The Summer Olympics has a fair share of mainstream sporting events at its core; sports that the sporting public is familiar with like basketball, tennis, baseball, swimming, etc. There are, however, a number of Olympic sports that are mostly untried and/or unfamiliar to the sports fan that can be pursued at venues on Long Island.
Now that the Winter Olympics are done, it’s time to set your sites on Rio. So, if you are thinking you want to take a shot at the 2016 games and basketball, tennis, baseball, and swimming aren’t your thing, maybe these slightly off-center sporting events could end up getting you a ticket to Rio (or at least developing a cool recreational hobby).
It is interesting to note that many modern day sports started out as skills related to survival; so it is with archery. Archery is, of course, an ancient practice and art dating back to the late Stone Age. For centuries, it was both an important military and hunting skill. Archery also has its roots firmly in folklore and myth with direct connections to literary and classical figures such as Hercules, Robin Hood, Apollo, and Artemis.
Archery has a rich history and was practiced extensively by almost all cultures for centuries but declined almost entirely as a tool for hunting and especially warfare with the advent of firearms. Conversely, the rise of archery as a sporting and recreational pastime began roughly about the time that firearms were replacing the bow and arrow as the weapon of choice. This was particularly true in 18th and 19th century Great Britain where archery societies were a popular recreational and social component of the upper classes. Its rise in popularity in the United States in the 20th century was partly as a result of the interest in preserving Native American traditions.
Archery was a sport that made its way into the Olympics early on in 1900. Despite this early inclusion, the sport has disappeared and re-appeared several times in the history of the Olympics (including a noteworthy absence of over 50 years between 1920 and 1972). At present, the modern summer Olympics have both men and women competitions in both team and individual categories.
Athletes (and those seeking something different for recreation) have increasingly begun turning to archery as a sport and hobby. Archery has many health benefits, including developing upper-body and core strength. With practice, drawing a bow will tone and develop the major muscles of the upper body, and improves hand-eye coordination and focus.
On Long Island, Smith Point Archery in Patchogue maintains the biggest and most sophisticated archery range and pro shop. Located in a truly cavernous basement, Smith Point Archery has been in business for 35 years and has an experienced staff that both gives lessons and repairs and modifies archery equipment (including crossbows). If you want to test out your interest in Archery this is the place to go on Long Island.
There are a variety of kinds of lessons available; private and group as well as youth group lessons. They are open 7 days a week so there is ample time to just come down to the 39 lane indoor range and practice.
For those interested in a more social and/or competitive experience, there are adult and youth leagues available. There is even a connection with USA Olympics as Smith Point Archery is involved in the Junior Olympic Archery Development Program, which is a program meant to encourage and promote the sport of archery and groom young archery aficionados to pursue their athletic interest in this ancient sport.
Boxing is another sport that grew out of the primal need for self-defense but quickly evolved into something more sporting. Egyptian art from the second millennium BC depicts an antiquated version of boxing for sport. There are many ancient representations of boxing; much of it bare fisted but some with early versions of boxing gloves, such as those found in Minoan Crete art. Predictably, these early forms of boxing were not so much contests of skill and/or self-defense but rather brutal blood sports often ending in death.
Only in the 17th century did what might be categorized “modern boxing” start to take shape. These contests were more recognizable to the modern sports fan with attempts to use padded gloves, prohibitions related to hitting a fighter when he was down or below the belt, and so on. Finally, in 1867 the Marques de Queensbury drew up codified rules for boxing at which point the sport took a huge step towards distancing itself from the savagery of its ancient origins. These rules shaped the standard rules of boxing today: A 24 foot ring, three-minute rounds with a one-minute rest in-between, a 10-second count for a knockout, and so on.
Boxing has been associated with the modern Olympics since 1904 and has been featured in every Olympics since with the exception of 1912 where it was left out of the program because Sweden, the host country, had made the sport illegal at that time. Some of the greatest boxers of the 20th century first came to national and international attention via the Summer Olympics: Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali (Gold 1960), Joe Frazier (Gold 1964), George Foremean (Gold 1968), Sugar Ray Leonard (Gold 1976), Oscar De La Hoya (Gold 1992) and Vladimir Klitschko (Gold 1996). All of these pugilists were or are World Champions in their respective weight classes and maintain lofty positions in the history of their sport. As a result of this history, Boxing is one of the marquee events at the Summer Olympics.
Boxing is one of the last sports to strictly require an athlete’s amateur standing be intact. It was also the last male-only sport (this changed in 2012 when women competed for the first time in Olympic boxing). In recent years, Boxing has evolved into the mainstream in an interesting way, taking its place in fitness circles as a somewhat “outside the box” way to get and stay fit.
Boxing workouts focus on stamina, involve all of the muscle groups, promote confidence, stress relief, and a greater sense of one’s limits. The exercises associated with a classical boxing workout: Shadowboxing, bag work, pushups, medicine ball work, and hitting the pads, will help you get ripped in a hurry without looking like you are on parole or on the juice. Also, unlike just lifting weights or running on the treadmill, boxing is a skill in itself. Learning to throw and duck a punch, move your feet, and bob-and-weave won’t leave you bored or burned out.
You can learn and utilize these skills at Heavy Hitters Boxing Gym in Bohemia (among others) without getting punched. The gym offers adult classes (taught by USA Metro certified trainers) where you can learn proper boxing techniques, self-defense moves, and participate in an authentic boxer’s workout: Jumping rope, hitting the heavy bag, practicing proper technique and movement, and doing classic boxer’s strength building moves like pushups. Heavy Hitters also offers women’s classes (“Boxercise Boot Camp”) tailored specifically to women’s fitness concerns and interests. Private instruction is available as well and there are opportunities to spar for those who are competitive fighters or registered as such with USA Metro boxing.
Gymnastics’ history is similarly ancient like archery and boxing, however, gymnastics was never closely associated with crucial life and defense skills. The origin of the term gymnastics can be roughly translated as “to exercise naked.” So, one of the initial purposes of gymnastics was the pursuit of fitness and even physical perfection for its own sake. The practice continued to evolve through the centuries and in the 18th and 19th century, the foundations of modern gymnastics began to take root as apparatus’ like rings and parallel bars began to be developed and utilized in the sport.
Gymnastics was such a popular sport at the end of the 19th century that men’s gymnastics was part of the inaugural Olympics in 1896. The initial Olympic events under the umbrella of gymnastics might seem odd to modern sports fans: rope climbing, synchronized calisthenics, and even track-and-field-style events like jumping were all considered gymnastic-oriented events in the early incarnation of the Olympic Games.
Women’s Gymnastics become an official event in 1928, and in 1954 the event, equipment, and scoring systems were standardized in a manner resembling the current Olympic model. Gymnastics have seen some of the most memorable “Olympic moments” of the last 50 years, like Nadia Comaneci’s four perfect-10’s in the 1976 Montreal Olympics and Mary Lou Retton winning the all-around gold medal with a dramatic vault on a rehabbed knee - scoring a perfect 10 and winning the gold by 0.5 points.
Gymnastics is a great sporting activity for both boys and girls. It promotes childhood fitness at a time when childhood obesity is on the rise, it promotes socialization and coordination, and promotes the idea of developing a lifelong practice and interest in physical activity at a young age.
Gym-Nest in Medford is one of the largest and most sophisticated Gymnastic training facilities in New York and a great place to cultivate an early interest in gymnastics. Gym-Nest offers pre-school classes, recreational programs, tumbling programs, cheerleading instruction, and opportunities to compete in gymnastic meets as a team. Gym-Nest is affiliated with the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic program, allowing potential future Olympians to train and be coached in a state of the art Junior Olympic facility.
For most of recorded history, shooting was considered an essential part of life and there was no real recreational component to it. The practice began to take real hold in the ‘20s when rural areas started shrinking and game conservation began to be part of the etiquette of hunting. Limits on species and shortened hunting seasons began to be part of a hunter’s life. As a result, skeet shooting gained considerable popularity as a way to keep hunting skills sharp during the hunting off season.
In 1920, Charles Davis helped develop the modern day skeet field where incoming and crossing shots (mimicking the flight patterns of game fowl) are part of the dynamic for skeet shooting and competition. Not surprisingly, skeet became less and less a method for hunters to keep in practice during their down-time and slowly became a competitive sport in its own right.
Shooting sports had long been part of the Olympics (live pigeons were used as targets in the first Olympics in 1896). Skeet, however, was first introduced in the 1968 Olympics and was the odd Olympic sport inclusive to both men and women competitors until 2000 when women competed for the first time in their own category. Skeet has a number of variants depending on what country you might be competing in and Olympic skeet differs in certain key aspects as well. While English skeet, for example, allows the shooter to have the gun on the shoulder in a ready position, Olympic skeet requires the shooter have his firearm positioned off the shoulder to start.
Shooting sports enthusiasts can pursue a new or lifelong interest in this type of recreation safely and in a professional setting at The Long Island Shooting Range of Brookhaven in Ridge. This range is one of New York’s premiere shooting facilities with ranges for trap and skeet shooting as well as rifle and pistol ranges. The range offers formal and informal instruction, gun and hunter safety classes, and a well-stocked pro shop.
Photo: Flickr | Andy Mitchell
BONUS: New Beer Mile World Record: 4:57. Your Turn.