Don't look now, but the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea are nearly upon us, meaning once again, eyeballs all over the planet will be feasting on some of the most elite-level athletic competition in human history. But it's worth remembering that the modern Olympic games are in so many ways different from those in decades past. So, in the spirit, here are nine weird Olympic sports that don't even exist anymore, lost to the sands of time.
For some of these, it'll be pretty obvious why they're not played anymore. For others, maybe you'll feel some regret ― "why can't I watch Olympic tug of war anymore!?" But in all cases, these nixed Olympic sports are an interesting glimpse into the past, to help provide context and appreciation for what the games have now become, and maybe a little humor, too.
Here are nine prime examples of some long-forgotten Olympic sports that you may never see again. Needless to say, it might seem a little sad in some cases, but in others, you'll probably agree it's for the best. After all, the idea of gunning down pigeons in an internationally televised event is more than a little grisly.
1. Horse Long Jump
If humans can long jump, why not horses? This is a definite weird entry, because it's not really about the athleticism of the rider as much as the steed, and the Olympics are traditionally pretty human-oriented. Equestrian long jumping reportedly took place at the 1900 Olympics, and never again.
2. Dueling Pistols
Needless to say, as far as guns are concerned, old-fashioned dueling pistols are a thing of the past, replaced by far more destructive and harrowing weapons. Back in the early 1900s, however, dueling pistols made an appearance, and by accounts it was a rather bizarre event; rather than fire upon actual living duelers, which would've obviously been dangerous and objectionable in the extreme, competitors reportedly fired pistols at dummies.
Odds are you know what a tug of war is ― two big scrums of people grabbing either side of a long rope, and pulling as hard as they can to pull the other side towards them. You might not have known, however, that tug-of-war was an Olympic event for two decades, from 1900 through to 1920. It was reportedly considered for re-inclusion in 2012, but it didn't end up happening.
4. Pigeon Shooting
You may have heard of clay pigeon shooting, which is a decidedly more humane and bloodless version of what went down at the 1900 Olympics. Rather than make due with lifeless facsimiles, the Olympic organizers opted for real, live pigeons, and hundreds were reportedly slain.
5. Solo Synchronized Swimming
Wait, you might ask, how can this be? What on Earth is solo synchronized swimming? The event, last held in 1992, crucially tweaked the meaning of "synchronized," grading performers on how well they synced their physical movements to music, rather than how well a team of swimmers synced their movements to each other.
6. Plunge For Distance
How precisely does one plunge for distance? You dive under the water, then see how far inertia can carry you through for a period of 60 seconds. This sport was included in the 1094 Olympics in St. Louis, a year which also included the infamous St. Louis marathon.
This might not have seemed as strange at the time, but by today's standards, a game as leisurely and austere as croquet being played in the Olympics might raise an eyebrow. It doesn't help that it's not a sport that demands too much athletically from its participants ― far more or a precision and finesse game than one of speed or strength, in other words.
8. Swimming Obstacle Race
Now this is an odd one. In the 1900 Olympics, there was an event that combined swimming with an obstacle course, forcing competitors to, as Elizabeth Hanes detailed for History.com, "stop mid-race and climb over a string of rowboats tied up in the middle of the pool." Perhaps needless to say, this competition never made another Olympic appearance.
What is roque? No shame if you haven't heard of it, but in 1904 it left its mark on Olympic history. In simple terms, it's an American variant of croquet ― you'll note the name is simply "croquet" wth the "c" and "t" dropped ― played on a hard, flat court, rather than on grass. After croquet was cut from the Olympic lineup following 1900, roque took over in 1904, with America being the only country to compete. It was never played at the Olympic level again.
Of course, there's no telling what current Olympic events might get supplanted or banished in the years to come, and how strange they might sound to someone looking back with more than a century of hindsight. But for the time being, it's fair to say that there are some definite shortcomings for these nine events, even though it sure would be fun to see them one last time. Except for the pigeon shooting one, that sounds terrible.