Chemistry in the Olympics

Olympic nuts beat Bolt

26 March 2012

The prolonged strain and endurance that mark out marathon runners impress kids much more than the demands of the explosive 100 metres. 

The drama of the sprint was spurned by children participating in an Olympic survey.

The glamorous 100 metres, the hottest ticket at the London games, didn't get off the blocks, while the gruelling marathon was joint top.

The marathon and the triathlon were in a photo finish in the survey to identify the most demanding sports at London 2012.

The Royal Society of Chemistry survey was conducted at the Cambridge Science Festival - which drew thousands of enthusiastic young children - ahead of the 28 March launch of its Chemistry-in-Sport website.

Dominating the sports listed in a resultant top 10 of the most strenuous were competitions that would have been familiar to the ancient Greeks. 

The RSC collated the 'tough table' (below) from written responses to the question: "What's the most demanding Olympic sport?  And what is the reason?"

Joint 1st: Marathon/Triathlon
3rd: Swimming 
4th: Gymnastics 
5th: Decathlon 
Joint 6th: Rowing/Cycling 
8th: Weightlifting 
9th: Synchronised swimming 
10th: Modern Pentathlon

Youngster Toby Lock, winner of a competition run as part of the survey, said the marathon was the toughest sport "because you have to be realy fit and need to be able to know how fast to go and control your breathing. You need to be physicaly and mentally fit and you need to have good endurance too".

Dr Samantha Cheung, who chaired the award panel, said: "We offered the whole spectrum of the Games, not a limited list. We noted that not one person selected water polo. Given the exertion, skill and the duration of this sport one would have expected it to have featured somewhere in the survey outcome."
Some of the comments accompanying selections included;

  • Synchronised swimming: "Smiling for that long is really painful. Dentist bills must be huge. Lungs like fish. Need remote radar. Immaculate timing. Invisible Ink to the rest of the team!"
  • Women's Beach Volleyball:  "Because no one takes you seriously!"
  • Greco-Roman Wrestling: "Heavy. Hard work - attacking a person isn't easy."
  • Archery: "Because it is unbearably dull."
  • Triathlon: "Because you're swapping and running out of energy while you're doing each sport and each one is different."
  • Triathlon: "Three separate events which are hard because they all use different muscles and for an extended time, one after each other."
  • Rowing: "It kills your back" 
  • Trampolining: "Because you could DIE"
  • Diving: "You have to stand on a high board and go all scared and wobbly."  

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