There are 32 Olympic sports. Both you and I won’t be competing in any of them during this month’s Summer Olympics. But what if we could? Which events would it be possible to finish? In which would it be impossible?
Fourth-Place Medal took a look at the list of events in London and ranked all 32, from easiest to hardest. Our criteria was simple: How hard would it be to get through a single competition? Could you survive a 200 IM next to Michael Phelps? Is playing against LeBron James harder than Aleksandar Sapic, the Serbian water polo star? Theoretical success (or lack of it) is not taken into account. We’re only looking at whether you could make it through.
Notes: (1) If there are numerous events in a certain sport (like swimming and track), assume we’re choosing one of medium difficulty and not the marathon. (2) In the eyes of the IOC, swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming are all the same sport: Aquatics. We’re not going by the IOC list, which is why we list 32 sports, not the 26 official ones recognized at the Olympics.
N/A — Diving, gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming, trampoline — We’re ranking sports, not judged activities. These five Olympic disciplines require intense training, athleticism and skill. So do ballet, flying in the Blue Angels and calligraphy. And how tough can it be to win a gymnastics medal anyway? Get China to forge a birth certificate, wink at some French judges and voila.
27. Table tennis — It’s cliche to poke fun at table tennis, so I won’t go that route.
26. Weightlifting — I moved a few weeks ago. Being unable to lift heavy things is not as difficult as it sounds.
25. Beach volleyball — There’s only one thing that’s hard to do on the beach and it ain’t volleyball.
24. Shooting — I’d call this guy a doofus but, you know, he’s armed.
23. Badminton — No such qualms with this dude.
22. Fencing — Once you get to know a few pawn shop owners, it comes naturally.
21. Volleyball — On the bright side, opponents are trying to find free space on the floor on which to land their spikes.
20. Track — Fall early, fake an injury and then have your dad help you the rest of the way. The Visa money will be rolling in in no time.
19. Cycling — Track bikes have no brakes and the banks on the velodromes look tough to handle. So I searched for “is riding on a velodrome hard?” First hit says: “You can relax! Despite the way it looks and sounds, riding a track is relatively easy and a lot of fun. ” Definitive proof! No. 19 it is.
18. Archery — Any sport that allows competitors to wear that hat has to be ranked low. Also, I don’t think the Apollo spaceships that went to the moon were as technologically advanced as these crossbows. Somewhere, on a page I’ll never read, Katniss weeps.
17. Tennis –Sounds easy, until you have to return a 140-mph serve from Andy Roddick.
16 . Handball — Throughout history, this event has been dominated by the Soviets/Russians and Yugoslavians/Croatians. That inherent toughness more than makes up for France winning the gold in 2008.
15. Field hockey — The ball is hard and the sticks come at you. Plus, the skirt could be difficult for some men to pull off.
14. Soccer — A football field is big so it’d be pretty easy to stay out of the action. And if the ball does come your way, just fall down clutching your shin. You’ll fit right in.
13. Basketball — You know who’s really big and can barrel into you at full speed in order to draw a foul: Basketball players.
12. Boxing; 11. Wrestling; 10. Taekwondo — If this seems too low for three sports that involve you getting hit in the face, you’re probably right. But if you go full coward and submit immediately, it’ll be over quickly. They can’t punch you when you’re on the ground, right?
9. Judo — “A judo match is won by a score of ippon. Ippon can be scored by a clean, forceful throw; by holding the opponent mainly on his back for 30 seconds, […] or by submission to a strangle.” — The Complete Book of the Olympics
8. Swimming — Fifty-meter pools are much longer in person than they are on TV. They’re even longer when you have to swim butterfly down to the other end.
7. Rowing — They get mad if you sit there and don’t row. And, sure, the coxswain seems like a cushy gig, but you have to yell loudly, keep in rhythm to call the strokes and if you screw up — the rest of the crew has big sculls.
6. Modern Pentathlon — The hardest part: Remembering which five sports to compete in. (Shooting, swimming, running, riding and fencing.)
5. Sailing — This isn’t like taking a booze cruise off Montauk. Those booms come out of nowhere.
4. Canoe/Kayak — What you picture when you hear “canoe” or “kayak.”
What “canoe” and “kayak” means at the Olympics:
3. Water polo — They dunk you without warning and throw elbows like Bill Laimbeer. What goes on underwater stays underwater until it becomes a massive hematoma 48 hours later.
2. Triathlon — A mile swim in the open water, followed by a 25-mile bike ride and a six-mile run. No snark, that’s a lot of activity.
1. Equestrian — Can you ride a horse? Me neither.