With the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics fast approaching, our TVs will soon be dominated by athletes from around the world performing superhuman acts and breaking records. Sports that are too often overshadowed are returning to the Olympic spotlight for the first time in five years.
While each sport in the Summer Olympics is exciting in its own way, here are the five that hold a special place in our hearts.
5. Table tennis
Table tennis has the ultimate soft spot in our hearts. Rare is the person who at some point has not picked up a paddle and a ping pong ball. A successful table tennis rally is cathartic in sight, sound and rhythm.
At the Olympic level, that rhythm ramps up to a frenetic 100. While table tennis players may not exhibit the same record-breaking athleticism as other athletes, their superhuman reflexes are fully on display. We appreciate table tennis because anyone can play it. We appreciate Olympic table tennis because only those athletes can be that good.
Volleyball is arguably the ultimate team sport. There is no other competition that a team needs so badly. There is individual greatness to be had, but there is no spike without a set, no set without a pass, and no pass without a defense.
Volleyball has few of the boundaries that make other Olympic sports so exciting. There is no world record to be set on a track or on the beach.
However, objective standards are replaced by breathtaking rallies, blocks and spikes as two teams compete against each other and the ultimate enemy: gravity.
An unspoken staple sport in every Summer Olympics, swimming is a must-watch, especially if you’re a Cal fan. Led by team captains Simone Manuel, Allison Schmitt, Caeleb Dressel and former Bear Ryan Murphy, Team USA will make a splash.
Swimming is the ideal Olympic sport because it benefits the most from television. Without names and flags edited on broadcasts, swimmers are largely unrecognizable blobs making waves. Labels, stopwatches and commentators make the events palatable to all viewers, swimming experts and newcomers alike.
You’d be lying if you said gymnastics isn’t exciting. The heights gymnasts reach and the boundaries they continue to push are unparalleled, does physics even exist in Simone Biles’ world?
Whether you see Biles battling for another five Olympic medals, the United States battling for another 1-2 finish in the women’s all-around or Sam Mikulak battling in his third Games, artistic gymnastics is sure to be exciting.
And don’t forget to tune in to rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline gym, both are equally rewarding.
There is something captivatingly simple about event tracking. We were born to move, and in many ways track is the simplest expression of our desire to be free on our own. Whether using a prosthesis or not, the sight of athletes at the white starting line evokes thoughts often forgotten in the playgrounds of recent years.
Who is it? Who is the fastest?
This is where the Eliud Kipchoges, Usain Bolts and Florence Griffith Joyners of the world were born. Whether it’s 100m or 10,000m, the fastest people in the world are redefining what it’s like to be human on the Olympic track.
Jasper Kenzo Sundeen is editor-in-chief and president and Jocelyn Huang is editor-in-chief. Contact them at [email protected].
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