The Tokyo Olympics has 33 different sports, most with many events within the sport. Which one is the hardest? That’s an impossible question, as you will have various opinions on what makes a sport “hard.” How can one compare the difficulty of withstanding hits to the face (boxing) to split-second timing (gymnastics) to incredible endurance (marathon) to juggling a variety of skills (water polo or decathlon)? It’s an impossible question, but Gizmodo asked six sports experts with multidisciplinary practices, and got a variety of answers. Professor of Instruction in Sport Matt Bowers determined his answer by the process of elimination.
If we think in terms of a Venn diagram where we have two circles indicating the two most basic factors that could make a sport hard—physiological exertion and complexity of skill/movement—then the hardest sport would be classified where those two circles overlap. In other words, a sport that is demanding in both the physical and the skill requirements. Can we identify sports of those 33 that clearly do not fall in one category or the other? Since virtually any sport being played at the Olympics requires a high level of respective skill, perhaps it is easiest to make the first cut on the physiological side. Are there sports that do not require maximal exertion during competition? That eliminates, at a minimum, archery or equestrian sports. Next, do we believe it to be harder psychologically to compete solo than to be part of a team? You may disagree, but if so, then we can remove the team sports from contention. Another question to debate is whether we believe that it is harder to be competing against nature (for example, kayaking or sailing) and/or on a course (for example, cycling or golf or skateboarding), or whether it is harder to be competing in a sport where a fellow Olympic-level athlete is physically trying to prevent your success.
There’s much more to Bowers’ elimination scheme on the way to an answer, which differs from the other five experts. Read all of them at Gizmodo.
Listen beautiful relax classics on our Youtube channel.
TL;DR: The difficulty or defining difficulty.