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The Olympic events you've never heard of

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Charlie Swinbourne Charlie Swinbourne | 09:30 UK time, Friday, 2 March 2012

The 2012 Olympics arrive in London this summer, with not only our capital but also the rest of the UK gearing up for what promises to be an amazing sporting extravaganza. In prospect is the opportunity to see the world’s greatest athletes reaching the very limits of human skill, speed and endurance, and I for one can't wait!

There's no doubting the huge level of excitement surrounding the men's 100 metres final, with over 1 million people applying for tickets for the race. Other events that I'll personally be looking out for include diving, the marathon, and of course the football.

But as the official 2012 site shows, the Olympics are about far more than the headline races and events. There's a total of 26 sports and 39 disciplines to choose from. So here are the pick of the niche events you may not have heard of - and where on the web you can find out all about them.

One event that's always intrigued me personally is fencing, where competitors engage in competitive (but safe!) swordfighting. And the official 2012 site has loads of interesting info – for instance, the names for the swords include the epée, foil and sabre. As well as demystifying jargon, the site tells us the basics of the sport, its history, and even features a neat video showing just how dramatic a bout can be. Other useful fencing sites include BBC Sport's own fencing site, which has all the lastest swashbuckling news.

When you think of wrestling, what's imagined (in my mind at least) are muscle-bound, perma-tanned men in garish costumes throwing each other around a ring in front of a baying crowd. But that version of wrestling is very different to what you'll see at the Olympics, even if the competitors still wear a lot of lycra. Olympic wrestling is otherwise known as 'freestyle wrestling' and involves a lot of more technical grappling on a mat. You can find out all the latest news at the FILA Wrestling website and even more on BBC Sport's own wrestling section.

A sport that's massively popular abroad but is barely known on these shores is handball - which at first glance looks like a cross between football and basketball. To get started, go to the European Handball Federation site which includes a section on the basics of Handball, and as before, the main 2012 site features a great video showing just how entertaining the sport is. If you'd like to see how the British teams are shaping, up head to the British Handball Association site, or check out BBC Sport's handball coverage.

An event I'll be keenly checking the schedules for is the BMX cycling, and in particular, the fortunes of cyclist Shanaze Reade, who came incredibly close to winning the gold for the UK in Beijing, before crashing out in the final. The London Olympics will be only the second time the event has featured at the games. You can find out more about BMX cycling at the British Cycling site, including a series of features called 'The Road to Beijing', or get a taster for the sport with this video of the final of last year's BMX final at the Youth Games.

That's just four of the lesser known events that will be gracing this country next summer. There were so many others I could have included, from the Canoe Slalom to the Modern Pentathlon, not to mention the Trampoline! For the latest news on those or any of the other niche sports, check out the main BBC Sport - London 2012 page for all the newest info. Happy browsing!

Charlie is a journalist and scriptwriter specialising in articles and films featuring deaf culture and sign language. He has written for the Guardian online and has contributed to programmes for Radio 4, while his films have won international awards. He also works in the arts, helping to make theatre accessible for deaf people.


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