Get ready to scream, cry and cheer – the “2020” (now 2021) Tokyo Olympics is finally here!

July 23rd marked the first day of the Summer Olympics, and they certainly did not disappoint.  Despite delay after delay, the organisers have pulled out all the stops to throw a giant sporting extravaganza, and if the opening ceremony was anything to go by, we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg now.


As we tune in to check out our favourite sports and root for our national teams, there are a few events we might not have known about. Luckily, you can learn about them here, and make sure you catch them the next time they’re live!

Skateboarding

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13-year-old Rayssa Leal (Brazil) (street course)
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Brazil’s 13-year-old Rayssa Leal is making her Olympic debut this year! The athlete has previously gone viral with videos of her skating in a fluffy tutu, and of her performing breathtaking stunts with nary a hair out of place.

The first thing that usually comes to mind when we think of the word “skateboarding” is a rowdy, rebellious high-schooler… not a distinguished Olympic athlete!

Still, skateboarding is no easy feat. The skills and strength needed to perform what might just look to us like a simple trick, are actually nothing to scoff at. Anyone’s who gotten on a skateboard before knows how hard it is to even move in a straight line… now imagine flipping yourself upside down or landing yourself gracefully!

It looks like skateboarding will have an approach similar to ice skating, where competitors are free to perform any tricks or moves they wish across the course, while judges judge them on a number of criteria.

Who knows, perhaps professional skater will become the dream ambition of every high school boy after this Olympics season.

  • Skateboarding started in California in the 1950s
  • Skateboarding is making its Olympic debut at the Tokyo 2020 Games
  • Venue: Ariake Urban Sports Park
  • Street: Held on a straight ‘street-like’ course featuring stairs, handrails, curbs, benches, walls and slopes
  • Park: Held on a bowl-shaped course, where riders have to perform the tricks on different inclines
  • Skateboarders are free to select which parts of the course to tackle and which tricks to perform
  • Marks are awarded for speed, level of difficulty and originality, the overall flow, timing, consistency and the extent skateboarders are able to create the sensation of being suspended in mid-air
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Jake Ilardi (USA) poses with his skateboard by the street course
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Sky Brown is 13-years-old and represents Great Britain. She says that she learned most of her tricks from YouTube

3×3 Basketball

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The Japanese 3×3 basketball team practices on the court, deep in concentration

Now, everyone is certainly familiar with basketball. As one of the most popular and accessible sports, almost everyone has played or at least watched a bit of it before.

However, this is a first for 3×3 basketball, as usually teams are made up of 5 players. It looks like this will be a far more intense game than normal basketball, considering the space restrictions and short duration of time set. This is definitely an event to get your heart pumping!

  • The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) promoted and structured the game in the late 2000s
  • FIBA launched a full program to make 3×3 a standalone game with its own format and regular competitions
  • 3×3 will debut as an Olympic sport at the Tokyo 2020 Games
  • Venue: Aomi Urban Sports Park
  • Games are 10 minutes long, and are played on essentially a half-court
  • Whoever leads after the 10 minutes or scores 21 points first, wins
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Kelsey Plum (second from right) poses with her teammates from the USA team

Surfing

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Kanoa Igarashi (Japan) makes surfing look effortless

Surf’s up! Like skateboarding, surfing is another surprise event for this Tokyo Olympics. Most people have an image in their minds of a blonde Californian bachelor, living by the beach with no responsibilities except partying and catching the next big wave.

Once again, we have to remember that these athletes should by no means be underestimated! Even if you’ve never surfed before, just imagine yourself trying to balance on top of the board while on the water, let alone riding a full wave with it.

With the additions of skateboarding and surfing, it really looks like the Olympics will have something for everyone, young or old.

  • Surfing is another event to mark its debut into the Tokyo Olympics
  • Duke Kahanamoku, a Hawaiian swimmer and Olympic gold medalist, advocated for surfing to be added to the Olympic program as long ago as 1912
  • Venue: Tsurigasaki Beach
  • Surfers will be allowed to ride a maximum of 25 waves and judged on every wave they ride, but only the top two highest scores from their 30-minute heat are ultimately counted
  • Scores are rewarded on degree of difficulty; the innovation, combinations and variety of their maneuvers; and speed, power and flow
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Stephanie Gilmore represents Australia

Trampoline Gymnastics

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This isn’t just any backyard trampoline. Look at how high you can go!

Gymnastics are a favourite Olympic sport for many who enjoy witnessing the delicate grace and precise power that the gymnasts possess. For those fans, they now have a new event to add to their calendar!

  • Newest of gymnastics’ three Olympic disciplines, having been added to the Sydney Olympics in 2000
  • First introduced in 1934, by American gymnast named George Nissen who was inspired by watching circus acrobats
  • Venue: Ariake Gymnastics Centre
  • Involves bouncing on a trampoline to heights up to 8 metres, while the athletes perform acrobatic movements such as twists and somersaults in mid-air
  • Athletes will perform two routines in the qualifying round; the first one contains several special requirements, the second is a voluntary exercise
  • Medals are awarded to the top three scoring athletes
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Dafne Navarro (Mexico) poses by the competition trampoline
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An overjoyed Hikaru Mori becomes Japan’s first trampoline world champion in 2019

Cycling BMX Freestyle

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A breathtaking shot of Nikita Ducarroz (Switzerland) partway through a stunt

In the same vein as the addition of skateboarding, the new Cycling BMX Freestyle event also allows professional athletes to show off their coordination, strength, and style on the obstacle course.

Riding a bicycle might not be anything special, but flipping a bike as seamlessly as that in midair and still managing a clean landing certainly is!

  • BMX has its roots in the racing culture that existed in California in the mid-1970s
  • BMX freestyle will make its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020
  • Venue: Ariake Urban Sports Park
  • Riders will compete in the park discipline which sees riders execute tricks on obstacles such as walls, box jumps and spines
  • Riders are given 60 seconds to perform acrobatics tricks and skills
  • Tricks scored on multiple aspects including difficulty, originality, execution, height and creativity
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Nick Bruce (USA) is like a fish in water when it comes to spins, he’s a complete natural!

Cycling BMX Racing

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Dressed in colourful attire, the bikers look determined as they race towards the finishing line

It really looks like the Tokyo Olympics wanted to show the sport of cycling some extra love. Cycling BMX Racing is quite new, only making its Olympic debut at the Beijing 2008 Games.

Even if riders do crash, it is still important for them to finish the race, with points awarded for crossing the finish line. This rule will definitely amp up the competition, with every cyclist desperate to snatch as many points as possible. This event will be an edge-of-your-seat watch for sure!

  • BMX racing is influenced by motocross riders since the mid-1970s in California
  • BMX racing made its Olympic debut at the Beijing 2008 Games
  • Venue: Ariake Urban Sports Park
  • The course is about 400m long
  • A maximum of 8 riders will launch themselves from a gate atop the 8m high 35-degree start hill
  • Riders’ race rankings are determined based on both time and points
  • Even if riders do crash, it is still important for them to finish the race, with points awarded for crossing the finish line
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Rio 2016 Games gold medalist, Connor Fields (USA) will be looking to continue his winning streak

Cycling Mountain Bike

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The course does not shy away from unconventional trails and obstacles

Unlike the previous two cycling events, this one focuses more on distance than style or speed. The new 4,100m off-road course has a vertical height difference of 150m and is set to be harder than previous Olympic courses. Let’s hope that the athletes have used their extra training time to practice for that!

  • Mountain biking originated in the USA during the 1970s and become a globally recognized outdoor sport in the 1990s
  • Mountain bike Cross-Country (MTB Cross-Country) was adopted as an official Olympic sport at the Atlanta 1996 Games
  • Venue: Izu Mountain Bike Course
  • The new 4,100m off-road course has a vertical height difference of 150m and is set to be harder than previous Olympic courses
  • Course consists of 4-6 kilometres of mostly narrow dirt single-track trails with steep ascents and descents and rocky sections
  • Sections are given names such as Amagigoe, Joren-no-taki, Hashi, Wasabi, Odorikohodo and Karesansui
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Rio 2016 Games gold medalist, Nino Schurter (Switzerland) will be looking to continue his strong performance in Tokyo
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USA’s Kate Courtney can conquer any difficult course with ease