For many of us, the trampoline calls to mind images of broken bodies strewn across backyards all over suburbia. This year's Olympic bouncers (as they prefer to be known) hope to change that while bounding in the Sydney Superdome on tramps larger and more powerful than recreational models. Competitors, male and female, will spring close to 30 feet in the air while performing compulsory and optional routines that usually last about 20 seconds. Each bouncer will roll through moves with such names as barani (front somersault with a half twist), rudi (front somersault with 1� twists) and fliffis (double front somersault with a half twist). The U.S. dominated this sport, winning every world title from 1964 through '70, but this year only one American, Jennifer Parilla (ninth and 10th from left), 19, will compete.
In the largest gathering of choreographed aquanauts since Esther Williams hung up her nose plugs, synchronized diving will join synchronized swimming in the pool in Sydney. The new event, in which two divers perform in unison from the three-meter springboard or 10-meter platform, became a competitive sport about 10 years ago and was added to the Games in part to capitalize on diving's popularity on TV. The addition of synchro is the first significant change in Olympic diving since 1920. Though it will double the number of events, it won't increase the number of divers. Pairs will be chosen from the athletes who qualified for their country's teams as individuals. U.S. diver Troy Dumais (left) made it to Sydney; brother Justin (right) didn't.
It may be new to the Olympics, but "the way of hand and foot" (which is what taekwondo means in Korean) has been practiced on the Korean peninsula for more than 2,000 years. Unlike a judo match, in which competitors grapple with each other to score a decisive ippon with throws and submission holds, a taekwondo bout is a flurry of acrobatic kicks and punches. Imagine a less cartoonish version of the fighting in the Jean-Claude Van Damme epic Kickboxer. Combatants square off with bare feet and fists in duels that consist of three three-minute rounds. Points are awarded for blows to the head, abdomen and sides, and competitors are penalized for such infractions as throwing an opponent, striking him in the back or punching him in the face. (A kick to the face, however, is legal.) Victory can come on points or by knockout, and medals will be awarded to men and Women in four weight classes. One member of America's first family of taekwondo, Steven Lopez (left and sixth from left, with siblings Mark, Jean and Diana), will compete in Sydney. The Muscles from Brussels, alas, will not.
Women's Hammer Throw
Sixteen years after the IOC concluded that women were sturdy enough to compete in an Olympic marathon, the Games have gone hurly-girly for gender equity. The hammer throw in Sydney will be one of six new women's competitions (modern pentathlon, pole vault, water polo, weightlifting and the time trial in track cycling are the others) in events previously reserved for men. The best female tossers will spin three to four times inside a seven-foot circle before hurling an eight-pound, 13-ounce ball and chain close to 250 feet, about 30 feet less than the top men propel their 16-pound implements. Ironically, male throwers commonly heaved-ho in a skirt some 400 years ago, when the precursor to the hammer was contested by brawny men in tartan kilts launching sledgehammers and wagon wheels across the Scottish countryside. As they throw for the gold in Sydney, U.S. champ Dawn Ellerbe (left) and her rivals will definitely not wear skirts.