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Ten interesting facts about a selection of Olympic sports

Every four years, when the Olympics come around, everyone suddenly becomes an expert in one, many, or all of the sports on show. Whilst you watch you know exactly when an athlete goes wrong with their run-up, or when a horse steps out of line in the Dressage, or how a tennis player could better their serve. But have you ever wondered about some of the lesser-known facts about Olympic sports, like where diving comes from, how fast a shuttlecock can be hit through the air, or what exactly the difference is between canoeing and kayaking?

To help you get a head start we have discovered a few interesting facts about some of the sports being showcased, to help you impress your friends and family.

'Eli Bremer in 2008 Summer Olympics modern pentathlon fencing event' by Tim Hipps. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
‘Eli Bremer in 2008 Summer Olympics modern pentathlon fencing event’ by Tim Hipps. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
  1. In its modern form, the art of diving emerged from German and Swedish gymnastics, and it first appeared at the Modern Summer Olympics in 1908 (London).
  2. The steeplechase, an established athletics event in the Summer Olympics, is run over 3,000 metres, including 28 hurdles and 8 water jumps.
  3. In late 19th-century Britain water polo was called ‘football in the water’ – odd, as the ball is propelled by hand – and there was a variant played in the USA called ‘softball in the water’.
  4. In badminton, the flight of the shuttlecock can exceed 270 km/h (or over 160 mph).
  5. Canoeing is when the canoeist either sits or kneels in a central, forward-facing position, using a single- or double-bladed paddle. Kayaking is when the canoeist sits and uses a double-bladed paddle.
  6. The word ‘decathlon’ comes from the Greek, meaning ‘ten prizes’, which is not surprising as it’s an event comprising ten activities: four track and six field.
  7. In the Summer Olympics, the equestrian events are the only ones in which animals feature, and in which men and women compete routinely against each other on equal terms.
  8. In competition, four swimming techniques are used (freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly), with four phases to each stroke: the reach, catch, pull, and recovery.
  9. The modern pentathlon was first put together to show off the skills that could be required of a cavalry courier.
  10. There are two types of wrestling: Freestyle and Greco-Roman. Freestyle wrestling dates from 1904 (men), and 2004 (women). The Greco-Roman form was invented in 19th century France, in tribute to ancient sporting cultures, and was first brought to the Olympics in 1924.

Featured image credit: ‘Background bar’ by anovva. CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay. 

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This post first appeared on OUPblog | Oxford University Press’s Academic Ins, please read the originial post: here

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Ten interesting facts about a selection of Olympic sports


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