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An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.
This February, the whole world will tune in to watch athletes represent their countries in the Winter Olympics. And inevitably, whenever the Olympics roll around, my dad and I come back to the discussion of what exactly constitutes a sport.
For years, his claim was that a sport could not be judged. His go-to example was ice dancing, and I must say, I agreed wholeheartedly that ice dancing could not possibly be a sport.
He revised it later, when I asked about mogul skiing (that gets judged in addition to a speed component) that a sport has to have either a ball (or equivalent, i.e. hockey), a timer that creates a racing aspect or some sort of distance related component (long jump, high jump, etc).
Until recently, I’ve stood by his definition of what separates sport from game, activity, contest, etcetera. This year, however, I’ve begun to question this definition, after looking at some of the other competitions that make it to the Olympic level.
Purely using the Olympics to define a sport is unwise at best, since in the past at different times they’ve excluded golf and baseball (both of which are clearly sports). Additionally, they include things like synchronized swimming, which I’d argue is not a sport any more than a graceful flashmob that happened to be in a pool.
Still, the Olympics do a good job of putting together (mostly) competitive events for all types of athletes and competitors. They do a particularly impressive job scheduling winter events, given how much more can be done when the ground isn’t frozen.
Two of my favorite events at the Winter Olympics fall into the modern freestyle skiing and snowboarding categories: Halfpipe and Slopestyle. Both of these are judged and therefore could be compared to ice dancing (albeit they’re riskier than ice dancing and therefore more exciting).
So where does the line get drawn? At what point does a competition become a sport? I think I’ve managed to figure it out.
A sport doesn’t need music or shiny outfits in order to be conducted and won. It doesn’t care what you look like, where you come from or what your story is.
A sport is about jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring moments followed by gut-wrenching and heart-breaking ones. It doesn’t glorify second place. It can be won by anyone, at any time, in any circumstance.
If an activity needs judges to make it worth doing and/or winning, it’s a competition. That’s where I think I’ve come to draw the line.
And though that’s just my way of trying to include the things I enjoy watching and doing, I don’t think I’d have a hard time defending it.
That aside, this year’s Winter Olympics should be exciting and memorable. And hopefully, as is typically the case, our great nation will take home plenty of hardware.
Tyler Dean is a junior studying business administration.