Olympic Preview: Combat Sports

The Combat Sports category in the Olympics is one where athletes get the closest to true battle between each other. It is a category that pits two athletes against each other in a test of skill and will as a real fight determines the winner. The use of going to war and preparing for battle are used many times in sports but no time is it truer than in combat sports. When two athletes step into a ring or onto a mat it is one of the simplest forms of sport. Two athletes step into a ring or onto a mat and, for lack of a better word, fight each other until one athlete is defeated. It is a group of sports that, despite their history in the Olympics, can be traced back decades. These sports also represent some of the most popular and fastest growing group of sports in the world. The popularity of Mixed Martial Arts may have an impact on the popularity of these sports in the Olympics. All of the sports in this grouping are key aspects to Mixed Martial Arts and many of these athletes could eventually end up in the UFC. For many of these athletes, especially wrestling, there is no place to go when your Olympic career is finished but many of them have found new life for their skills in MMA. Many of these sports are also what the IMMAF hopes to use to support their bid to become an Olympic sport in the future. These sports are very exciting as they reward more than just skill. It is just as important to have the will to win when fighting against another top-tier athlete and that is what many of these athletes hope to show in 2012.

 

Boxing:

 

 

 

 

First Year: 1904

Most Medals: USA, 108 (48 Gold)

Boxing is very much an old school sport as it has been a part of the Olympics and a part of sports culture for more than a century. Since 1904 the Olympic boxing ring has been the first step towards a better and bigger life. Fighters like Muhammed Ali, Michael Spinks, Lennox Lewis, Oscar Del La Hoya, Vladimir Klichko, and Leon Spinks have all won gold at the Olympics. These wins transferred over into successful professional careers as many boxers are looking to do the same thing in 2012. Olympic boxing has always been a male only sport but in 2012 the women will make their debut with three weight classes. The women’s first year in the Olympics will feature the Flyweight (51 kg), Lighweight (60 kg) and Middleweight (75 kg). The men continue to participate in the Light Flyweight (49 kg), Flyweight (52 kg), Bantamweight (56 kg), Lighweight (60 kg), Light Welterweight (64 kg), Welterweight (69 kg), Middleweight (75 kg), Light Heavyweight (81 kg), Heavyweight (91 kg), and Super Heavyweight (+91 kg). For the men the bouts are made up of three rounds that are three minutes each while women fight in four rounds that are two minutes each. Fights for both men and women are determined by the fighter who knocks out his/her opponent or whoever scores the most points. A Knockout is determined when one fight goes to the mat and cannot get up before the referee counts to 10. The points are determined when the athlete hits their opponent with the white part of their glove in the head or the body. A panel of five judges determines points by pressing a button when they think the boxer scored. If three judges out of the panel of five hit the button within a second of each other a point is awarded. If any fighter gets 12 points ahead of their opponent in one round the fight is immediately stopped. The winner of the round is given 10 points with the loser given 9 and the ultimate winner is determined by the added score at the end of the fight. It is a sport that sounds complicated but it essentially comes down to who can hit their opponent more with solid strikes through three rounds. It is one of the more traditional sports in the Olympics but this year will have a new flare with women making their debut this year.

 

Who to Watch:

Mary Kom (India)

– She is the top ranked lightweight women’s fighter and she will lead the charge for the women in their first time in the Olympics and she will also be leading the charge for India as she looks to become the second Indian woman to win an Olympic medal

 

Domenico Valentino (Italy)

– One of the top amateur lightweight fighters in the world Valentino made it to the quarter-finals in 2004 and in 2008 he finished in 9th place but he hopes to get back to form in his third Olympics as he looks to earn a medal for Italy

 

Canadian Content:

Mary Spencer (Windsor, ON)

– She is one of the faces of the Canadian team in 2012 as she will look to make an impact in her first chance in the Olympics and will look to add an Olympic Gold medal to her three world championships

 

Judo:

 

 

 

 

First Year: 1964

Most Medals: Japan, 65 (35 Gold)

It is one of the younger combat sports in the Olympics but has roots in Japan as far back as 1882. It is no surprise then that the Japanese have dominated the medal count for years as they continue to train some of the best Judo practitioners in the world. This sport is also one of the fastest growing in terms of popularity thanks to the rise of MMA. Judo is a classic fighting style that only became a part of the full Olympic schedule in 1972 but since then the sport has grown and become a staple in the Olympics. In 2012 the athletes are, as usual, divided into male and female division each with seven weight classes. The Male classes include 60 kg, 66 kg, 73 kg, 81 kg, 90 kg, 100 kg, and +100 kg. The Female divisions including 48 kg, 52 kg, 57 kg, 63 kg, 70 kg, 78 kg, and +78 kg. The sport is based on a tournament format with the two remaining fighters facing off in the Gold Medal matchup. The quarter-final losers compete in a repechage where the winners compete with the losers of the semi-finals for two bronze medals in each event. In each match fighters, known as Judoka, face off on an 8 square foot mat in head to head competition. Each match lasts five minutes with no striking allowed. Instead the sport of Judo is based on control of your opponent and the ability to throw your opponent. Judoka score points by throwing their opponent on to the ground or while on the ground locking their opponents in to a hold. If the Judoka throws his/her opponent down on their shoulder the fight is over and the judoka who achieved the throw wins. The fight can also immediately be over when one judoka can put the other in a hold that forces them to submit. Judo is the closest thing to Mixed Martial Arts that the Olympics has as submissions and throws are the name of the game. It is one of the oldest fighting forms in the world and there will be plenty of fight in London. As the popularity of MMA grows so does the popularity of Judo as this year could see some great matches and a lot more interest as judoka walk on to the mat with gold in mind.

 

Who to Watch:

Teddy Riner (France)

– One of the top Judoka’s in the World Riner has won five World Championships throughout his career making him the most successful Judoka in the world but he is missing an Olympic Gold after winning Bronze in 2008 and he will try to get it in London

 

Canadian Content:

Sergio Pessoa (Montreal, QC)

– A newcomer to the Olympics Pessoa will be looking to follow in his father’s footsteps who competed in the 1988 Olympics for Brazil as he looks to win a medal for Canada in his first try at the Olympics

 

Kelita Zupancic (Whitby, ON)

– She has wanted this since the first grade as she makes her Olympic Debut in London and after a torrid year where she survived through the Japanese Tsunami while training in Japan she will look to earn a medal for Canada

 

Taekwondo:

 

 

 

 

First Year: 2000

Most Medals: South Korea, 12 (9 Gold)

Taekwondo is the most recent of all of the combat sports to make it into the Olympic program as it first made its appearance in 2000. Much like Judo Taekwondo has a rich history despite being a young Olympic sport and is a key aspect to Mixed Martial Arts. Unlike Judo, Taekwondo is not about the ground game but instead about the ability to punch and kick your opponent. It is the oldest Korean sport and is the national sport of South Korea. In the Olympics the Taekwondo competition is a knock-out tournament with the two surviving fighters facing off for the gold medal. All fighters who are eliminated by the eventual finalists move into a tournament where they take on the semi-finalist losers for two bronze medals. It is divided up into four divisions in each sex based on weight. For the men there is the 58 kg, 68 kg, 80 kg, and +80 kg weight classes while the women compete in the 49 kg, 57 kg, 67 kg, and +67 kg weight classes. The competition is similar to many of the combat sports except that kicks and punches are both allowed. Fighters face off on a mat with an 8×8 border that they fight within and cannot go outside of. Points are scored when one athlete hits the other in the scoring zone with either a punch or a kick. The scoring area is the padding on the torso that can be hit with either a kick or a punch and the head that can only be hit with a kick. One point is scored when a kick or punch is landed in the torso while two points are scored for a strike that is started with the athletes back to the opponent, aka a spinning kick or punch to the torso, and three points are awarded for a kick to the head. After three two-minute rounds the winner is determined by the athlete with the most accumulated points. If the fighters are tied at the end of three round a fourth round is held with the first point scored determines the winner. Taekwondo is yet another sport with a rich history and yet is still a very young sport in the Olympics. It entertaining and fast and will likely garner more interest this year along with Judo as these fighters go for gold in London.

 

Who to Watch:

Wu Jingyu (China)

– She impressed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics as she was able to win the Gold Medal for the women’s 49 kg weight class in front of her home crowd and she will look to defend her medal this year in London

 

Lim Su-Jeong (South Korea)

– The South Koreans have always been the most dominant athletes in Taekwondo and they look to continue this as Su0Jeong tries to defend her 57 kg Gold Medal that she won close to home in Beijing

 

Canadian Content:

Karine Sergerie (Sainte-Catharine, QC)

– She already has one medal for Canada after winning the silver medal in Beijing at the 49 kg weight class she will try to add another Olympic medal this year to add to her four world championship medals and World Championship from 2007

 

Francois Coulombe-Fortier (Quebec City, QC)

– Last year Fortier was forced to sit on the sidelines and watch his teammates compete as an alternate on the 2008 Beijing Olympics but this year he will get his shot in his Olympic debut as he looks to make good on the opportunity

 

Wrestling:

 

 

 

 

First Year: 1896

Most Medals: USA, 122 (49 Gold)

Wrestling represents the most classic and the oldest sport in the combat sports grouping and possibly in the entire Olympic Program. With a history linked to the Ancient Olympics in Greece at 708 BCE wrestling is one of the oldest Olympic sports. It also has not changed much as it is the original combat sport and is again another base for many MMA fighters. It is one of the biggest sports in the USA and that has shown in the overall medal count as they have blown everyone out of the water. Wrestling in the Olympics is split into two different disciplines, Greco-Roman and Freestyle, where the men and women compete in Freestyle and only men compete in the Greco-Roman style. Freestyle wrestling allows athletes to use both arms and legs in the match at any point on the body while in Greco-Roman only the use of arms is permitted and holds and takedowns can only be done above the waist. Both men and women are divided into weight classes like the rest of the sports in the combats sports category. For the men there is the 55 kg, 60 kg, 66 kg, 74 kg, 84 kg, 96 kg, and 120 kg for both Greco-Roman and Freestyle. For the women there are the 48 kg, 63 kg, 55 kg, and 72 kg weight classes in the freestyle discipline. Like many of the other sports the Olympics is an elimination tournament with the athletes left standing competing for the gold medal. A match is contested on a mat and have three periods made up of 2-minutes each. The goal of each period is to pin your opponent against the mat putting his/her shoulders and back on the mat for two seconds. In each period athletes score points by earning takedowns and throws against the opponent. A match ends if one athlete earns a 10-point lead or if one athlete wins the first two periods. If no period sees a pin then the winner is determined by the athlete who scores the most points in the period. Wrestling has one of the longest histories in the Olympics as one of the oldest sports in the Olympic program. It will take place once again in London as athletes look to make their mark in this classic sport by going for the gold in 2012.

 

Who to Watch:

Artur Taymazov (Uzbekistan)

– The most decorated athlete from Uzbekistan Taymazov has won multiple world championships and is the 2-time Olympic Champion in the Men’s 120 kg freestyle as he looks to add to his three medals in London

 

Saori Yoshida (Japan)

– Simply the most dominant women’s wrestler competing today Yoshida has won every single tournament she has ever entered as the 55 kg women’s freestyle wrestler looks to defend her back-to-back Olympic Gold’s in London

 

Canadian Content:

Carol Huynh (Hazelton, BC)

– She was the first person to win a gold medal for Canada in 2008 as she was able to get through everyone in the 48 kg freestyle discipline and will look to repeat her performance and win another wrestling medal for Canada

 

Tonya Verbeek (Beamsville, ON)

– She became the first woman to earn an Olympic medal in wrestling when she won silver in 2004 and then won bronze in 2008 as she looks to complete the collection with gold in 2012 in the women’s freestyle 55 kg weight class

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