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?
If you enjoyed this list of the dumbest sports in the Olympics, head on over and check out this list of the most boring Summer Olympics sports as well!
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.
In September, at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, MO, aquatic athletes took part in an event called Plunge for Distance. Distance plunging required swimmers to dive off of a platform into the water and travel as far as they could in 60 seconds without moving any limbs. Three Americans swept the podium: William Dickey with 19.05 meters, Edgar Adams with 17.53 meters, and Leo Goodwin at 17.37 meters. The sport didn't require much athleticism or skill, and spectators were basically watching someone float in a pool. Needless to say, it didn't last as an Olympic event after 1904.
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.
The 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium, included an acrobatic equestrian event called vaulting. Equestrian vaulting is a lot like gymnastics on horses. Riders were required to do different variations of jumps onto and from their horse. Only three countries competed: Belgium, France, and Sweden. Belgium won gold and bronze, while France took silver. The event took place on September 11, 1920, and it was the only equestrian vaulting event in Olympic history.