- Insider asked six sports doctors which were the toughest sports at the Tokyo Summer Olympics.
- They looked at the required physical, technical and mental strength.
- Water polo tops the list, followed by gymnastics and swimming.
What is the hardest summer Olympic sport? This question is up for discussion as much as the answer.
“What is the most difficult?” LCR Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rand McLean asked Insider rhetorically. “Holding your breath underwater while pushing most of your lower body above the water? Do you want to keep spinning at the anaerobic threshold for as long as possible? Are you facing an opponent who has punched you in the jaw?”
At the Olympic level, everything is very difficult. But some sports stand out as the hardest of all.
Insider asked six sports doctors what are the toughest sports we’ll be seeing in Tokyo, based on the physical, technical and mental strength required.
Water polo is the most physical exercise
Water polo often tops the lists of the most challenging sports. In 2016, the sports website Bleacher Report named it the “world’s strongest sport” based on six factors: strength, endurance, speed, agility, skill and fitness.
In addition to stomping in the water for 30 minutes and swimming up to a mile per game, “athletes slap each other in secret, similar to ice hockey and soccer, while trying not to drown and score points,” said coach and exercise physiologist Nandini Collins. for Insider. “Water polo is played recklessly and is more violent than the onlookers think.”
Doctor. Naresh Rao, chief medical officer of the US men’s water polo team, told Insider that water polo is tough because it requires aerobic (used for endurance) and anaerobic (used for sprints) effort.
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McLean also puts the water polo on top. He said it was the “hardest” summer Olympic sport. “Why? Because it requires the highest VO2max for all sports.” By this McClain indicates the maximum oxygen uptake capacity in the body.
However, the data in this theory is mixed: Many of the best swimmers, distance runners, and cyclists all have exceptional VO2max.
Gymnastics is the most difficult technically and mentally
Four of the six experts described gymnastics as the most demanding sport in at least one of the categories: physical, technical and mental strength.
“There is a high level of risk involved with the elements and gymnasts must master balance, strength, flexibility and endurance for both the upper and lower extremities to achieve Olympic success,” sports physician Kathleen Davenport of HSS Florida told Insider.
They also need “strength and explosion,” Nandini said. They mentally require a “high level of concentration” to perform dangerous stunts – even after a crushing fall, Davenport added.
Other sports started with bronze
Swimming got one vote for general difficulty and another for mental strength. Boxing, all-around running, and the 800m have been voted the most physically challenging sport.
In the 800m, runners have to “run at 90 percent of their full speed for more than 1.5 minutes,” Stop Crying Studios personal trainer John B. told Insider.
The only time he ran the 800, he felt “totally numb inside and out” afterwards. “My vision became blurry, I couldn’t catch my breath or get enough oxygen to stand upright for some time.”
Surfing and pole vaulting have both been voted as the most technically challenging sports.
For mental strength, both tennis and marathons were given a vote, although all Olympic athletes are exceptional in the field, Dr. Kevin Bernstein, chief medical officer of Peaks Coaching Group, told Insider.
“Most of those who lack mental strength don’t make it this far with just physical talent, no matter what the sport,” Bernstein said.
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