Swimming, gymnastics, rowing, track — Everyone knows what sports to expect and anticipates the events of the Summer Olympics. Before the Olympics became what we know today, a variety of sports were tried and removed from the official list.
At the Summer Games in 1900, basque pelota was an official sport. Basque pelota is a game similar to racquetball. It is played with a bat or a racket, against a wall or between two teams over a net or line dividing the two. This sport was only ever officially played in the Olympics in 1900 and then was removed from the list.
Although no longer an Olympic event, the game has been shorted to “Pelota” and there is a United States Federation of Pelota. There are no local courts, but there are U.S. clubs in seven states; the closest clubs to Virginia are in Florida and Connecticut.
The game of Racquets was played as an official Olympic sport in 1908. Although it was removed from the official event, the game now known as racquetball developed from it.
Racquetball tournaments are played across Virginia on a regular basis. The weekend of Aug. 17 there will be the 7th Annual Curt Rettke Memorial Tournament in Arlington for local racquetball players. Those interested in connecting with other local players can join the Commonwealth of Virginia Racquetball Association.
Equestrian vaulting was part of the Olympic Games for one year — 1920. It was removed after that but is still popular in the United States. Riders perform tricks, similar to acrobatics or gymnastics, on the back of the horse while riding. The American Vaulting Association connects vaulters from around the country.
There are multiple locations to do this in Virginia, including one in Chantilly. Topaz Vaulters is located at 2912 Chantilly Road. Participants of all skill sets can learn to ride and eventually compete. (See for more on this sport.)
Jeu de Paume was played only in 1908 at the Olympics. The game is similar to squash but hands are used in place of a racket to hit the ball. The current game of tennis, particularly lawn tennis, was derived from this game. Tennis has resurged as an important worldwide Olympic sport and multiple racquet clubs in the area offer lessons.
The current game of croquet was practiced in a slightly different form at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis before it was removed from the list of events. Roque was a form of croquet that was played on a hard surface and was dominated by American competitors, according to Top End Sports.
Croquet tournaments are played across the United States and the United States Croquet Association keeps players across the country connected.
Lacrosse is a popular game in northern Virginia but was only played twice in the Olympics – in 1904 and 1908. It has not lost its footing in the area, though, with most local high schools hosting competitive lacrosse teams. Even though it is not an Olympic sport, many young athletes go on to college to play in the NCAA.
Making its return to the official Olympic Games in 2016 is rugby. It was played in 1900, 1908, 1920 and 1924 but was then dropped as an official Olympic sport. NOVA Rugby, which practices twice weekly at Oakton High School, offers men, women and children’s teams.