No love for Sailing as an Olympic Sport


“That’s so easy that I could do it,” is a phrase that will be repeated countless times around televisions airing the Olympics this month. The short response is, “no, no it’s not.” The longer answer is a bit more complicated.

Every Olympic sport absolutely has a distinct degree of difficult and because of that we decided to rank events to see which would actually be the easiest to win gold. Our criteria was simple: Imagine you are 21 (if you are 21, way to go, friend!) and have never played any Olympic sport. If you started training today, which sport would be the easiest in which to score a gold medal and which would be hardest, with all the other ones ranked in between. (If it’s a team sport, you can’t sit on the bench – you have to play.)

Before you get all upset about the ranking of your favorite sport, one caveat: There are about 1,000 medals up for grabs at the Summer Olympics and it’s next to impossible to win any of them. We’re simply trying to find which sports are less impossible than the others.

1. Archery/Shooting
The easiest Olympic sports are so similar we had a tie for the “win.” Though it’s probably unwise to insult the two Olympic sports in which competitors use actual weapons, it’s hard not to think that men and women with a lot of time and a steady hand couldn’t master the same art as Robin Hood, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano and 2012 air pistol gold medalist Jin Jong-oh. Also, even if you’re mediocre you could still hit a bullseye by complete accident, sort of like Gwyneth Paltrow did when she won that Oscar.

2. Sailing
Have you seen a pirate movie? Those guys don’t seem especially smart or athletic, yet there they are plundering and escaping into the horizon all because of boat savvy. If they can do it, learning to harness the power of wind and moving a few jigs and booms doesn’t seem all that tough. And if all else fails, just become best buds with sailing tycoon Larry Ellison and politely ask him to buy you a medal.

3. Rhythmic Gymnastics
It’s gymnastics for people who can’t walk the balance beam. This is a competition (not a sport, a competition) that values grace as much as athleticism and grace can be taught – I’ve seen My Fair Lady. Hmm, that’s a reference only rhythmic gymnastics fans are going to understand.

4. Modern Pentathlon
Yes, you need to become proficient in five sports but that’s a lot easier than becoming sublime in one. The five sports of MP are shooting, fencing, running, show jumping and swimming. How good do you have to be in each? NOT VERY! I was a good, but far from great, swimmer back in my day and my 200 freestyle at age 15, which wasn’t even in the top 16 of my county, would have been the fastest at the MP U.S. nationals. Given that, it can’t be all that hard to become decent enough in the other sports to beat other athletes not good enough to make it in a singular Olympic pursuit, right?

5. Synchronized Swimming
Did you know there used to be a solo synchronized swimming event at the Olympics? Say it out loud. Solo synchronized swimming. Anyway, now that that contradiction in terms is out of the Games it’s just regular ol’ syncing and I imagine that’s far more difficult than it sounds. Not “actual sport” difficult but still pretty hard. Because, again, we’re not saying it’s easy to win a medal in any of these sports. But there’s definitely a pecking order and we seek to decipher it. It is our obligation.

Full list… click here.

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