If the biathlon sounds bizarre, the modern pentathlon definitely takes it up a notch. These athletes must prove their mettle in not two, but five disparate skills. A summer sport, as opposed to the winter biathlon, men began competing in the pentathlon in 1912. Women were inducted in 2000.
This event's purported origin story involves a French cavalry officer who had to beat impossible odds to deliver a crucial message. Starting out on horseback, he also had to fence, run, swim and shoot to get the missive to its intended recipient.
Fast-forward to the present, and in a single day, a pentathlon athlete must first fence all other opponents, swim 200 meters, then ride an unfamiliar horse through a 12-jump course. Those who pass this rigorous test must proceed through a combined bout of running and shooting to get the gold. Then they get to take a nap, we assume, if they so desire.
This is the first of several articles related to the Olympics that I have been tasked with writing over the course of the summer, and I couldn't be more thrilled about that. Since I was a kid, the only televised sporting events I've followed with a passion have been the World Cups and the Olympic Games. You can save your football, your golf, your motor sports, your tennis tourneys and all the rest. They're all well and good, I'm sure, but I'm just not interested.
That being said, the Olympics have hands-down stolen my heart. I'm captivated by the Opening Ceremonies, enthralled by the athletes tear-jerking bios (yes, the majority of them make me weepy-eyed), and engrossed by the multitude of competitions -- even the oddest of the odd. But prior to this, I was only familiar with the loopy ones known in the modern games. It was great researching prior and potential "sports" that have tried to make the roster. Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!
- "11 Strangest Former Olympic Sports." 11Points.com. August 13, 2008. (May 4, 2012.) http://www.11points.com/Sports/11_Strangest_Former_Olympic_Sports
- David, Ceri. "The ten oddest former Olympic events." The Observer. Aug. 1, 2004. (May 4, 2012.) http://observer.guardian.co.uk/osm/story/0,,1270844,00.html
- "Discontinued Olympic Sports." Top End Sports. (May 4, 2012.) http://www.topendsports.com/events/discontinued/swim-solo-synchronized.htm
- Findling, John and Pelle, Kimberly. "Encyclopedia of the Modern Olympic Movement." Greenwood Press. 2004. (May 4, 2012.) http://books.google.com/books?id=QmXi_-Jujj0C&lpg=PA31&ots=iY5X28px4o&dq=1900%20Games%20AG%20Spalding&pg=PA27#v=onepage&q=1900%20Games%20AG%20Spalding&f=false
- Hanson, Ian. "Hurst and Gorman continue Surf Life Saving's Olympic connection." Australian for Life. July 7, 2011. (May 4, 2012.) http://www.sls.com.au/content/hurst-and-gorman-continue-surf-life-savings-olympic-connection
- Official Site of the Olympics Movement. (May 4, 2012.) http://www.olympic.org/
- "1900 Paris Summer Games." Sports Reference. (May 4, 2012.) http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/summer/1900/
- NBC Olympics Coverage. (May 4, 2012.) http://www.nbcolympics.com/
- "Brief History of the Olympic Games." NOSTOS Hellenic Cyber Centre. (May 4, 2012.) http://www.nostos.com/
- London 2012. (May 4, 2012.) http://www.london2012.com/
- "Olympics 2012." Families Online. April 23, 2012. (May 4, 2012.) http://www.familiesonline.co.uk/LOCATIONS/Chiltern/Articles2/Olympics-20122/Olympics-2012#.T6gzLejOypc
- "Olympic Games Medalists: Other Sports." GBR Athletics. (May 4, 2012.) http://books.google.com/books?id=QmXi_-Jujj0C&lpg=PA31&ots=iY5X28px4o&dq=1900%20Games%20AG%20Spalding&pg=PA28#v=onepage&q=1900%20Games%20AG%20Spalding&f=false
- "Pole dancing seeks Olympic inclusion." The Independent. Feb. 22. 2010. (May 4, 2012.) http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/olympics/pole-dancing-seeks-olympic-inclusion-1907036.html
- Sochi 2014. (May 4, 2012.) http://sochi2014.com/en/
- "Synchronized Swimming" International Olympics Committee. September 2011. (May 4, 2012.) http://www.olympic.org/Assets/OSC%20Section/pdf/QR_sports_summer/Sports_Olympiques_natation_synchronis%C3%A9e_eng.pdf
- "The French government tried to combine the Olympics with the World's Fair. The idea didn't work." CBC Sports. Aug. 7, 2009. (May 4, 2012.) http://www.cbc.ca/olympics/history/story/2008/05/12/f-olympics-history-1900.html
- "Zip wire and hot air balloon for Olympic Torch Relay." BBC. Nov. 7, 2011. (May 4, 2012.) http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/15617230
The Olympic opening ceremony is an emotional and inspiring parade of athletes. Learn about the Olympic opening ceremonies at HowStuffWorks.