Sunday, July 25, 2021

Swimming and Gymnastics Get Too Much Olympic Attention

Welcome to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics taking place in 2021! Obviously, the Olympics were delayed because of the global pandemic, and it's definitely odd seeing events with no fans. While I had all types of ideas for Olympic related  blog posts, I'm too late to do a preview. Instead, this post is part of my new series, Hills I'm Willing To Die On. And today's hill is that swimming and gymnastics get too much attention at the Olympics.

This certainly isn't designed to be an anti-Simone Biles, Katie Ledecky, or Michael Phelps post. They are all incredible athletes who deserve all of the accolades they receive. Phelps is the most decorated Olympian ever with 28 medals including 23 golds. Many people see these numbers and also consider him to be the greatest Olympian ever. Ledecky comes into the Tokyo games with 6 medals and will compete in four individual events and at least one relay event. Meanwhile, Biles earned 5 medals in Rio and has the chance to double her medal total in Tokyo. Again, these are all outstanding athletes and their accomplishments may not be matched in these sports for years if ever. 

The point of this post is more about these sports themselves. Women's artistic gymnastics has four individual events (vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor) as well as the team competition.There are six individual events for men (floor, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars, and horizontal bar) gymnastics plus the team. There are 37 different swimming events! 37! Yes, it's incredibly difficult to qualify to compete in multiple events, but the opportunity to do so is there. For example, Ledecky is competing in the 200, 400, 800, and 1500 free events. The distances are different and preparation for and the races themselves are different, but it's the same stroke. Meanwhile, if you play team handball, you have one chance to win a medal. There isn't a team handball event and then an individual one. There's one opportunity to win a medal in baseball and softball. The Olympics does not have a home run derby or skills competition. If you throw the javelin, it's all about who can throw it the furthest. Why not have more opportunities for javelin athletes? Maybe have an event to see who can throw the highest too? Perhaps archery and javelin athletes can have team events to combine accuracy and distance. I understand that this sounds silly, but why not? 

NBC will show gymnastics and swimming more than other sports in part because they have so many events. Yes, Biles and Ledecky are superstars, but as I mentioned, in many events, athletes have only one chance to win a medal. I understand that I can go out and find rowing and baseball and skateboarding on TV or online, but I wish there were more focus on these other sports and athletes. 

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