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To Gwen, '' There's a good film on tonight...'' - S. A.

To my dear little champions, Juliette et Basile - A. C.

First published 2020 by Nosy Crow Ltd The Crow’s Nest, 14 Baden Place, Crosby Row London, SE1 1YW ISBN 978 1 78800 871 6 (HB) ISBN 978 1 78800 727 6 (PB) Nosy Crow and associated logos are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Nosy Crow Ltd. Text © Scott Allen Illustrations © Antoine Corbineau The right of Scott Allen to be identified as the author and Antoine Corbineau to be identified as the illustrator of this work has been asserted. All rights reserved. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, hired out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of Nosy Crow Ltd. A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Printed in China. Papers used by Nosy Crow are made from wood grown in sustainable forests. 1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2 (HB) 1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2 (PB)

A Fact-Filled, Funny Guide to Every Olympic Sport

Written by

Scott Allen

Illustrated by

Antoine Corbineau

ontents Introduction


How Did the Olympics Begin?


Having A Ball Basketball


Football Goalball Rugby Handball



Fighting fit

Fencing Judo Karate Wrestling Taekwondo

34 36 38 40 42 44

14 16 18

Hockey Boccia Volleyball


Baseball and Softball


22 24

splashing around Aquatics Swimming Diving Water Polo Artistic Swimming

46 48 50 52 56


Canoe Surfing Rowing








Taking Aim

54 58

Pushing The Limits Athletics Track Events Field Events Decathlon and Heptathlon Gymnastics Artistic Trampoline Rhythmic

Cycling 62 64 66 68

Riding High

Track and Road Mountain Bike BMX

84 86 87





What About the Future?






70 71

Sport Climbing Triathlon


Modern Pentathlon





Making a racket Badminton


Tennis Table Tennis

80 82


Hello and welcome to your fact-filled and funny guide to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Some sports you might already play, some you will have heard of before but never tried, and some might be brand new. But remember, with every sport in this guide, you could be in with a chance of winning something very special – an Olympic gold medal! But first, becoming a top Olympic athlete takes dedication, determination, skill and a good slice of old-fashioned luck. Most gold medal winners start their journey when they’re still at school, and some athletes even start while they’re in nappies! They face a roller coaster of emotion and physical torment, but top athletes stay strong, grit their teeth and battle for glory. Nobody wins an Olympic gold medal without putting in plenty of hard work, so training is essential. It comes in lots of different shapes and sizes and this guide might give you an extra edge against your rivals or make your dad angry that you’ve ruined his carpet. In the world of sport, everyone has to make sacrifices . . . even your parents.


Hopefully this guide will inspire you to get involved. But what if you’re thinking you’ll never be good enough to be an Olympian? Well, that’s loser’s talk! Everybody has the potential to become great at one sport, maybe even two or three. You just have to discover the sport you enjoy the most and train to become brilliant at it. You might think you’re an average footballer and you’re OK at swimming, but have you ever tried water polo or wrestling? Have you ever climbed to the top of a high diving board and leapt from it, or made a horse dance to music? Probably not. However, if you do decide to try something new, you might just discover an amazing hidden talent and be ready to take on the world. And even if you don’t win an Olympic gold medal, you will have gathered some important life skills in your quest. You’ll make new friends, become part of a team, get fit and healthy and most importantly have a lot of fun. Many courageous Olympians who don’t even get close to winning a medal can become an inspiration to generations of young athletes around the world. So, what are you waiting for?

On your marks, get set . . . gold!


How Did the Olympics begin? The first thing to remember is there are two types of Summer Olympics – the ancient ones and the modern ones, and there was a 1,500-year gap between them. Since 1960, there have been Paralympic Games too. Here’s a quick guide so you don’t get them all muddled up.

A ncient Games Year s activ e: 776 BCE to 393 CE Inven tor: Ancie nt Gree ks

Modern Games

Host city: Olym pia

allow ed Com petit ors: Gree k men. Wom en were only ts. even to own and train hors es for eque strian , Spor ts inclu ded: Runn ing, boxin g, wres tling ts. even pent athlo n and eque strian cloth es. Equi pme nt: Not much equip ment or even s from Prize s: An olive -wre ath crow n made of leave third or nd seco for s prize No e. grov d Zeus’s sacre , place . The best of the best had statu es built . them t abou up and song s and stori es made Top stars : of 12 indiv idual Leon idas of Rhod es - runn ing - winn er ) victo ry wreaths (a reco rd held until 2016 e char iot - first Cyni sca of Spar ta - eque strian , four-hors er train e hors a as pics, Olym fema le victo r at the r and know n for victo me six-ti tling wres n Croto Milo of ng trees apar t teari and carry ing bulls arou nd on his shou lders

· · ·

Paralympic Games

Ye ars act ive : 189 6 to pre

sen t da y Inv en tor: Ba ron Pie rre de Co ub ert in, a Fre nc h ari sto crat an d aca de mic . He wo n a go ld me da l in the 1912 Olym pic s for a po em ! Ho st cit ies : All ove r the wo rld , alt ho ug h the Olym pic s has ne ver ha d an Afr ica n cit y as a ho st. Co mp eti tor s: An y co un try wit h a Natio na l Olym pic Co mm itte e. Sp ort s inc lud ed : Se e pa ge s 10 -91 to fin d ou t. Eq uip me nt: Loa ds an d loa ds , bu t a pa ir of tra ine rs is pro ba bly the mo st imp ort an t. Pri zes : A go ld, silver or bro nze me da l, glo ry in yo ur co un try , lot s of ap pe ara nce s on TV an d spo nso rsh ip de als . Th e be st of the be st stil l have statue s bu ilt, an d son gs an d sto rie s ma de up ab ou t the m. To p sta rs: Mi ch ael Ph elp s - US A, sw imm ing - 28 me da ls (23 go ld) Lar isa Lat yn ina - US SR , gy mn ast ics - 18 me da ls (9 go ld) Nikola i An dri an ov - US SR , gy mn ast ics - 15 me da ls (7 go ld)


to pres en t da y Ye ar s ac tiv e: 19 60 ni se d th e Stoke ig Gu ttm an n orga r be ca m e In ve nt or: Dr Lu dw hletes , wh ich late at ir ha lc . ee wh r fo es ly m pi cs un til 19 88 M an de vil le Ga m ’t ca lle d th e Pa ra sn id e. wa -s It . by ees m sid Ga rk c tw o Ga m es wo th e Pa ra ly m pi e th at th g in ow lle l, sh ‘Par a’ m ea ns pa ra e Olym pi cs . e sa m e cit ies as th Ho st ci tie s: In th 1976 , wh en it was es co m pe te d un til et hl at . ir ha lc ee ly wh e of im pa irm en ts Co m pe tit or s: On a m uc h wi de r ra ng th wi es et hl at e ud tw o ex pa nd ed to in cl cs . Th ere are ju st m e as th e Olym pi sa e th ia. t cc os bo m d Al : ll an Sp or ts in cl ud ed ly m pi cs - go al ba e on ly at th e Pa ra ve sp or ts th at fe at ur e Pa ra ly m pi an s ha e sp or t, bu t so m th on s nd pe De Eq ui pm en t: ru nn in g bl ad es . d eq ui pm en t like s! sp ec ial ly ad apte l ab ou t th e m ed al e Olym pi cs . It’s al th as e m sa e Th Pr ize s: m ed al s (41 go ld ) To p st ar s: s (16 go ld ) A, sw im m in g - 55 nc in g - 26 m ed al Tr isc ha Zo rn - US fe d an ics et hl at , - Ita ly m ed al s (14 go ld ) Ro be rto M ar so n an d cy cl in g - 26 ics et hl at , nd la er He in z Frei - Sw itz


·· ·

Modern Summer Olympics so far 1896





The first of the modern Olympics. There were 14 nations competing – now there are more than 200!



The first time women ever competed and there was a tug-of-war event.


The first time gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded.

Duelling made its first and only appearance. Competitors shot each other with wax bullets!







Sweden’s Oscar Swahn became the oldest Olympic medal winner ever – aged 72!


Cancelled due to the First World War.

Art events were introduced, with medals for literature, music, sculpture, painting and architecture.






This was the first appearance of the Olympic flame.

Long-distance running was dominated by a group of athletes from Finland known as the ‘Flying Finns’.



The victory podium for medal winners appeared for the first time.

The first games to have live TV coverage and the torch relay was introduced.





Dutch sprinter Fanny Blankers-Koen won four golds and was known as the 'Flying Housewife’.


Cancelled due to the Second World War.

Cancelled due to the Second World War.









Czech Emil Zátopek won gold in the 5,000 metres, the 10,000 metres and the marathon. He’d never run a marathon before!

Due to strict rules about foreign animals being flown in, the equestrian events took place in Sweden.


Fourteen-year-old Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaňeci scored the first ever set of ‘perfect 10s’.

The first official Paralympic Games were held this year.





USA swimmer Mark Spitz won seven gold medals – all in world record time.

Dick Fosbury won high-jump gold with his new style, now known as the ‘Fosbury flop’.







Sixty-six countries didn’t attend for political reasons and the USSR won 195 medals.

The USSR and 13 other countries boycotted the Games and the USA won 174 medals.


Swedish fencer, Kerstin Palm, became the first woman to take part in seven Olympic Games.

Gymnast Vitaly Scherbo from Belarus won six gold medals – including four in one day!







British rower Sir Steve Redgrave became the first athlete to win gold medals in five Olympics in a row.

German kayaker Birgit Fischer won the last of her eight gold medals across six different games.


Ethiopia’s Abebe Bikila became the first person to successfully defend the marathon title.

US swimmer Michael Phelps became the most successful athlete at an Olympics by winning eight gold medals.

USA sprint and long-jump legend Carl Lewis won the last of his nine Olympic golds.





Canadian equestrian athlete, Ian Millar, appeared at his tenth Olympics, a record across all Olympic sports.

Usain Bolt became the only sprinter to win 100-metre and 200-metre gold at three Olympics in a row.


Tokyo hosts for the second time with new sports: karate, sport climbing, surfing and skateboarding.


Having a Ball

Basketball What is it?

A team sport where really, really tall people hurl a big orange ball through a hoop hung high in the air.

T he Rules

sho ot the ba ll Tw o tea ms of five have to basketba ll ho op . s nt’ throu gh the ir op po ne pla ye rs dri bb le To move the ba ll for wa rd, the flo or, or by by bo un cin g the ba ll on tea mm ate s. It’s ir the passi ng it to on e of the three-po int ide ins tw o po int s for shots those ou tsid e. lin e, an d three po int s for oth er tea m isn’t the g Pu shi ng an d shovin y eas y to do. allow ed , alt ho ug h it’s ver int s at the en d po st Th e tea m wit h the mo of fou r qu arters wins.


Basketball is a sweaty sport; these stop you dripping all over the court.

Th e Hi st or y Bi t

Bas ket bal l was n’t inve nte d unt il 189 1, usin g a pea ch bas ket as a net , so it’s a relative ly you ng spo rt. It qui ckly spread thro ugh uni ver sitie s across the USA and the n across the wor ld, and was so pop ula r it bec am e an Oly mp ic spo rt in 193 6. Wh eel cha ir bas ket bal l has bee n at the Par aly mp ics since the firs t gam es in 196 0.


If your eyesight isn’t good then these are a must.

loser look c A


This is 46 centimetres wide and strong enough for players to hang from during dunks.


Support your ankles and the air-cushioned soles help with higher leaps.


Players shoot from here after being fouled. Shots are worth one point each.

Basic training

Bouncing a ball is a natural thing to do, so now do it lots of times while running. After you’ve run around a bit, stop and throw the ball at the top of a very high wall. When you’re comfortable doing this, add loads of tricks so you look cool.


up si de s

es never It’s fas t and hig h sco ring . Gam to end ly like re mo end 0– 0. The y’re ket s. bas of lot a 98 –102 and that’s re’s a the d, goo y ver Eve n if you ’re not ck the chu t Jus re. cha nce you mig ht sco s. pen hap t wha see bal l up the re and

Do w ns id es

Som e bas ketb all pla yer s will hog the bal l, so it can fee l like you ’re spe ndi ng all you r tim e run ning up and dow n the cou rt with out eve r get ting a tou ch.


Always clear, so people sitting behind still get a good view of the action.

Skill s needed

Anyo ne can play basketba ll, but it helps if you' re tall. The aver age heig ht for male play ers is 6 foot 7 inch es, or 202 cent imet res. The aver age heig ht for fema le play ers is 6 feet, or 185 cent imet res. So heig ht is a plus , but so are spee d, agility and ball-hand ling skill s.


In the past, balls were heavy and bounced all over the place. Now they're much lighter, but still bounce all over the place.

Heig ht is not impo rtant in whe elch air basketba ll, but you do need good bala nce, skill and stron g wris ts, shou lder s and arms . BASKE T

This has a hole cut out of the bottom, so isn’t really much of a basket.


With all that twisting, pivoting and jumping, basketball players get a lot of ankle and foot injuries. That large ball also hurts like mad if it hits you on the tops of your fingers, so make sure you learn how to catch it properly.

Sound L ike a Pro “Alley-oop”

— A player catching a pass

in mid-air and slamming it down into the basket.



If you are attacking, don’t hang around in here for more than three seconds or the ball is given to the opposition.

— S la m m

in g th e b al l th ro u g h th e hoop.

” “Travellthine g ba ll

— Ru nn in g w ith

stea d in yo ur ha nd s, in ul ! Fo of bo un ci ng it.



— A shot made in the final

Shoot from behind here to score three points, everything inside the three-point arc is worth two points.

second of a game.



Very hard. Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world, with over 20 million people playing in the USA alone. You’d better start training now.



Best ever Unsurprisingly USA has dominated Olympic basketball in both men and women’s events. They’ve won 28 medals, 23 of them gold. Russia are next up with just 12.



Having a Ball

What is it?

Two teams of 11 try and kick a ball past a goalkeeper and into the opposition’s net to score a goal. After scoring, they celebrate wildly or do a silly dance.

The Rules

Footb all has loads of rules nowa days , but basic ally two team s must kick or head the ball into the other team’s net. Only the goalkeepe rs are allow ed to touch the ball with their hand s, and only in their own area. You can’t foul your oppo nents or you will get sent off.


7.32 metres across and 2.44 metres high, so perfect for swinging on if you are a bored keeper when all the action is at the other end of the pitch.


This player leads the team out, tosses the coin to start and does most of the shouting at his team and the referee.

Skills needed All kinds of skills can be applied to being a top footballer, but not all of them are vital. It helps if goalkeepers are tall and good with their hands. Defenders should be tough and good at tackling and heading. Midfielders should be quick, able to do tricks, and good at passing and tackling. Strikers should be fast and good at shooting.

loser look c A


Now available in every colour of the rainbow, with added studs for grip.

Th e his to ry bit

BCE A vers ion of foot ball bega n in Chin a in 300 have ons isati civil ent and since then vario us anci , play ed ball gam es usin g their feet. How ever that UK the in it wasn’t until the Midd le Ages n foot ball took off, and prop er rules were draw ball Foot . 1863 in on up by the Foot ball Asso ciati only first appe ared in the Olym pics in 1900 , but al. med a won dy thre e team s ente red and nobo ics lymp Para the at Five -a-s ide foot ball has been since 200 4.



Footballers sometimes spend a great deal of time rolling around on the pitch screaming in pain like they’ve been hit with an iron bar. Then moments later they are totally fine. This is known as diving.


Used to be made out of a pig's bladder or heavy leather, but now it’s fake plasticky leather and much lighter.


Stops the ball flying into the crowd and hitting them in the face.





Football is the most popular sport in the world. Everyone wants to be a professional footballer.



Protect fingers and help keepers get a better grip on the ball.

Footballers are among some of the richest and most famous people in the world.



Get one of these and you are sent off and have to go back to the changing rooms for a little cry.

Being rich and famous sometimes isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.


The person in charge of the match.

Basic Training

Get a ball – it doesn’t matter how big or small – and practise juggling it, using your feet and head. Try to keep it off the floor. Then find a wall and shoot the ball at the wall as many times as you can. In your head pretend you’re scoring the winning goal in the final.

Sound L ike a Pro


h — Pas sin g the bal l throug and s leg t’s nen po op r you sid e. col lec ting it on the oth er


— A st yle of pl ay g in sh or t, qu ic k pa ss t. en em ov m an d SHIN PADS

Protective covering for shins worn under socks, so great when tackled.


— Ki ck in g th e b al l yo ur fo ot arou b y w ra p p in g nd th e b ac k si d e of yo ur st an d in g le g .

“ R ow z ”

— B o ot in a w a y in g t h e b a l l as p o s s ib to t h e c ro w d f a r le to w as te t imas e.


— A team that isn’t expected to win, not one that spends the game hiding under a dog.

Best ever The queens of Olympic football are the USA team, who have won four gold medals and one silver. In the men’s tournament, Hungary have won three golds, a silver and a bronze, while Brazil have the most medals with six, but only one of them is gold.


Having a Ball

What is it?


A team sport where players roll a hard rubber ball, with two bells in it, towards a large goal in an attempt to score.

loser look Ac

The H istory Bit


Goalball is played by athletes who may have varying degrees of visual impairments, so every player wears blackout eyeshades to keep things even. Athletes can’t touch their eyeshades without permission from the referee.

Goa lball was inve nted after the Seco nd Wor ld War to help visua lly impa ired sold iers with their recovery . It was so pop ular that it beca me a men’s Para lymp ic spor t in 1976 , and wom en’s in 1984 . Goa lball is one of only two Para lymp ic spor ts that does n’t have a matc hing spor t at the Olym pics .

Skills Needed

To generate power when they roll the ball, many goalball players use a 360-degree turn-and-roll technique. This sometimes causes the ball to bounce slightly, making it harder to stop. Players need a lot of skill, tactical knowledge and split-second reactions. There’s hardly a moment to take a breather.

The Rules

s as The aim of goal ball is to score as man y goal the ball ng poss ible, in two 12-m inute halves, by rolli tries team into your opp onent’s net. The defe ndin g full at to bloc k the ball with their bod ies, usua lly stretch. It’s like havi ng thre e goal ies. thre e It’s a very fast-flow ing gam e. Each team has es, titut play ers on cour t at a time , with thre e subs ball the w and team s have just ten seco nds to thro ds of 80 back to the othe r team . Balls can reac h spee lly tota be kilom etres per hour ! The crow d need s to can ers silent whe n the ball is in play , so the play is allow ed hear the ball and each othe r, but chee ring whe n a goal is scored.



Goalball players will use any part of their body to stop the ball going in the net, so be prepared to get bashed in the face by the ball.


There are very few sports exclusively for visually impaired athletes. It’s fast moving and with only three players on each side, you are always in the thick of the action.


You will spend most of the game on the floor. Also, the bigger the crowd, the harder it is to keep them quiet.


The goal stretches the whole width of the 9-metre playing area.


Because athletes spend a lot of time on the court floor.


The sound helps the players follow the ball.


The court is marked out with string to help players know where they are.


There are more officials than players on court: two referees, plus goal judges, timers and scorers.

Sound L ike a Pro

Best ever

“Discus throw”

— When a player crouches down, rotates 360 degrees and releases the ball so it bounces near to them. Designed to bamboozle the defenders.

Goalball is a very open competition, and no country really dominates the medals. Finland and Denmark are the only countries with two gold medals in the men’s event, while USA and Canada each have two golds in the women’s competition. USA has 12 medals in total across both men and women’s events.

“High-arm zilian a r B “ di s c u s t h ial” rows r ow ” s p ec — When a p la y e p la y e r th r s ta y s u p ri g h t a n d d is c u s th ro d o e s a m o re b a m w. Eve n b o ozl in g .

a s — When b a c k w a rd th e b a ll le g s to w a rd s th e ir b e tw e e n p o s in g g o a l. th e o p


Basic training

Tie a scarf over your eyes and get a family member to ring a bell in your house and see if you can find it in a couple of seconds. Avoid having the bell thrown at you as this might hurt.





If you have a visual impairment, goalball is a great sport to get involved with. Start young and your chances of making it to the Olympics are greatly increased.


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On Your Marks, Get Set, Gold! - preview  

Look inside On Your Marks, Get Set, Gold!, written by Scott Allen, illustrated by Antoine Corbineau, and published by Nosy Crow. Find out mo...

On Your Marks, Get Set, Gold! - preview  

Look inside On Your Marks, Get Set, Gold!, written by Scott Allen, illustrated by Antoine Corbineau, and published by Nosy Crow. Find out mo...

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