The 10 Strangest Sports (And Everything You Need To Try Them)

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International sporting contests have long been dominated by the high-impact, heavy-drama, world-record-smashing events: The 100 and 200 metres, gymnastics, swimming, cycling... But beyond these attention-hogging sports are countless events that get unfairly sidelined due to their loopy eccentricity. Fancy getting involved? Stock up on plenty of sporting equipment and get stuck in with some inspiration from this list. 

Here are 10 of the loopiest to try.  

1. Solo Synchronised Swimming



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You might, not unreasonably, question how synchronised swimming works when there's only one person taking part – who exactly are they in synchronisation with? That didn't stop this event from featuring in the 1984, 1998 and 1992 games, at which point it was sadly dropped. 

If you fancy giving it a go yourself, you'll need a swimming costume and some music to gracefully splash about to – something stridently rhythmic so that you can throw dramatic shapes for the imaginary judges. (Fans of the sport would argue that these choreographed moves are the 'synchronisation' that allows the whole concept to make sense, but... hmmm.) 

2. Modern Pentathlon



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It's not that any of the five events that make up a pentathlon – fencing, swimming, horse riding, shooting and running – are particularly weird, it's more that it feels like there's no logical connection between them. It's as if modern pentathlon was dreamed up by an athletics official flicking through The Big Book of Sports and plonking a finger down onto random pages as they whooshed by.

There is, however, a kind of logic to it: Fencing, swimming, horse riding, shooting and running was the standard skill-set of a soldier back in the late 19th century, when modern pentathlon was devised. Regardless, it's still as mad as a box of hair. 

Get yourself a  women's swimming costume or  men's swimming trunks as you see fit, a  horse saddle, and some  running trainers, and see how that goes for starters.

3. Tug of War



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Originating in Ancient Greece, the tug of war returned for the modern games of 1900 before being unceremoniously dumped in 1920 – which is a bit of a swizz, as Team GB were the undisputed champs of the event. Bring it back, we say. Us Brits already have a wealth of experience with the sport thanks to all those church fayres, school fetes and team-building days out with work.  

If you do give the tug of war a go, however, make sure you purchase a rope specifically designed for it – because if it's not been coated correctly you're going to end up with red-raw palm burns if the rope goes zipping through your hands.

4. Roller Hockey



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While roller hockey – a.k.a. rink hockey – sounds like the kind of event that might've emerged during the disco era of the '70s, it actually made its one and only appearance at the 1992 Barcelona games. 

Basically, you take hockey and put it on quad rollerskates, with a ball and hockey sticks similar to those used in field hockey. It's subtly different to inline hockey, which is played on inline skates – a.k.a. rollerblades – using a puck and ice-hockey gear. Had inline skating been included in the '92 games, countries that traditionally excel at ice hockey – Canada, Russia, the US – would likely have stormed the leaderboard. Instead, Argentina, Spain and Italy took the top three spots. 

5. Trampoline



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You may think of trampolining as being solely for giggling kids in back gardens, but it's been a part of the games – albeit not a particularly high-profile part – since 2000. And if you enjoy watching gymnastics events that leave you wincing at the risks involved, then trampoline is definitely worth a go: Even dicey events such as the vault, beam and parallel bars look sane and straightforward by comparison.   

Fancy giving it a whirl? Probably best if you don't try to emulate top British trampolinists Bryony Page and Nathan Bailey immediately. Maybe buy a garden trampoline and do a couple of bouncy spins first, then work your way up to a somersault. You don't want to send yourself plummeting through next door's shed, do you?

6. Race Walking



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It may be one of the most tittered-over events – thanks to that undeniably comical sashaying motion – but race walking has been a part of the games since 1908, so maybe we should all start taking it a bit more seriously. If nothing else, it's one of the most endurance-testing events out there – the two distances contested are 20km (12.4 miles) and 50km (31 mile), both of which are a long, looong way to sashay. 

The rules are simple: Race walkers move forward with no visible loss of contact with the ground, and with the front leg remaining straight. Try it – it's weirdly tricky, but all you need are a good pair of lightweight running shoes

7. Canne de Combat



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French martial art canne de combat is basically fencing, but with a chestnut walking cane instead of a foil. Dressed in protective gear and fencing masks, two combatants attempt horizontal or downward blows across their rival's calves, torso or head. Stabbing or thrusting blows are forbidden, which is probably for the best because ouch.

Canne de combat made just one appearance at the games, as the 'demonstration sport' at Paris in 1924. It obviously didn't catch on with international audiences, and the sport has now all but faded into obscurity. 

8. Team Rhythmic Gymnastics



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Rhythmic gymnastics is mind-boggling enough when performed solo, but the team events launch the lunacy levels up into the stratosphere. There's contortionism, synchronised gymnastics, eye-popping tricks with clubs, balls, ropes and hoops... Imagine Cirque du Soleil with an intensely competitive twist and you're just about there. 

As with the trampoline thing, it's probably best to start slowly if you're feeling inspired to have a crack yourself. Pick up an eye-catching leotard, some colourful ribbon and a rhythmic gymnastics ball. Twirl a ribbon a bit. Maybe do a forward roll. Baby steps.    

9. One-Handed Weightlifting



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This event graced the 1896, 1904 and 1906 games, and is pretty much what it says on the tin: Contestants were allowed three attempts to lift weights with each hand; the scores from both hands were then combined. It was similar to modern snatch weightlifting except, y'know, one-handed. 

One-handed weightlifting actually gave Britain its first-ever gold medal, courtesy of the mighty Launceston Elliot – a true sporting hero of his time. If you reckon you could be the next Launceston, pick up some dumbbells and get lifting. 

10. Motorboating



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Yep, motorboating was an official sport at the summer games, just the once, in 1908. With a top speed of just 19mph the power boats were pretty sluggish by modern standards, but still, it's odd to think of motorised vehicles being used at a contest intended to test the limits of human physicality. 

Fun fact: Thomas Thornycroft of Great Britain triumphed in 1908's motorboating events, taking two golds; 44 years later, aged 70, he was selected to be a part of Britain's yachting team at the 1952 games. Hats off!

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