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5 Underrated Events Worth Watching at the 2016 Olympics

Everyone tunes into the Olympics for competitions like track and field and swimming, but what about lesser-known sports? Here are five underrated events to watch at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

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Athlete wearing Olympic medalPhoto: lazyllama/ShutterStock

The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro: The Biggest Sports Event in the World

If there’s one event on TV that viewers don’t want to miss, it’s the 2016 Olympics. According to the Nielsen ratings, more than 219 million Americans tuned into the 2012 London Games, while over 900 million viewers watched the event worldwide. But despite those figures, not all of the events are huge audience draws-and that’s a shame.

“More of the public should get behind these athletes and these sports,” says Annamay Pierse, a former competitive swimmer who competed in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. “It could bring us that much closer to learning about who these athletes really are.” Here are five underrated events that are worth watching at the 2016 Olympics (you can watch them on television, web or mobile apps).

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Archer getting ready to release arrowPhoto: Joao Luiz Lima/ShutterStock

1. Archery

Admit it: whenever you watch the elves in The Lord of the Rings, you think to yourself, “I want to do that!” The oldest sport on this list, archery made its Olympic debut at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris. Both men and women compete in individual and team events, aiming for a perfect score through accuracy and skill. Georcy-Stéphanie Thiffeault Picard of Montreal and Crispin Duenas of Scarborough, Ont. will be competing this year.

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BMX cyclists competing at eventPhoto: Tim Large/ShutterStock

2. BMX Cycling

The youngest sport on this list is also one of the world’s most exciting. BMX Cycling mixes fierce racing, wild jumps and intense crashes on off-road courses. At the 2016 Olympics, there are men’s and women’s competitions. British Columbia native Tory Nyhaug will be competing in the event at Rio 2016 as Canada’s sole BMX racer.

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Ping pong paddle and ball on tablePhoto: ShutterStock

3. Table Tennis

Part of the Games since the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, table tennis is the most popular racket sport in the world. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been as popular in Canada compared to other countries. That’s a shame-the incredible focus and reflexes make it a spellbinding event to watch. Men and women compete individually and in teams, and this year, Eugene Zhen Wang of Ottawa and Mo Zhang of Chilliwack, B.C. will be representing Canada.

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Modern pentathlon playerPhoto: ShutterStock

4. Modern Pentathlon

The Modern Pentathlon event is an adrenaline junkie’s dream-fencing, swimming, horse riding, shooting and running, all taking place on the same day. Part of the Olympics since 1912 in Stockholm, modern pentathlon has competitions for both men and women. Melanie McCann of Mount Carmel, Ont. and Donna Marie Vakalis of Toronto will be competing in modern pentathlon at the 2016 Olympics.

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Canoe slalom racer in riverPhoto: evronphoto/ShutterStock

5. Canoe/Kayak Slalom

Inspired by slalom skiing, this white-knuckle sport has been in the Games since the 1972 Munich Games. Competitors navigate whitewater rapids on kayaks or canoes, in singles and doubles events. Cameron Smedley of Dunrobin, Ont. and Michael Tayler of Ottawa will be competing at Rio 2016. “The coolest thing is getting to know the events,” says Pierse. “Once you have that connection, it can make it more exciting as a fan.”

Related features:
10 Must-Visit Olympic Cities
10 Ways The Olympics Changed Canada
10 Beautiful Reasons To Visit Rio de Janeiro