100 days from now, the Pan American Games will open in Toronto. Athletes will compete in 36 sports – some of which you might have seen during recent Olympics. And some, you definitely haven’t.
Here are the 10 Pan Am events that aren’t in the Olympics. They range from familiar sports to some that are definitely more unusual.
Baseball and Softball
These are both sports that most Canadians will be familiar with, and both are former Olympic events that were eventually removed from the program.
They’re still going strong at Pan Am though, with many of the world’s top national teams coming from the Americas. Canada ranks highly in both events: the men’s baseball team won gold in Guadalajara in 2011, and the women’s softball team has won a total of seven medals since the sport’s debut in 1979. Unfortunately for Canada, the men’s softball event was dropped from the Pan Am program in 2003 – the Canadians had won every gold medal up to that point.
However, men’s softball is back this year. Baseball and softball will include both men’s and women’s tournaments.
Fred Flintstone’s favourite pastime is a sport at the Pan Am Games and has been since 1991. The Pan Am events are of the 10-pin variety, and include men’s and women’s singles and doubles competitions. The U.S. team has historically dominated this sport.
Pan Am features two motorized sports, and this is one of them. Skiers are dragged behind a boat and perform in three events: tricks, slalom and jump.
In the tricks event, skiers perform the craziest tricks they can in 20 seconds, and their performance is judged. In slalom, athletes ski on one foot and navigate back and forth between six buoys. Jump is fairly easy to understand: skiers hit a ramp at about 120 km/h and the longest jump wins.
Four sets of medals are awarded to both men and women: one set for tricks, slalom and jump, as well as medals for overall performance.
The other motorized Pan Am sport is wakeboard, which is similar to water skiing in that the athlete is dragged behind a boat. Wakeboarding is a tricks-based competition, where competitors perform airborne flips and spins and are judged on their performance. Wakeboarding is a men’s-only sport at Pan Am.
Although boxing, taekwondo, judo and wrestling are all also Olympic events, Pan Am adds another combat sport: karate.
Both men and women compete in this event in five weight classes each. Bouts last three minutes for men, two for women, and competitors score points for successful kicks, strikes and punches during that time.
Roller Figure Skating
This one’s easy to explain: it’s like figure skating, but on roller skates. Athletes perform choreographed routines to music, incorporating spins, jumps and footwork – all while wearing charmingly-retro four-wheeled roller skates.
There is both a men’s and women’s competition, but no pairs.
The YouTube video below, from the 2014 World Artistic Championships, should give you an idea of what to expect.
Roller Speed Skating
Again, it’s easy to understand: like speed skating, but on roller skates. In this case, athletes wear inline skates, with all four wheels in a straight line, and race for the fastest time in various distances, usually moving from several heats to the semi-finals and then the finals, or competing in a time-trial.
One race is run very differently though: the 10,000 metre event begins with a mass start. On some laps, the first skaters to cross the finish line win points, and on other laps, the last skater to cross is eliminated. The winner is the skater with the most points at the end of the race.
Colombia is a dominant country in both roller events.
Squash is a racquet sport played in close quarters: a 672 square foot walled-in rectangle for singles matches. Players hammer the ball against the front wall and try to hit it back as it bounces off the other three walls. It’s a fast game – the ball can reach speeds of over 200 kilometres an hour.
Canada has dominated the squash court at Pan Am: we have more medals in the sport than all other countries combined. There are men’s and women’s singles, doubles and team events.
Racquetball is like squash, in that players in an enclosed court serve the ball with racquets towards the front wall and return it as it bounces off of various walls. Unlike squash, the floor and ceiling are also in play on the return, meaning that shots can come from almost any angle. Players hit a little harder too – the ball can reach speeds of up to 240 kilometres per hour.
There are men’s and women’s singles, doubles and team events at this year’s Pan Am Games. Mexico, Canada and the U.S. have all historically been competitive in this sport.
Edit: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that softball is a women’s-only event. Men’s softball returns to Pan Am this year after being dropped from the tournament for 12 years.