Skijoring. That's skiing with a dog...or perhaps a horse! Since Nordic countries take skiing very seriously it's no surprise then that they came up with this new and improved version involving their four-legged friends. "Dog skijoring is a competition in which a cross-country skier completes a trail with the help of one to three canines. Skiers are equipped with the usual skis and poles, along with a harness strapped to the body and attached to the leashes of a team of dogs. Equestrian skijoring follows the same idea, except the skier wears only a set of skis and hangs on to a rope as the horse and rider guides the competitor along the course, similar to waterskiing. In France, there have been rider-less competitions involving only the skier and horse." In 1928, skijoring was debuted as a demonstration sport at the winter games that year. The event took place in St. Moritz, on a frozen lake. oddly enough, the Swiss dominated the game. But, sadly, 1928 was the first and last time that skijoring was part of the Olympic experience.
Pigeon-racing. During World War I, trained pigeons in Europe were used to carry out perilous missions like navigating battlefields to deliver urgent messages. This was made possible because years earlier pigeons were trained to race. During the mid-19th century in Belgium, the practice of breeding pigeons for speed, endurance, and their keen ability to find their way home began. Over time, breeders in Western Europe and the United States started to enter their birds in competitions as well, as the sport of pigeon-racing grew in popularity. The sport gained a brief moment of recognition when it was featured in the 1900 Olympic games as an unofficial event.
Dressage and Vault. There are many more sports involving horses than just racing them. Take for example equestrian vaulting. Think of this sport as gymnastics on horseback. The gymnast, or vaulter, receives a score for "executing a choreographed routine that includes various dismounts, handstands, and aerial movements such as leaps and tumbling...all while on horseback." Versions of this sport can be seen under the Big Top at circuses around the world. Individual and team vaulting was part of the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp. But there's an even stranger event known as dressage. The International Equestrian Federation call it "the highest expression of horse training." In dressage, the horse and rider are expected to perform a series of predetermined movements, all from memory. it's actually a form of "horse dancing." Dressage has become a staple of the Summer Olympics since 1912! "Among the dance moves the horse is tested on are piaffe or trotting in place and Pirouette, a horse’s version of the well-known ballet move."
Other unusual Olympic events that are non-animal, include Kabaddi and Hot Air Ballooning.
The Olympics are often criticized for trying to stuff too many events into a couple of short weeks. But, in the spirit of trying to allow talented athletes from all over the world to showcase their talents in "in a broad range of categories," we are learning that what constitutes "sport" has virtually no limits. I'm excited to cheer on my favorite sports and favorite players at this year's Winter Games in Pyeongchange, South Korea. In the spirit of friendly competition and world unity, I salute all the athletes and wish them much success.
And my dear reader I hope you, too, are enjoying these last few days of fun at the 2018 Winter Olympics....whoever you might be rooting for!