ESPN, the Disney-owned American cable TV network that touts itself as the ‘worldwide leader in sports’, asked a 8-person panel of sports experts to determine the “toughest” sport. The panel evaluated 60 sports in 10 different categories: endurance, strength, power, speed, agility, flexibility, nerve, durability, hand-eye coordination and analytic aptitude.
The 8 experts judged each sport in the 10 categories on a scale of 1-to-10. The responses were compiled to give each sport a degree-of-difficulty on a 1-to-100 scale.
The results are…distance swimming was ranked 36th out of 60 sports. The rankings are listed below with more details at ESPN.
2. Ice Hockey
3. American Football
6. Martial Arts
11. Alpine Skiing
12. Water Polo
15. Steer Wresting (Rodeo)
16. Pole Vault (Track and Field)
17. Field Hockey
18. Speed Skating
19. Figure Skating
20. Cycling (Distance)
25. Freestyle Skiing
26. Team Handball
27. Cycling (Sprints)
29. Ski Jumping
31. Nordic Skiing
32. Auto Racing
33. High Jump (Track and Field)
34. Long & Triple Jumps (Track and Field)
36. Distance Swimming (all strokes)
38. Sprints (Track and Field)
40. Calf Roping (Rodeo)
41. Distance Running (Track and Field)
42. Bull/Bareback/Bronc Riding (Rodeo)
43. Middle-distance Running (Track and Field)
45. Sprint Swimming (all strokes)
46. Water Skiing
47. Table Tennis
48. Weight Events (Track and Field)
50. Horse Racing
53. Roller Skating
The 8 sports experts are listed here and include sports scientists, academicians, kinesiologists, athletes, and sports journalists (note: no one has an aquatic background).
Swimming’s highest ranking was in endurance where it scored a 9.25 (behind distance cycling and distance running) and its lowest ranking was hand-eye coordination (where it scored the same as speed skating, rowing, roller skating and equestrian).
Since open water swimming is occasionally described as wrestling (#5 above) in the water, and requires careful hand-eye coordination between swimmer and coach at the feeding stations, could open water swimming been ranked a bit higher?
Photo of Christine Jennings in the 5K race by Javier Blazquez at the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Championships in Sevilla, Spain.