The World Nomad Games concluded on Friday in what can only be described as the greatest week-long sporting event on the planet. The games, intended to showcase ethnic sports of Central Asia, featured things you have never heard of, athletes you’ll never learn about and sports that sound absolutely terrifying.
There were 16 sports with medals up for grabs. These are the ones that are the absolute wildest.
This Turkish equestrian sport involves teams of riders chasing each other and throwing javelins at each other while on horseback. Yes, seriously.
It’s wrestling, except you’re on a horse. You win by pulling your opponent off their horse.
There’s no delicate way to explain Kok-boru. It’s horseback basketball using a goat carcass. You win by tossing the dead goat into your opponent’s well. It comes from a tradition of beating up wolves that attacked your herd of sheep and throwing a dead wolf to your friends who went wolf hunting with you.
In this form a wrestling, athletes fight over a stick. Each wrestler is given part of the stick to hold and are seated facing each other with their feet on a plank. Whoever gets the stick wins.
I watched the entire 14-minute rule video on Ordo and I’m still not sure what Ordo is. It seems like reverse curling. Instead of trying to get your shell in the center of the circle, you’re trying to knock your opponents’ shells out.
A three-step hunting sport involving animals.
Competitions are held in the following disciplines:
1. Burkut saluu - hunting with golden eagles. Composition of the team - 6 people: 1 leader and 5 berkutchi (hunter with eagles).
2. Dalba oynotuu - falcon flying to the lure. Composition of the team - 6 people: 1 leader and 5 Kushchu (falconer).
3. Taigan jarysh - dog racing among breeds of greyhound. Composition of the team - 6 people: 1 leader and 5 owners of dogs.
This has to be the biggest misnomer of the World Nomad Games. They say “traditional,” but really they mean on horseback and also this.
Did the USA win any medals?
YES! It might surprise you to hear that USA even sent a team to the World Nomad Games, but we totally did. Granted, USA is not especially great at these sports and only won two silver medals and two bronze medals, but dang it’s a start.
I’ve tried to work out what the USA won in for the last 30 minutes, but the World Nomad games has no way of finding that out on their website. We better have won in eagle hunting.
Other fun facts:
- A gold medal earned an athlete the equivalent of $517.
- Outside of the games there were contests for best yurt, and best drawing of a falcon.
- There was a sport on exhibition (but not competition) called Oert Jalymdagan Chabandes, or “Burning Rider,” which is riding a horse except you’re on fire. They made a stamp out of it.
- Steven Seagal was a special guest at the opening ceremony.
- The opening ceremony featured a confused man who looked like a wizard being scared by dancers, set to techno music.
Seriously, you need to watch it, because it was bananas.
These sports may seem strange, and who doesn’t like laughing at a dude on fire riding a horse — but the reality is that all of these sports are ludicrously difficult and totally hardcore. Athletes train for years using traditional dress and equipment just to compete. There is a ton of info on the games’ official site if you want to learn more about the rules.
The next World Nomad Games will be held in 2018. Now it should be on everybody’s radar.