As American Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who cleaned up four years ago in Beijing, barely classifies for the next round of competitions in the London 2012 Olympics, the simmering rivalry with fellow American swimmer Ryan Lochte -- who classified in third place while Phelps placed in the eight position -- has taken a new turn.
Phelps, who despite the amazing performance that awarded him eight gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, has been criticized for controversial behavior involving drugs and alcohol, as well as for drawing to much media attention away from other American Olympians who are not as "sexy" but just as brave, is starting to be perceived as "overrated" by Olympic fans who think big Olympic disciplines and athletes (e.g. Phelps and Lochte in swimming, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant in basketball) suck up all the Games' oxygen -- making fans to often overlook other awesome sports.
Here are the 14 sports you don’t watch, but should:
1) Greco-Roman Wrestling:
Greco-Roman wrestling is the ultimate test of upper-body brawn. Named after the style of wrestling played in ancient civilizations in the Mediterranean, it forbids below-the-waist holds. This forces players to use more throws, arm drags, bear hugs, and headlocks, since they cannot trip others or grabbing the opponent’s leg. Check out this sport if you miss the true Grecian spirit of the Olympic Games.
2) Modern Pentathlon:
The modern pentathlon is a contest of five events: pistol shooting, fencing, 200 m freestyle swimming, horse show jumping, and a 3 km cross-country run. The contest has roots in the 19th century, when father of the modern Olympics Pierre de Coubertin decided to update the ancient pentathlon (long jump, javelin throw, discus throw, a short foot race, and wrestling). In the modernization, he focused on skills required by 19th-century soldiers and designed a points system. Basically, the contest is a throwback to the Napoleonic Wars. Nice.
Triathlons, which many Americans participate in for fun, are also Olympic events. The event challenges men and women to a swimming, cycling, and running race. Live vicariously through these professional triathletes.
Weightlifting is mesmerizing. While much skill and strategy are involved, the clean and jerk looks just like a demonstration of pure strength.
Taekwondo, or Korean martial arts, is a combination of strength, discipline, skill, and artistry. Blocks, kicks, punches, open-hand strikes, and leg kicks characterize the sport. Some versions target the opponents’ pressure points. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, the South Korean military practiced the martial art. Translating as “way of the hand and foot,” taekwondo taught primarily as self-defense, though it also functions as meditation and philosophy and symbolizes Korean history and culture.
6) Canoe Slalom:
The kayaking event requires athletes to navigate through hanging gates on river rapids as quickly as possible. They paddle upstream and downstream. How intense is that?!
7) Rhythmic Gymnastics:
Rhythmic gymnastics require athletes to manipulate rope, clubs, hoops, ball, ribbon, or nothing. The sport combines dance, ballet, gymnastics, and object manipulation an artistic and athletic way.
Trampolining features athletes who perform acrobatics in the air while jumping on a trampoline. It’s a less creepy circus act!
The bow-and-arrow sport, recently popularized by Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, is an elegant test of aim and accuracy. Archery in the London 2012 Olympics has already made a rousing start; South Korean male archers set a world record in the opening day - Im Dong-hyun shot 699, breaking the previous record he had set.
Think badminton is a lame sport? Well, professional athletes will be whacking the shuttlecock like you’ve never seen.
Cycling will have an equal number of men’s and women’s events for the first time ever. BMX, mountain biking, road cycling, and track cycling have added more women’s events to give equal opportunity to both sexes.
12) Water Polo:
Water polo began in 19th century England and Scotland, so it’s worth watching in its birthplace. I never understood why water polo hasn’t been as popular as other sports -- it’s basically soccer + water. The caps may look silly, but these athletes are serious players.
Athletics is an event of running, jumping, throwing, and walking. Track and field, road running, and race walking are common events. It’s another way to watch unbelievable racers.
The U.K. dominates sailing with number of Olympic medals. We should watch the Brits rule their sport.