By Rachael Funk
The Olympics are a majestic showcase of athleticism from around the world. The best of the best compete in this time-honored tradition of showmanship, precision, and brute strength.
Competitors have devoted their lives to perfecting their skills in skating, gymnastics, ski jumping, swimming, and a host of other revered sports. Esteemed contenders represent their country as they push their bodies, minds, and spirits to the absolute limits, hoping to capture glory for themselves, their families, and their countries. While you anticipate the coming games, please enjoy this list of real sports from around the world that didn’t quite make the cut.
South Africa & United States
Yes, this sport is very real and not for the faint of heart. Common in South Africa and many areas of the United States, the sport is exactly what it sounds like. Agile riders hop onto the backs of ostriches and race them around a track. Since ostriches have the fastest land speed of any bird, riders pretty much just hop aboard and hold on for dear life. These high-steppin’ beauties can be ridden with or without a saddle, and some races even include one-person chariots.
Competitive Sheep Shearing
An incredibly physical sport, shearing competitions attract competitors from Britain, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, and several other countries. The basic objective is to shear a sheep as quickly and accurately as possible, but participants are judged on several categories during the competition. New Zealand’s national Golden Shears contest attracts roaring crowds and is even covered in the media – including pay-per-view cable events. Petitions have been created to have shearing included at the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics, but so far no luck.
This incredible competition is part of the Cotswold Olimpick Games, a celebration that dates back to the 1600s, and is held in Gloucester, England. Players must wear long pants or tracksuits and are allowed to stuff their socks with straw in order to cushion their shins. Steel-toes boots and foot-stomping are strictly forbidden, but beyond that, few other rules apply. The goal of the event is to take your challenger to the ground, weakening the opponent by pummeling their shins. The winner is decided by a “best of three” rule.
Invented in 1976 over a few drinks at a local pub, this race is a 60-yard swim through a bog. Swimmers must wear snorkels and flippers and are not allowed to use traditional swimming strokes to get themselves to the end of the trench and back again. Wetsuits are suggested, but not mandatory. Many snorkelers opt instead for fun costumes over warm swimming gear. The event caught on and attracts swimmers from all over the world.
Another delightful event from Gloucester, England, cheese rolling involves chasing a wheel of cheese down a very steep hill. More of a high speed tumble than a race, the first person to make it to the bottom wins the cheese. The event has been an annual tradition since the 15th century, with very few rules. They try to keep a maximum of 15 “runners” per race after the local first response team complained they didn’t have enough paramedics to treat everyone, but beyond that it’s pretty much a free-for-all.
Inspired by the 1992 comic, Froid Équateur, this hybrid fighting sport combines the raw brutality of boxing with the cerebral strategy of chess. The first competition took place in Berlin, invented by Dutch performance artist Iepe Rubingh. 11 rounds are played, alternating between five rounds of chess and five rounds of boxing, each lasting exactly three minutes. In a match, competitors can win the boxing rounds by knockout or technical knockout and the chess rounds by checkmate or if the opponent exceeds the allotted time to make a move. An automatic win can be had if an opponent is disqualified or resigns.
Car curling is similar to regular curling, but instead of using brooms and stones, a group of people shove cars down the ice toward the target. When a team is up, someone hops into the driver’s seat to steer while the rest of the team give the car a running push. The game is played with cars called Okas, which can weigh more than 1,500 pounds.
This Finnish sport is a race through a course with two dry obstacles and one water obstacle. The carrier wears a belt and the carried, a helmet. The couple who completes the course in the shortest amount of time is declared the winner. “Wife” rules include a minimum weight, age, and an official game rule is that “all participants must enjoy themselves.” The “wife” doesn’t need to be a participant’s legal wife, the rules say the neighbor’s wife will do as well.
One of the more strange American practices, Cricket Spitting is a competition that involves putting a dead cricket in your mouth and spitting it as far as you possibly can. Crucial rules of the competition include that the crickets are to be brown house crickets, must be spat within 20 seconds of placing the cricket in your mouth, and the cricket must be fully intact before it is spat. Before a contestant’s spit can be counted, officials must inventory the cricket to make sure it retained all six legs, four wings, and both antenna.