Behind the Olympics: Sports you’ll regret you missed

With the Beijing Olympics in full swing, you’re probably getting more than your daily suggested dose of swimming (how about that from-behind finish in men’s 4×100 relay, eh?), gymnastics (bummer to that girl who twisted her ankle minutes before her event), basketball (China got schooled two days in a row), and beach volleyball (playing with the lenses out of your sunglasses is apparently the new fashion).

Yet if you’re just sticking to what NBC (or BBC or CBC) is feeding you, then you’re missing out on a whole lotta of the Games. To start, there’s 35 sports encompassing 53 disciplines (swimming and water polo are in the same sport, “aquatics”, but considered different disciplines) and some 400 events in these two weeks. Of course, I won’t try to argue that some of them are particularly exciting–handball anyone?

There are, however, several sports that make some pretty good watching–and will make you that mysterious sports connoisseur at the water cooler. My favorites:

  • Water polo–there’s some intense competition boiling over in this sport, culminating in the US’s domination over China this past weekend, 8-4. And right now, I’m watching a rerun of the women’s match between the US and China (keep in mind the US is the reigning world champ and this is the first year China has sport an Olympic team). Won’t ruin the down-to-the-wire finish, but you can find out the results here.
  • Boxing–some of the best match-ups around can be found here in Beijing. Alas, the Americans aren’t doing as well as they hoped, with two boxers already out after the first round. There are six more still in contention, though the most-anticipated boxer in these Games is the Russian middleweight Matvei Korobov
  • Rowing–my favorite sport in what has been traditionally the least exciting spectator sport (even my fellow rowers agree) is a must-watch this time around. The Americans in the men’s eight are the defending champs, but with the Chinese pouring money into their new program, and Germany, Canada, and Britain close on their heels, this race is completely up in the air.
  • Table tennis–OK, so ping pong is actually one of the most popular sports in the world, with at least 40 million regular players. But I can guarantee you won’t find it on NBC prime-time, namely because Americans, well, suck at it. But if you’re looking to see the real version of that Forrest Gump shot where the balls fly at 70-80-90 mph, this is it.