Have you ever wanted to be an Olympian, competing at the elite level for the glory and gratitude of your nation? Perhaps you’re wondering how far you’ll fare against the top-of-top when it comes to your favourite sport?
Or maybe you’re plagued every waking moment of your existence by questions such as “is it harder to get pummeled by fists for minutes on end or is it easier to stay afloat while trying to score a goal when someone is dragging you underwater?”These are some of the questions that keep us awake at night. But let’s entertain, for a minute, the idea that you’ll be able to compete at the Olympics for any chosen sport, which sport would then be the most difficult to play?
The Most Difficult Olympic Sport To Play
First things first, let’s get this out of the way. By no means are we saying that any Olympic sport is easy — unless you count lounging around on your couch and watching TV as an Olympic sport. Then we would all be champions! Also, given that we’re amid the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, we’ll only be taking into consideration games competed at this particular event.
This leaves us with 33 contenders for the title of “most difficult to play” including athletics, aquatics, cycling, fencing, gymnastics, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing, surfing, and more.
And before we drone on, let’s set the parameters. When you think of the most basic factors that could make a sport “hard to play”, you may come up with physiological exertion or complexity of the skills involved. The hardest sport is then classified as having both of these criteria involved. In short, a sport that is both physically (skill-wise) and mentally (psychologically) demanding.
Since we have 33 sports on hand that does not fall into both of the categories above, let’s work by elimination. Are there any Olympic sports that do not need maximal exertion during competition? Archery or equestrian sports come to mind.
Next, do you think it’s psychologically harder to compete as a solo act rather than in a team? If yes, then we can remove team sports from the equation.
Likewise, another conundrum is whether you believe that it’s harder to be competing against Mother Nature (kayaking or sailing) and/or against artificial resistances (manmade courses in cycling, golf, or skateboarding). If neither of those fit the bill, then would it make more sense for the most difficult sport to involve competing against other skilled Olympians?
Assuming this is true, that would mean that we have narrowed down the most difficult Olympic sport to only physiologically demanding individual sports where the competitor must directly overcome their opponent to secure the win.
This would leave us with boxing, judo, karate, table tennis singles, tennis singles, wrestling, taekwondo, and fencing. Not a small list by any means, so let’s narrow it down further.
We may remove table tennis and tennis from this list due to a lack of direct physical confrontation. And what we’re left with is our modern incarnations of ancient hand-to-hand combat. This is inline with the original spirit of the Olympics — to physically compete in hand-to-hand combat to determine the ultimate champion.
Speaking of hand-to-hand combat, let’s take away fencing since the extra layers of padding and equipment don’t spark the idea of “hand-to-hand”. This leaves us with games revolving around martial arts i.e. boxing and wrestling.
At this point, one way to further differentiate between the two would be to examine the length of the rounds. At a glance, wrestling does seem like the more intense sport but the shorter rounds make it less taxing from our perspective. This means that the three potential three-minute rounds in an Olympic boxing match may be the more demanding sport in the end. So the question is: Is boxing the most difficult Olympic sport to play? By our calculations, yes. You could make a good case for boxing.
And if you disagree with our opinion, try getting hit in the face by an elite boxer for up to nine minutes, then come tell us it’s easy to play.