There's Diving, There's Swimming. Can We Get Synchronized Trampoline? Synchronized Archery?

A Blog About the Olympic Games
July 24 2012 12:36 PM

There's Diving, There's Swimming. Can We Get Synchronized Trampoline? Synchronized Archery?

Derrick Aldrich and Peter Dodd perform during the Men's Synchronized Trampoline event at the 2004 Visa U.S. Gymnastics Championships.

Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images

A reader named Allison emails with a good question: Why do the Olympic diving events include a “synchronized” category while other, potentially synchronizable events don’t?

Great topic! Who hasn’t wondered about synchronized water sports, and why they exist? Synchronized swimming has a long and interesting history which I’ll tell you about some other time. (It involves Benjamin Franklin, Wright Junior College, and the 1934 World’s Fair—but, then, which Olympic sports don’t involve those things?) Synchronized diving, on the other hand, is a much more recent invention. Whereas synchronized swimming, which might better be described as “water ballet,” involves multiple swimmers creating a complex aquatic routine of the sort that might conceivably be filmed in an overhead shot for inclusion in a movie with a name like Freshwater Follies of 1939, synchronized diving is just two divers attempting to hit the water at the same time.


If you think this sounds like the sort of sport that was thought up on the fly to pass the time during a slow day at Sea World, well, you’re not entirely wrong. (Except for the Sea World part.) Though the concept has been around forever, its modern incarnation apparently traces back to a guy named Tom Gompf, an Olympic medalist and diving world bigwig who, in the 1990s, saw synchronized diving as a way to rekindle public interest in the sport after the retirement of Greg Louganis, America’s springboard sweetheart. “Diving has had the same four events since the 1920 Olympics. Swimming has gone from eight to 32 swimming events,” Gompf told the Sun-Sentinel in 1995. “We needed to add a new element, something a little more spectacular.”

The path to Olympic sport-dom can take some pretty arbitrary turns, but generally, a sports needs two things to get approved for the games: a powerful advocate and a guaranteed minimum level of public interest. Tom Gompf was a good shepherd: He organized a bunch of events and competitions, built some buzz, worked his Rolodex, and, presto, synchronized diving became an Olympic sport in 2000.

So, what should be the next Olympic event to get a synchronized variant? Here are some sports that could use a Gompf of their own:

Trampoline: I think we can all agree that synchronized trampoline would be pretty damn amazing. Multiple trampolinists having to coordinate their jumps such that they perform the exact same moves while reaching the exact same height? Yes, please! Synchronized trampoline actually exists, in exhibition format, and while it’s been discussed as a potential Olympic event, it hasn’t happened yet—much to the dismay of aspiring USA synchro teammates Dooley and Gluckstein, who will have to content themselves for now with peddling their good-natured ethnic comedy routines on the vaudeville circuit (I’m assuming).

Gymnastics: In the words of emailer Allison: “One guy doing a still rings routine: badass. Two guys doing a synchronized still ring routine: totally effing badass!” To that self-evidently true statement, I can only add: One guy doing a handstand on a balance beam: badass. Ten guys doing handstands on the same balance beam: TOTALLY EFFING BADASS! I dare you to disagree.

Archery: Let’s have a dozen archers shoot at once, and judge them on the similarity of each arrow’s arc, speed, and proximity to the bull’s-eye. For an added challenge, they could also have to sing the theme song from Robin Hood: Men in Tights in unison.

Basketball: This could actually be really awesome. Imagine if the USA hoops squad had to perform a tightly choreographed routine of synchronized dunks, free throws, and three-man-weaves. Actually, this just sounds like a Harlem Globetrotters routine. But who wouldn’t want to see the Globetrotters in the Olympics?

Equestrian: I, for one, would tune in to see several horses clearing the same obstacles at the exact same time. Like synchronized trampoline, this really exists, more or less, in a dressage format called quadrille, which is apparently awe-inspiring when performed well, and hazardous when performed poorly. (One article asks “Quadrille? Or Equestrian Demolition Derby? You Decide.”) Sounds like a ratings bonanza!

Thanks for the question, Allison! The rest of you should feel free to send me some more, or leave your thoughts in the comments.


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Crowds March in 160 Countries to Demand Action on Climate Change


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Americans' Inexplicable Aversion to the 1990s
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Brow Beat
Sept. 21 2014 2:00 PM Colin Farrell Will Star in True Detective’s Second Season
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.