Olympeculiarities: The Weirder Fare on Tap at Brazil 2016

Gold Medal 2016 Athlete Standing Sugarloaf Mountain

Ah, the Summer Olympics. That rare exhibition of the world’s proudest athletics. I’m a sports fan, so the Summer Olympics should be like Christmas in July (scratch that, August), but I grow bored of the standard swimming, gymnastics, and track events that make up 95% of what they show on prime-time TV. Instead, I like to dig into the weird stuff, the stuff I never see anywhere else, the stuff I can’t believe made it into the lineup of the world’s marquee athletic competition. Let’s run down my top 3 wackiest Olympic events for the American viewer, followed by the best ways to watch these marvels of sport. Join me, won’t you?

Dressage

Steffen Peters

Steffen Peters on Ravel competes during the FEI World Cup Grand Prix Freestyle Final at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Saturday, April 18, 2009. Peters won the final. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

We’re starting out with a bang. The International Equestrian Federation defines dressage as “the highest expression of horse training” where “horse and rider are expected to perform from memory a series of predetermined movements.” They call it this because it would be too ridiculous to call it “horse dancing,” which is exactly what it is. If you’ve never seen a steed doing soft-shoe, you’re in for a treat.

Equestrian Highlights – Hiroshi Hoketsu – London 2012 Olympics

Fencing

Women's Team Epee - London 2012

Photo Credit: S. Timacheff of fencingphotos.com

Most Americans know what fencing is, but few have ever actually seen it happen. It’s quite the spectacle. Two competitors, clad in what looks like what you’d get if you mixed “ninja,” “spaceman,” and “roll of aluminum foil,” get their Luke Skywalker on up on a catwalk like it’s Fashion Week in Paris. The rules can be a little much to follow, but that’s what the judges are for.

Fencing Highlights – London 2012 Olympics

Handball

Ivan_Nikčević

Ivan Nikcevic of the Serbian national handball team.

This last sport is one I wish were big in America all the time. Handball is like if a bunch of European guys weren’t good enough at soccer, so they shrunk the ball and picked it up with their hands. What results is this funky blend of soccer and basketball, in which attempts on goal frequently take the form of high-flying, acrobatic whips toward the corner of the net. Seriously, please tell your friends about handball. Maybe we can get LeBron to switch.

Check it out. Men’s Handball Final – Sweden vs. France, London 2012 Olympics

How to watch the Rio Games

NBC Sports Network will show some fencing, but we’re going to have to dig a little if we want to get off the beaten path. Fortunately, NBC makes it very easy to live-stream literally any event you could want to watch, legally and safely, without any extra signup or payment (and I say this as somebody who uses this service to watch probably 200+ English soccer matches over the course of a year). Go to NBC’s Live Extra site and you will see featured events and menus to navigate to whatever you’re looking for. Before you can begin the stream, they will ask you to log in with your cable subscriber information (this is what makes it legal, thumbs up!). One subscriber account can be used to log in multiple devices, so you and your family (or roommates) can all have your pick, or watch away from home at the same time.

NBC has put together this handy calendar for us, making it easy to see what’s happening when. But fear not, even if you miss an event live, NBC Sports Live Extra archives many events for days or even weeks, so you can get caught up or pick up where you left off. For those watching on a smartphone or tablet, the NBC Sports Live Extra app is free and provides the same great service.

That’s all I’ve got! Take my advice and explore outside the spotlight this Summer Olympics…and maybe check out Canoeing, Racewalking (just Google it), and Table Tennis while you’re at it. If you need me, I’ll be parked in front of my laptop, wearing a Mikkel Hansen Danish handball jersey.

 

Smart Perks blogger Grant Abrams can’t stop thinking about the foreign, the fantastical, and the futuristic…also chocolate chip cookies.

 

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