thinking up some catchy slogans and cheers for her — my best idea so far is “Suzanne Stettinius! It rhymes with _______!,” but I know we can think of something better.

Rhythmic gymnastics

Oh, rhythmic gymnastics. You are to artistic gymnastics what ice dancing is to ice skating, namely: worth way less in endorsement money, generating fewer stars, and far less dramatic. Rhythmic gymnastics, like ice dancing, is just really, really pretty to look at, and a relatively stress-free sport (“sport”) to watch. There are no great narratives, no Kerri Strug moments, no dangerous injuries, no international feuds. Bear in mind that I’m not contradicting the message of this painstakingly curated YouTube video – rhythmic gymnastics looks incredibly difficult, just like ice dancing does, but it’s something you watch while sort of slumped on the couch, rather than perched on the edge of it. But you know what? We need that at the Olympics. Rhythmic gymnastics is like Millie in Freaks and Geeks: the supportive, low-maintenance friend who’ll play Uno with you when things get too heavy with Nick Andopolis. And sometimes, that’s exactly what you need.

Rowing

Remember when I said my favorite piece of celebrity trivia was about Geena Davis nearly qualifying for the 2000 Olympics? Well, it turns out I lied, because the following clearly trumps it: Hugh Laurie’s father, the wonderfully named William George Ranald Mundell Laurie (known as Ran), won a gold medal in coxless pair rowing at the 1948 Olympics. Hugh rowed at Cambridge and had planned to follow in his father’s footsteps, training for up to eight hours a day, until he came down with mono, and, unable to continue rowing, focused his attentions on comedy and acting.

Since we can’t blame rowing for a world without Fry & Laurie (and Jeeves and Wooster, and Blackadder the Third), it seems we have no reason not to give it a chance this summer. There will be fourteen separate rowing events in London, partly because rowing is the only non-combat Olympic sport to include weight categories, so that you can watch (if you stay up late enough) double sculls events contested by men, lightweight men, women, and lightweight women. The weight and gender of the participants aside, the events classifications are as follows:

Quad scull: a boat containing four rowers, each using two oars

Double scull: a boat containing two rowers, each using two oars

Single scull: a boat containing one rower, who uses two oars

Eight: a boat containing a cox and eight rowers, each using one oar. The cox, or coxswain (pronounced “coxsun” and meaning, literally, boat servant) is the member of the team who sits in the stern, facing the rowers, steering the boat and coaching the crew.

Coxless four: a boat containing four rowers, each using one oar

Coxless pair: a boat containing two rowers, each using one oar

The United States and Great Britain are the leaders in rowing medals, but Romania has the distinction of being home to Elisabeta Lipă, who took home gold medals from the 1984, 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004 Olympics, showing that what rowing lacks in glamour it more than makes up for in its potential for athlete longevity.

Sailing

Sailing, like many of the other sports on this list, is hard to view with a great deal of interest if you haven’t actually done it. As someone whose sailing skills can be optimistically described as “borderline competent,” I can say that the joy of sailing comes in beating the odds by neither dying nor throwing up, but people who take part in it at Olympic levels of competition may see sailing somewhat differently. The thrill of survival aside, I do think that the appeal of sailing — you’re on a very complicated vessel moving very fast at very strange angles, sometimes through rough water — is at least in part due to the fact that it at least feels dangerous, even if it isn’t. That said, it requires comparatively little exertion, and its athletes aren’t nearly as interesting as the apparatus they use. For all these reasons, I recommend that, before watching sailing at this year’s Games, you tape yourself to your bathroom wall and turn the shower on full blast, then turn on the most powerful fan you can find for full effect. Obviously you will enjoy the events even more if you put on a Sou’Wester, but if you have a limited budget this can be dispensed with.

Synchronized swimming

Synchronized swimming has only been an Olympic event since 1984, for which I am very sorry, because looking back at over a hundred years of Olympic synchronized swimming history would no doubt be a feast for the senses in a way that we will never have the good fortune to know. (It would also potentially make us privy to some great stories of international friction — picture Jesse Owens’ victory at the 1936 Berlin games, but with a team of plucky synchronized swimmers instead.) Even sadder is the fact the synchronized swimming is played only by female athletes — but maybe we’re forgetting to count our blessings, or our one big blessing, namely that synchronized swimming is an Olympic sport. And, lucky for us, it’s one America is also good at, though lately we’ve been playing second banana to Russia. But maybe this year all that will change? It would make for an amazing movie – Miracle Underwater, with Jazz Hands, maybe.

Synchronized swimming (which was known until the 1930’s as water ballet) first became popular in the 1890’s, and during its early days was perhaps most famously practiced by Annette Kellerman, an Australian swimmer who performed in a glass tank at the New York Hippodrome. Esther Williams brought water ballet to the screen in the 1940’s, but the most memorable instance of water ballet in film can be found in 1934’s Tarzan and His Mate, a pre-code film in which Johnny Weissmuller and Josephine McKim, both of whom had competed in the 1928 Olympics, cavort in the nude. Looking at the footage now, you can see some of what makes the Olympics so enchanting: the beauty of the human form at its peak, though in this case we see a man and a woman enjoying each other’s company, rather than representatives of the same sex competing with each other for gold.

From 1984 through 1992, synchronized swimming’s only events in the Games were women’s duet and (somewhat paradoxically) women’s solo. For the later event, water ballet might have been a more appropriate title, as the athlete didn’t have anything to synchronize herself with, but rather was displaying a combination of artistic and athletic prowess, in the same way that a gymnast or a figure skater might. In 1996, however, both solo and duet were eliminated and the team event became synchronized swimming’s only entry into the Games — a little more Busby Berkeley, a little less Anna Pavlova.

In looking at the difference between an interesting Olympic sport and a deeply compelling one, one criterion seems to come up over and over again: the great sports, the ones we can’t take our eyes off of, tend to involve the whole body. Archery and rowing are about the arms, shooting is about the aim, equestrian is about control over another body, but swimming, running, skating, gymnastics — the big ticket events that have everyone on the couch all night — are about watching the human body in motion, every muscle yearning for height, distance, control. Synchronized swimming, too, is about the entire body — so why don’t we follow it as raptly as we do the above? Maybe we should be. But if I had to guess why we don’t love it yet, I’d say it has to do with the jazz hands:

Table tennis

Since table tennis was included in the 1988 Olympics, China has won 41 medals, South Korea has won 17, and the rest of the world has won a combined total of 18. Invented in the 1880’s and originally known as wiff-waff (a name either marginally less or marginally more silly than ping-pong), table tennis began as a parlor game in which bored Englishmen batted golf balls at each other, using books as paddles. (This may or may not be far superior to the game’s current incarnation.) The first world tournament was held in 1902, though no athletes from Russia attended, as table tennis was banned there due to the belief that it was detrimental to players’ eyesight.

Table tennis’ most significant cultural moment may have come not from its inclusion as an Olympic sport but during the so-called ping-pong diplomacy of the early 1970’s (which trumps even the Twinkie defense on the list of the most significant twentieth-century events with the most ridiculous names). During the World Table Tennis Championship in 1971, American player Glenn Cowan missed his team bus and rode with the Chinese players, with whom he grew friendly. Following this, the People’s Republic of China extended an invitation to the American team to visit China, which they accepted, and which many believed paved the way for Nixon’s visit in 1972. After he returned to America, one player told the press that:

The people are just like us. They are real, they're genuine, they got feeling. I made friends, I made genuine friends, you see. The country is similar to America, but still very different. It's beautiful. They got the Great Wall, they got plains over there. They got an ancient palace, the parks, there's streams, and they got ghosts that haunt; there's all kinds of, you know, animals. The country changes from the south to the north.

If this description seems oddly poetic, then the same can be said of table tennis itself. In anticipation of the 2000 Olympics, the International Table Tennis Federation attempted to make the game more telegenic by increasing the size of the balls and thinning the layer of sponge on the rackets, both of which slowed gameplay and made it easier to watch. Still, table tennis is a blindingly fast game, one that you have to watch with complete concentration or not at all — which, of course, is also true of the Olympics.

Water Polo

Actually, Esther Werdiger pretty much covered this one. 

Bonus: if you have any friends who are legitimately into water polo (I do), you can simply and easily infuriate them by saying, “You know, there’s one thing I’ve always wondered about water polo…” and they’ll say, “What??” and you’ll say, “…HOW do they get the horses in the water?” And then they won’t invite you over to your house to watch the Olympics with them, which is too bad, because people who are into water polo typically have a bigger TV than you.

Women’s Boxing

This year, for the first time in history, there will be a women’s boxing event at the Summer Games. While men will compete in ten weight classes (light flyweight, flyweight, bantamweight, lightweight, light welterweight, welterweight, middleweight, light heavyweight, heavyweight, and super heavyweight), women will compete in only three (flyweight, lightweight, and middleweight), and there will be only 36 female boxers, compared to 250 men.

Let’s back away from facts and figures for a second, and go into a personal anecdote (which, for me, is code for “I saw a movie once and I’m going to tell you about it”). A few years ago I saw Raging Bull for the first time, and I immediately fell in love. Not with Robert DeNiro, but with Robert DeNiro’s body, and not with the idea of getting close to it but of owning it.  Raging Bull, if you haven’t seen it, is maybe the most beautiful boxing movie ever made: it captures not just the raw power and violence of the sport but the graceful, almost balletic aspects of it as well. It’s shot like Olivier’s Henry V, and it’s as dedicated to showing the animal beauty of a man in his prime as it is to showing his eventual ugly descent.

I decided that, somehow, I wanted to understand that physical power — to have muscles with force coiled within them like tensed spring. I knew I wasn’t going to be a boxer but I wanted to pretend I was going to be a boxer, so I decided to go jogging. I hadn’t run more than a block or two since high school, and we were in the middle of a July heat wave, but this was immaterial. I put on my high tops, because I didn’t have real running shoes, and jogged out onto the blacktop. The heat bounced up at me like a breath straight out of an oven and my puny lungs began to quiver – What are you doing to me, you bitch? I thought we had a deal! – but I continued stoically forward for, oh, a good thirty yards at least. Then I stopped, started, stopped, started, and then I went home and died. My boxing career had lasted about twenty minutes, but it had been a memorable one.

All of which is to say: I get it. The idea that women would want to box seems, of course, to be extremely gettable — boxing, like all other sports, is essentially about the human mind and body spurred on to greater achievement through competition, both with the self and others, and we seemed to have cottoned to the idea that women are just as drawn toward this kind of pursuit, and just as good at it, as men — but historically, many people haven’t.

When I told my mother (whom you might remember from a previous installment of this series) that this would be the first Olympics to feature a women’s boxing event, she was perplexed more than anything else. My mother went to college in the late 60’s, took part in sit-ins and teach-ins, voted for McGovern, and went to medical school when the two genders of medical professionals were “Doctors” and “Nurses.” But when I asked her what she thought of women’s boxing, she said it sounded to her like a sideshow event. In fact, it started out as one. The first recorded American women’s boxing match took place in New York City in 1876; the fighters, Rose Harland and Nell Saunders (who were usually employed as dancers), competed for a silver butter dish. A New York Times headline described it as “A Novel and Nonsensical Exhibition at Harry Hill’s.” Describing the match itself, the reporter wrote that

Mr. Hill introduced the lady contestants to the audience. Miss Saunders wore a white bodice, purple knee-breeches, which she had borrowed from one of the negro performers, red stockings and shoes. Miss Harland wore blue trunks and white tights. Both appeared exceedingly nervous, were very pale, tried to blush, and partially succeeded. Time was then called, and the female boxers shook hands. Miss Harland did not know what to do with her hands, but kept her head well back out of the way. Miss Saunders had a fair idea of attack and defense, but could not carry it into practice. After some preliminary sparring, Saunders managed to hit Harland fair in the face. Miss Harland endeavored to get square and was again worsted, but finally succeeded in disarranging Saunders’ hair by a vicious blow from the shoulder. Both women then smiled, and the result of the first round was announced by Prof. Clark–Saunders, 7 hits; Harland 4.

Well over a century later, not much had changed. In an article titled “Good with Her Hands: Women, Boxing, and Work,” Carlo Rotella describes a Golden Gloves competition in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania of the mid-1990s, and his observation that the crowd:

Responded to the bout with the curious mix of prurient hysteria and sporting fervor that female boxers excite in fight crowds, which are overwhelmingly male… Like most people at the fights, who want to see rolling heads rather than accomplished footwork, they were happy to see a bout with lots of punching and drama. But they were especially moved by the fact of a fight between women. They may have enjoyed the fight for the same reasons they enjoy offense-heavy rights between stalwart men, but they also responded to the action as if it were a kind of advanced Jello-wrestling or striptease, with damage replacing flesh as the dirty female thing to be revealed.

Both of the above descriptions are fodder for volumes’ worth of deconstruction that I won’t be unspooling here, mainly because I think we need to at least wait for the Games. This summer’s Olympics will bring women’s boxing — also known as a “novel and nonsensical exhibition” — to a greater audience than it has perhaps ever known. People will have the opportunity to watch female athletes show their prowess not just at fighting but at footwork, agility, stamina, and speed. This time they’re not fighting for a silver butter dish, but for the gold.

Previously: What We Won't Be Playing in the London Games.

Sarah Marshall has wrestled with an alligator, tussled with a whale, murdered a rock, injured a stone, and hospitalized a brick. (She’s so mean she makes medicine sick.)

140 Comments / Post A Comment

Scandyhoovian

Precious Metal Penis Casts + Previous Article About Olympic Village Sex Parties = Clearly, There are Secret Sex Olympics.

RNL
RNL

@Scandyhoovian Those penises I can't even.

the roughest toughest frail

I am so stupid excited for the modern pentathlon. It's such a bizarre mix of events; you just know it's going to make for good viewing.

KeLynn

@abetterfate I didn't know it existed until this post! How is this not more popular?! It's so badass!

the roughest toughest frail

@KeLynn right?! I was telling my husband about it last night, and it was like trying to explain magnets to a Juggalo. The modern pentathlon, people! It's the raddest, trust.

TinyNinjas

@abetterfate I've been excited about the modern pentathlon since Donna Vakalis called into my favorite podcast (Jordan, Jesse, Go!) about finding out she'll be competing in the Olympics this year and being admitted into a PhD program all in one day! In return, the guys on the podcast set up an indiegogo to help her raise funds to buy a lasergun (which is what they use now since pistols have been phased out) and it's been a tremendous sucess!

http://www.indiegogo.com/lasergun

Gef the Talking Mongoose

@abetterfate : And this year it's even more exciting because now they stagger competitors' entry to the final leg (the footrace) based on points accumulated so that whoever wins it will win the whole thing. It makes the final race totally worthwhile to watch!

Also, the shooting stations are now run in tandem with the footrace (shooting station, run 1000m, repeat 2x more) like winter biathlon, so it's even more hardcore now.

the roughest toughest frail

@Gef the Talking Mongoose I think my love of the winter biathlon is why I'm mildly obsessed with the pentathlon. The aforementioned husband adores the Winter Games (like a freak), and the biathlon is the only event I actually watch with him.

Xanthophyllippa

@Gef the Talking Mongoose Doesn't that make it hard to come from behind in a dramatic finish, though? Or is this intended to increase the drama, so that we don't have to wait around after watching someone cross the line while they add up the scores and announce who won overall?

Gef the Talking Mongoose

@Xanthophyllippa : Kind of both. Previously, you could have someone come in first for the final cross-country event but end up not winning the whole thing, and it was kind of anticlimactic.

But now competitors start the cross-country in order of their ranking of accumulated points (most points goes first, etc). Their starting times are allocated so that if all the competitors crossed the finish line at exactly the same time, they would each have earned enough cross-country points so that they would all end up with the same number of total points and it would be a glorious tie. So a really good runner who's down on points can come from behind in a dramatic finish, if they can make up the delay in their starting time to pass everyone in front of them. And now that shooting and cross-country are contested in tandem, it opens the field up for final-stage drama for two of the five events.

There have been quite a few recent changes to the pentathlon to make the whole event more interesting to watch without taking away from the individual events. The big one is that the events used to be contested on separate days. Now the competitors have to do all the events in the same day which is just awesomely tough (and a logistical nightmare for the organizers, apparently) but great to watch.

maybe partying will help

Ooh-da-lolly! Archery is the coolest (sez the person with a name which made her obsessed with archers at a young age). And all the diving events.

I have many fond memories of watching Olympic gymnastics with my snarky gymnast cousin. Then in college I watched water polo and swimming with a snarky swimmer friend. Now I'm bereft because I don't think I know anyone in my new city that has snarky Olympic sports opinions.

Away Laughing

@maybe partying will help Find a snarky equestrian friend! Snarking about dressage is actually its own sport.

maybe partying will help

@Away Laughing

I will advertise on craigslist posthaste!

PS: your screenname is perfect.

Molly Reingold@facebook

ARMS ARE THE LEAST IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR BODY WHILE ROWING!!! Sorry, I'm a former collegiate rower who is both incredibly excited for the Olympic races, but also incredibly annoyed by the average person's total misunderstanding of the sport.

Also, synchro is so cool I can't even.

dorkmuffin

@Molly Reingold@facebook YES. There's a reason rowers all have really really really nice asses.

I'm saying this as both a former rower and the sister to way more intense former rowers. Let's just say I spent some time watching my brother row at world-level championships (like, actually at the regatta), and MM MM MMMMMMM men in spandex. With amazing asses.

What I'm trying to say is that rowing is a full-body exercise, but the power comes from the legs and ass.

Xanthophyllippa

@dorkmuffin THANK YOU both! Man, I hate the folks at the gym who are all about the arms when they're on the ergs. I just want to hit them in the spine with a stick and save them the time and trouble of blowing out their backs slowly and painfully.

The Lady of Shalott

There is not a single Olympic sport that I do not LOVE watching. Seriously. If it is televised I will sit there and I will watch it and I will become an INSTANT EXPERT on it. That is how much I love the Olympics.

Scandyhoovian

@The Lady of Shalott Are you me? I DO THAT. And if I don't know the rules I will wikipedia them right there and BECOME a fan, instantly, because it makes more sense to learn a whole new sport as fast as possible than to change the channel.

OhMarie

@The Lady of Shalott Me too! I've always loved the Olympics, and in 1996 my uncle went as part of the wrestling entourage (not a competitor, like one of the helpers or something?). He brought me back this SWEET little book that had a couple of pages explaining every single sport in the Olympics, complete with little pictures and diagrams highlighting important details, like why shot-putters spin around so many times. I basically memorized it.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

Handball! Watching women's handball in the 2008 Olympics was mind-blowing. It looks so difficult and painful at times! Plus, hello, Gro Hammerseng from Norway!

New Hoarder

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose I am able to watch handball but only while cowering in fear at the memories of being forced to play in "sport" class in Germany. That game is NO JOKE.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@New Hoarder There's so much jumping into crowds of opponents. I'll be honest, I don't really understand the intricacies of the game, but there's a lot of contact.

Opos

I AM SO EXCITED but I don't have a TV. Can I live stream all of the events at work instead of working? Does anyone know how to do this?

rianne marie

@Opos I just asked the same question downthread. I streamed a big chunk of the last games, so hopefully I can again!

sophia_h

Man, now I want to watch the Battlestar Galactica episode where they have an underground boxing league and they all work their personal issues out by punching each other. Kara Thrace boxing is a beauty and a joy forever.

cuminafterall

"coxless pair"

cuminafterall

@cuminafterall Sorry. I'm a child.

Susanna

Ahem – equestrian events took place at the 1900 Olympics, and a woman took part. Her name was Elvira Guerra. Her showing class wasn't a medal class but she did compete against men, and she would have been more than capable of taking them on in the medal classes.

Here's a carte de visite of her:

http://www.paulfrecker.com/pictureDetails.cfm?pagetype=home&typeID=4&ID=4803

(and there were lady boxers in the UK in the 18thC. Well, not ladies really - that was the point)

garli

In the spirit of "I have the compelling need to defend all random sports" and "I spend a lot of time at my local yacht club" serious sail races require a ton of strength. I'm not saying that old dudes with beer guts can't win a local regatta, but really high level competitors have to maintain their weight (there's a max) and be able to move really heavy stuff quickly on a moving platform.

Jennifer Culp

RHYTHMIC GYMNASTICS! I read about it in American Girl magazine as a kid, and subsequently conducted many astonishing performances in my parents' yard with two ribbons tied together (to make it long enough) tied to the end of a ruler. I tried to catch a ball with my neck, too, but never got the hang of it.

falconet

@Jennifer Culp I love the group competition especially. It screams, "My daughter couldn't choose between ballet and juggling so......?"

Sundae

@falconet When I was young rhythmic gym was my sport of choice and whilst I know it looks pretty strange and easy to mock (especially the group stuff and some of the costumes!) I will attest to the fact that it is incredibly difficult in ways that artistic gymnastics is not.

thatgirl

I am going to have nightmares about those rhythmic gymnastics girls. Triple illusions? Their poor, poor joints!

Susanna

@thatgirl I got one minute in and had to stop. I know nothing about gymnastics but that looked unbelievably bad for the body.

Susanna

@thatgirl I got one minute in and had to stop. I know nothing about gymnastics but that looked unbelievably bad for the body.

Lu2
Lu2

So what *does* Stettinius rhyme with? I feel sure the author had something in mind and I'm just not thinking of it.

P.S. I am looking forward to the Olympics this year, for some reason, even though I don't usually get excited. I, too, am excited for the pentathlon. I wish I understood the equestrian events, though. (I mean in the sense of being able to appreciate the standards and scoring and stuff. I'm not a horsey person.)

thatgirl

@Lu2 tetanus?

Lu2
Lu2

@thatgirl --"She's genius"?

Away Laughing

@Lu2 The riding section is the same as regular show jumping, I think? They're supposed to get around the course without knocking down poles or going over the time limit. But it gets way more crazy, because apparently most pentathletes are triathlon people who learned how to shoot, and have a tendency to put off riding until the last possible second. Aaaaaand they pick which horse they'll ride out of a hat 20 minutes before they're due in the ring. So basically: people who just learned how to ride, doing 3'9 show jumping courses on a horse they have never met!

ThundaCunt

Plus a Malaysian woman is competing like 8 months pregnant. Her sport is shooting, or something like that..air rifle? I dont know...the point is she's super PREGGO!!

redheaded&crazy

Reminds me of an argument between my friends of whether golf or synchronized swimming is "more of a sport."

I come down on the synchro side myself. THAT SHIT IS ATHLETIC AS FUCK. (by the way this random and bizarre argument of course came up between a golfer and synchronized swimmer, otherwise where would this bizarre comparison even come from?)

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@redheaded&crazie I'd say sychro is more challenging in the cardiovascular sense, and both require well-honed precision. But golfers can have tubby stomachs and still be successful. (That's my perspective as an outsider to both sports, and both are ridiculously difficult for me.)

the roughest toughest frail

@redheaded&crazie Smiling that hard for that long is absolutely an athletic feat.

Bittersweet

@redheaded&crazie No kidding. And they are underwater for, like, a minute and a half at a time? Upside down? Doing moves in sync with others? That shit cray. (Which is essentially what the Russian announcers were saying in that video, just "Excellent" and "That's super extra difficult" every 5 seconds.)

PistolPackinMama

@Bittersweet Also they have to be able to get gelatin out of their hair.

Lurkasaurus

@everyone Late to this thread, but I love all of you. Synchro is, in fact, HARD AS FUCK, and reaching the high levels of the sport requires an incredible amount of endurance and training. (And the hardcore smiling and the Knox are definitely no joke either! :D) Although of course I should have expected no less from the Hairpin, I'm so glad to find fellow defenders instead of people yukking at the makeup and the sparkles.

ThundaCunt

"also known as the thing you pretend to do when you put on your tutu and stand on the top of the couch and say you’re a BEAUTIFUL lady on a BEAUTIFUL horse and then try do to a cartwheel and fall off"- Quite possibly the best description EVAR!

ThundaCunt

WOW @ The Icelandic Phallological Museum.

That poor thin one in the back, just left of center. How unfortunate. :(

thatgirl

@ThundaCunt Damn it, I am at work and I cannot justify looking at pictures like this at work, but you are testing all of my resolve.

ThundaCunt

@thatgirl LMAO! I'm at work too...it's Friday...go for it!! Its just mishappen silver dongs. All oddly circumsized, I think...they are a little mangled looking. And several very mushroom like. How sad when your penis resembles an arrow, thin..thin..thin..BAM! HEAD! :( to infinity!

Jennifer Culp

@ThundaCunt Ahahahahahahaha, "Its just mishappen silver dongs." That's beautiful.

the roughest toughest frail

@ThundaCunt I can't thumbs-up this comment enough.

thatgirl

@ThundaCunt But everyone can see my computer screen! And it is my first week on the job! I do not want to get fired for looking at misshapen silver dongs!

...maybe i'll go to the bathroom and look on my phone.

OhMarie

@ThundaCunt Yeah, maybe I haven't been around the block enough but these are suuuuuper perplexing to me. So mushroomy! And kind of a high rate of curves to the left and right?

MoxyCrimeFighter

@ThundaCunt My assumption is that either the molds were difficult to make or it was just plain ol' awkward to try and cast them, but I know dick about this sort of thing (pun intended!). My main question is: why is that girthy fellow on the far left being cut off by the frame, and where is the key that identifies which peen belongs to which handballer?

Xanthophyllippa

@MoxyCrimeFighter Hee hee hee. "Handballer."

tootsky

@ThundaCunt What we need is a scale...like a quarter, or a tube of Mentos in the picture so we know what we're looking at. Maybe skinny guy in the back is normal and the others are Thor or something.

Xanthophyllippa

@tootsky Something about "a tube of Mentos" just made me laugh so hard I started to cry.

Bittersweet

@Xanthophyllippa The Mentos commercial involving the dorky young people and the cast-silver dongs is just BEGGING to be made. Anyone?

sam
sam

DId anyone else read the New Yorker piece a few months ago about Claressa Shields, Teenage Boxing Phenom? It was really good. She's really badass, and I'm looking forward to watching her, although boxing in general gives me all kinds of heebie-jeebies.

(Unrelated: perhaps the misfortune of the phrase "watching her box" contributes in some small way to the relative unpopularity of women's boxing?)

Emily Cahill Forscher@facebook

SYNCHRO! Synchro forever! Why is it only on at 2am on channels I don't receive??!

rianne marie

@Emily Cahill Forscher@facebook NBC is live-streaming EVERY SINGLE EVENT on the internet if you already have cable.

rianne marie

So I don't have cable. Where do I go for all my online Olympics viewing?
My boyfriend is not as enthused as I am. and will be even less enthused when I steal the television for two weeks.

rianne marie

@rianne marie Holy shit, NBC is live streaming EVERY SINGLE EVENT online. Only free if you already have NBC on cable, but damn. All The Sports!

Redheads have even more fun

I went to the synchronized swimming finals in 84 when the Olympics were in LA. I was 8 and it was, and still is, one of the coolest things EVA.

Cup full of cactus

I hate to quibble, but "the most memorable instance of water ballet in film can be found in" The Great Muppet Caper, 1981 mystery family film starring Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and Charles Groden.

HeyThatsMyBike

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Xanthophyllippa

@HeyThatsMyBike Took you long enough. :D

Sara Sangalli photog@twitter

You don't watch rhythmic gymnastic perched on the edge of the couch just because you are not cheering for any team or gymnast, otherwise any launch and "exchange" would make you close your eyes and hope ;-) Funny article, I love it! And i love the olympics, you get to see "sports" that otherwise you wouldn't even know about, and for some weird reasons I get excited for each and every one of them. Good luck to all the athletes!

Annie Murphy@facebook

SUZANNE STETTINIUS IS MY COUSIN AND I'M SO SO SO EXCITED FOR THE PENTATHALON!!! AND YES, I'M YELLING RIGHT NOW.

PistolPackinMama

@Annie Murphy@facebook Woooo! That is really, really cool.

[redacted]

@Annie Murphy@facebook Can you call her and tell her to make a Kickstarter page if she still needs to raise money?! There HAS to be some sort of viral traction for "5-Sport Olympic contender needs to go to the Olympics" no? (If not...that makes me sad.)

cmcm

The thing that always boggles my mind is, how do kids get into these obscure sports?? I used to go to running camp at the Olympic Training Centre in Lake Placid and there was a bobsled camp going on at the same time... I just don't understand how a 10 year old starts thinking, "Yeah, bobsled... that's what I'll do."

living internationally

@cmcm Team GB did a recruitment drive a few years back among elite athletes who either wouldn't qualify or whose sport is not represented to compete in some of the lesser played sports in London 2012 - usually I think it's down to children of coaches

Lurkasaurus

@cmcm I think it's often a matter of happening to live in the same geographic location as a team of one of the obscure sports and getting drawn in through their intro classes and promotional flyers. In my case, my mom found a flyer that sounded interesting at the local pool, signed me up for a class, and voila! A 10-year career in synchronized swimming! The team I joined was the only one in a 12-hour radius (to use Midwest terms), so if I'd grown up in a different suburb it never would have happened.

Eva@twitter

@cmcm I did rhythmic gymnastics when I was a teenager, because we happened to live in the rhythmic gymnastics capital of the country, or something. I started out doing it as "amateur", but because they *had* a competition team they picked its members from the amateurs and that's how these things happen. If I'd joined an after school gymnastics club in another town I would have outgrown it much sooner.

APS
APS

For the first time in the history of the games, women outnumber men on the U.S. Olympic Team. Of the 530 members of the team, 269 are women and 261 are men. Here's a rundown of some of the women we can't wait to watch!

http://www.womenyoushouldknow.net/2012-summer-olympics-women-to-watch/

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