Olympics 101 for the Unknown Sportsby Manon von Kaenel on Aug, 02 2012
With the London 2012 Olympic Games off to a great start, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the sheer amount and variety of sports events in the competition: there are 36 disciplines total, many with several events. While we all know about the typical, more popular sports like basketball or soccer, we tend to ignore the less-well-known sports like trampoline (yes, there is an Olympic program in trampoline) or handball. Caliber compiled a list of these less popular sports to teach you some sports jargon and help you become an Olympics snob.
- boss – the target
- bowman – an athlete
- draw – to pull back the bowstring before shooting
- shuttlecock (aka “the birdie”) – the winged-like ball used to hit over the net (fun fact: the best shuttlecocks are said to be made from the feathers of the left wing of a goose)
- drive – a low, near-horizontal shot over the net
- smash – a hard overhead shot
- lift – a shot played from beneath the height of the net
Beach volleyball: The sun-and-sand version of volleyball, this sport (played in teams of 2) has grown tremendously since its beginnings in Santa Monica, CA, and introduction to the Olympics in Atlanta 1996. For the first time in history, the famously skimpy bikinis will no longer be required attire for female beach volleyball players. However, many athletes have vowed to continue wearing the skin-baring uniforms that, let’s face it, bring most of the attention to the sport.
- spike – smashing the ball overarm into the other court
- wipe – returning the ball after a block so it lands out of bounds
- setter – the player who sets up the ball for the attacker
- hook – a sideways-thrown punch with a bent elbow
- jab – a straight-thrown punch at arm’s length
- throw in the towel – a way for a boxer’s assistant to concede defeat
Canoe Slalom: This is, in the most simple terms, competitive white-water rapids canoeing. Like in slalom skiing, athletes will be have to navigate between a series of gates on a rapids-filled river in a race for the best time.
- eddy – a small whirlpool caused from a current flowing around an obstacle
- drop – a white water feature creating a fast current
- upstream gate – a red slalom gate that is navigated against the current
Canoe Sprint: Unlike the canoe slalom, the canoe sprint features head-to-head races on short stretches of still water.
- canoes – a boating craft in which athletes use a single-bladed paddle from a kneeling position
- kayak – a boating craft in which athletes use double-bladed paddles from a seated position
- bow – the front of the boat
- stern – the back of the boat
- stroke rate – the number of paddle strokes per minute
Diving: What started as gymnasts practicing moves in water in the 19th century became a full-fledged Olympic sport requiring intense precision, grace and strength (unlike your typical cannonball into the pool…). The Olympics features both individual and synchronized diving events, which are judged out of 10 according to difficulty and quality of execution.
- armstand – a platform dive that begins from a handstand
- platform – a fixed diving board, 10 meters above the water
- springboard – a flexible diving board
- tuck – a diving position where the diver curls up into a ball
Equestrian: This discipline is the only Olympic sport where men and women compete against each other equally. The competition will be played in three events: dressage, eventing, and jumping, each with both individual and team elements.
- dressage – in this event, the athlete and horse perform a series of movements in front of a panel of judges
- eventing – in this event, the athlete and horse compete in a dressage competition, in a cross-country race, and in a jumping contest
- jumping – in this third event, riders have to race on a course and overcome obstacles such as triple bars, water jumps, parallel rails, and simulated stone walls
Fencing: The modern version of the good old medieval duel, fencing is one of the few sports to have been featured at every single modern Olympic Games. Points are scored when competitors hit their opponent at designated spots on the body.
- epée – the heaviest and most typical sword
- foil – a lighter weapon (events involving the foil have very strict timing and right-of-way rules)
- sabre – in events involving the sabre, fencers score hits with the edge of the weapn
- lunge – a fast forward attacking motion
- parry – a defensive move
- riposte – scoring a hit after a parry
- piste – the field of play
Handball: Handball is played with two teams of seven players passing and dribbling a small ball with their hands, with the mission to throw the ball into the opponents’ goal. It’s a little like soccer and a little like basketball.
- dribble – moving the ball by bouncing it on the floor
- pivot – an offensive player who plays around the opposition’s goal area line
- throw-off – a throw from the center line that restarts the play
Judo: Judo contests last only 5 minutes, in which the contestants try intricate defensive and attacking moves and throws in an attempt to throw down their opponent. Originally, judo was developed from the martial art of jujitsu as a form of self-defence.
- tatami – the mat on which the contests are held
- judokas – the athletes
- ippon – a throw, hold, strangle, or armlock that results in immediate victory
- hajime – the shout the official uses to start the contest
- matte – the shout signaling the end of the contest
Modern pentathlon: According to legend, a 19th century French messenger once had to ride, fence, shoot, swim and run to complete his mission. Officially introduced a century ago, these five challenges make up the Olympic pentathlon event.
- epée – the sword used in the fencing element of pentathlon competitions
- freestyle – the swimming element is a freestyle race, so athletes can choose the stroke (usually the front crawl) they use
- handicap start – in the combined event, the athletes follow the event leader in an order determined by the results of the previous events
Shooting: Athletes shoot at both moving clay targets or at stationary targets in this age-old, sometimes controversial, discipline. Depending on the event, competitors shoot in standing, kneeling, or prone positions; and with rifle, pistol, or shotguns.
- double trap – a competition feature in which two clay targets are launched simultaneously in front of the shooter
- shoot-off – a tiebreaker
- trap – the device used for launching clay targets into the air
Synchronized swimming: Have you ever wondered how synchronized swimmers manage to smile all the time, even underwater? One of two all-female events in the Olympics (the other is rhythmic gymnastics), synchronized swimming requires incredible grace, strength, and coordination to deliver beautiful and visually-striking routines. The competition is held in both duet and team events.
- back layout – a position in which the swimmer holds herself flat and face up on the water’s surface
- scull – underwater hand movements meant to help support the body in the pool
- eggbeater – a way of treading water without using arms
- deckwork – the movements performed by swimmers before they enter the water
Table tennis: China has won 20 out of 24 available gold medals since the introduction of this sport. Note: “ping pong” is what you play in your backyard; “table tennis” is the competitive sport.
- blade – the flat part of the racket
- loop – an attacking shot, played with lots of topspin
- penhold – a type of grip where the racket is held like a pen
Taekwondo: The goal of Taekwondo – which means “the way of foot and fist” in Korean – is to hit the competitor at designated places on the body – a kick to the head, for example, is worth points.
- dobok – the white uniform worn by competitors
- chung – the competitor wearing a blue helmet
- hong – the competitor wearing a red helmet
- shi-jak – the command to start fighting
- gam-jeom – a reduction penalty
Trampoline: Don’t think that this gymnastics discipline, introduced at the Sydney 2000 games, comes close to your casual and fun backyard jumping. Athletes must combine precise technique with daredevil acrobatics, reaching heights of ten meters, in search of gold.
- barani – a front somersault with a half-twist.
- fliffus – a double somersault with at least a half-twist.
- triffus – a triple somersault with at least a half-twist.
- rudolph – a front somersault with 1