The Olympic Games are the ultimate test of athleticism and skill. But when you look back at what events were in the Olympics that are now discontinued, you might think differently. The athletes that competed at the turn of the 20th century weren't much compared to Michael Phelps or Simone Biles. And some events are a far cry from the exciting swimming races or gymnastic events we watch today. Just like how old timey strongmen used to compete in events that by today’s standards look quite silly, some of the retired Olympic events look pretty questionable when contrasted against more modern versions of the Games.
Some of the most bizarre and unusual sports that ended up on the Olympic program look pretty wacky – like ski ballet or solo synchronized swimming. Although these weird events might have been fun to compete in, lack of spectators or lack of athleticism (as in motorboating) usually led to a sport’s Olympic demise. Take a look at these weird competitive events that used to be in the Olympics. Do you think you could compete?
Special Figures: Drawing Doodles On The Ice And Then Skating Them Out
Figure skating first appeared in the Summer Olympics in 1908 in London, England (16 years before the first Winter Olympics). As part of the competition, four events took place: men’s singles, ladies’ singles, pair skating, and men’s "special figures." In the special figures event, which took place in October 1908, skaters would draw intricate patterns on the ice (which more or less looked like very elaborate doodles), submit the designs to the judges, and then complete those figures with their movements on the ice. There were only three competitors: Nikolai Panin of Russia, Arthur Cumming of Great Britain, and Geoffrey Hall-Say of Great Britain. Panin won gold, and Cumming and Hall-Say won silver and bronze, respectively. This was the first and last time the special figures event took place in the Olympics.
Solo Synchronized Swimming: Synchronized Swimming By Yourself
Synchronized swimming debuted in August 1984 at the Los Angeles Olympic Games with two events: women’s duet and women’s solo. In the solo event, instead of synchronizing with another swimmer or a team of swimmers, one swimmer would sync with their chosen music. Yes, that's right, synchronized swimming by yourself. One American, Tracy Ruiz, was particularly good at the sport, medaling twice: gold in LA in 1984 and silver in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Solo synchronized swimming only lasted for three Olympics and was replaced with the team event in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Ski Ballet: Ice Skating On Downhill Skis
In the Calgary Winter Olympics in February of 1988 and the Albertville, France, Winter Olympiad in February of 1992, ski ballet was featured as a demonstration sport. In the event, skiers would compete by doing flips, jumps, and ballet-like movements as they skied down a hill in a two-minute freestyle program.
Ski Ballet looks a lot like ice skating on skis, except not quite as graceful and a lot funnier. Unfortunately, there wasn't much interest in it, and it never became an official Olympic sport. In 1988, Hermann Reitberger of West Germany took first place in the men’s competition, while Christine Ross of France took first place in the women’s event. Americans placed second in both men’s and women’s: Lane Spina (men’s) and Jan Bucher (women’s).
Tug Of War: An Event From The Ancient Greek Games That Experienced A Revival
Tug of war might seem like a silly children’s game, but it was also an event in the ancient Greek Olympics. It was revived for five modern Olympic Games from 1900 to 1920. In the event, two teams of eight tuggers would try to pull the other team by six feet. In August of 1904 at the St. Louis, MO, Olympiad, three teams from the United States swept the podium, but it would be the last time the US would medal in the event. Great Britain would go on to become the greatest tug of war team in Olympic history, winning gold, silver, and bronze in the 1908 Olympics, silver in 1912, and gold in 1920 in the last Olympic tug of war event. After 1920, the International Olympics Committee decided there were too many events and removed 34 sports from the Olympic program, including tug of war.