It’s Settled: Water Polo is the Hardest Sport


The Tokyo Olympics officially begin tonight with opening ceremonies taking center stage on NBC here in the States (7:30 PM EDT; 4:30 PDT). And it wouldn’t be an Olympic year without publications discovering water polo and making lists, one of which forever settles the question “which is the most difficult Olympic sport?”

The Insider has dispelled any doubt in a rigorous study including six (or seven, it’s a little unclear) experts, and concluding that water polo is “…the most physically strenuous Olympic sport.”

On top of treading water for 30 minutes and swimming up to a mile per game, athletes “sneak in blows to each other similar to ice hockey and soccer, while trying to not touch the ground, not drown, and score points all at the same time,” Nandini Collins, a trainer and exercise physiologist who works at Noom, told Insider. “Water polo is played with reckless abandon and is more violent than spectators assume.”

Another expert, Dr. Tate Greditzer, a first team All-CWPA Southern Division selection from Bucknell, chimed in but inexplicably touted swimming (!) as the “toughest” Olympic sport, one requiring the most “mental strength” That is impressive, but would be even more so if swimmers had to race with a large, grinning Macedonian person clinging to their ankles the entire way.

Fortunately, Dr. Greditzer’s willful neglect of the collegiate sport of choice was overruled by other authorities, including USA Water Polo’s completely impartial team physician, Dr. Naresh Rao, who (correctly) touted water polo athletes’ outstanding levels of both aerobic and anaerobic capacity.

That on top of the seminal 2011 piece by Bleacher Report, which declared water polo to be the world’s “toughest” sport, now puts the question to rest.

It’s settled: we’re the best.

But, holy crap, have you seen that Simone Biles? How does she not snap a femur every tumbling run? And cross country skiing? That looks horrible. And have you ever gone three legit minutes of actual boxing? And what about team handball?…

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  1. Anonymous

    Nonsense. Polo, as played on horseback is the toughest sport of all. Why? Think of yourself mounted on a 2,000 pound animal whose muscles under you are moving in multiple directions at the same time at rapidly stop and go speeds while you are swinging an 8 foot mallet at a very small ball against 5 other riders trying to do the same thing. The laws of physics alone make it virtually impossible to direct the horse, hit the ball and stay in the saddle at the same time. If you fall off the horse you risk being trampled to death.

    No one has drowned in water polo, nor has anyone died in modern ice hockey. Horse Polo trumps all.

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