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Road to Rio: 5 sports you only ever watch at the Olympics

| 13.07.2016

We know there’s been a lot going on lately, but a lot more is set to happen next month when Rio hosts the 2016 Olympics. And that means it’s time to read up on those sports you only ever watch every four years.

There’s no shame in it, we all do it. When the Olympic cycle comes around we turn into anoraks on anything from the canoe slalom to field hockey and table tennis.

But some things we really do only watch when there’s a gold medal on the line.

And we’ve put together a little five-fold of events that really epitomise that Olympic spirit…


South Korea’s Ki Bo Bae competes against US' Khatuna Lorig in the women's archery semifinal match at Lord's Cricket Ground in London on August 2, 2012 during the London 2012 Olympic Games. South Korea won the match. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GettyImages)

Archery is a lot like darts, right? The more accurate you are, then the better your score.

But the similarities pretty much end there.

Dealing with a bow and arrow instead of throwing a dart, and from a distance of up to 90metres, archery is a stunning test of nerve, skill, and of course, accuracy.


LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 05: Andrea Cassara (R) of Italy competes against Suguru Awaji (L) of Japan in the gold medal match of the Men's Foil Team Fencing finals on Day 9 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at ExCeL on August 5, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Every four years, we get stuck into the mysterious world of faceless men and women trying to poke their opponent with a pointy stick in specifically marked areas.

When put like that it sounds a bit like Laser Quest meets boxing.

It’s unlikely Team GB will fare well, but when those masks are on you can’t tell who is who anyway. The tension of who will strike, and when they will do so, is wonderfully encapsulating.


Russia's Anastasiia Baryshnikova (blue) fights against South Korea's Lee In Jong during their women's taekwondo bronze medal bout in the + 67 kg category as part of the London 2012 Olympic games, on August 11, 2012 at the ExCel centre in London. AFP PHOTO / ALBERTO PIZZOLI (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/GettyImages)

Many of us had a go at it when we were younger, but to get to the top of taekwondo involves a determination, a strength and a dexterity few of us can boast.

The sheer change of speed in this sport is staggering, and a contest can change in the blink of an eye.

Synchronised Swimming

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 10: Canada competes in the Women's Teams Synchronised Swimming Free Routine final on Day 14 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre on August 10, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

From the rapid jinks, twists and turns of taekwondo, to the graceful elegance of synchronised swimming.

Let’s be honest, none of us really quite know what’s going on, but it’s utterly gripping (or should that be hypnotic?) all the same.

Water Polo

Aleksandar Radovic of Montenegro (L) is challenged by Andrija Prlainovic of Serbia as he shoots towards the Serbian goal during the men's water polo bronze medal match Montenegro vs Serbia at the London 2012 Olympic Games in London on August 12, 2012. AFP PHOTO / ADEK BERRY (Photo credit should read ADEK BERRY/AFP/GettyImages)

Water Polo is a lot like handball, only in water. So now you know.

It’s the frequent butt of many a joke in US teen dramas, but it’s deadly serious when those teams get in the pool, getting sin-binned and all sorts.

Water Polo is a massively physical test, and if this doesn’t make you feel like joining the gym while you watch into the early hours, tucking into some leftover pizza, nothing will.

*Ladbrokes is not an official sponsor of the Olympics and is in no way affiliated with any of the competing athletes, events or competitions being held in Rio de Janeiro this summer*



Richard Marsh

Richard loves his sport, especially if it involves the sound of tyres screaming around a race track. He's not fussy though and his '90s Premier League nostalgia and knowledge of team nicknames is tough to match.