As you probably guessed, Racketlon is a sport where competitors play table tennis, badminton, squash and finally tennis - yes, in that exact order as the size of the bat/racket increases. They play one set to 21 points in each game. The player with the most points at the end of all four sports wins the match. Interestingly, just like certain golf events, if the number of points left to win is lower than the difference in points between each player, the match stops and the winner is obviously the player with the most points. Just as interestingly, at least for me, is that if the points are exactly equal at the end of all four sports, a single point is played in tennis deciding the winner. Lots are drawn to decide who serves. The name of this match-deciding point is Gummiarm, which is Swedish and means rubber arm.
Racketlon was invented in the 1980s in Finland, and then spread to Sweden and Switzerland. The first official tournament was held in Helsinki in 1986. Originally it was called “mailapelit” which is a Finnish word meaning racket games. Peter Landberg, also known as Mr. Racketlon due to his promotion of the sport, joined the words “Racket” and “Athlon,”. Peter, a Swede who ran several racket tournaments in Stockholm, has also trademarked the name. It's clearly the perfect name, and as I teased in the introduction, follows the theme set by triathlon, pentathlon and decathlon. BTW, "athlon" is Greek and means contest or sport.
There are Men's, Women's, Masters' and Futures' (I assume that means juniors) tournaments, as well as doubles tournaments too, with special rules regarding serve and squash. I won't detail them here, but if you are interested follow the links at the bottom of the article. There is also an international team event as well as a world tour, which seems to comprise various tournaments around the world. I couldn't see whether there are any professional players, but the sport often repeats the fact that Stefan Edberg, ex-world number one tennis player, played racketlon for a time after retiring from pro tennis.
Something Called Profiles
From my point of view, the most interesting aspect of the sport is what they call "profiles" and this seems to be the relative strength of the sports. Apparently, nearly all of the best players are very skilled at badminton and/or squash. The concept being that if they can win enough points in the first three sports, they don't even need to play the tennis set.
As a complete outsider, I have played all the sports and even 3 on the same day, but not in a tournament, I think I understand why they keep the same order of sports (can you imagine if they switch the order in the other "lon" sports!), but at the same time, I feel that a random order might also make things more interesting, both for competitors and spectators alike. I do recognise that it would be chaos for the tournament organizers!
I can't help feeling that a sport that doesn't require one aspect of it to be performed is not optimised. That's why I feel a random order of sports would be fairer. What do you think?
Taking the idea of switching the order a little further, sports like pentathlon and decathlon might not benefit, but imagine if competitors were allowed to do the triathlon events in any order. That would add a new aspect to the sport. Sure, keeping track of who is leading would be very difficult, but it might make for a very exciting finish.
Adapting To Each Sport
For many club players, the idea of switching sports on the same day and still having good technique is almost alien. I knew a guy who would switch between tennis and squash each year, so tennis in the summer and squash in the winter and he took half of each season just getting comfortable with his swing and movement. It's my experience that the better you get at any racket sport, the easier it is to learn or play other racket sports. You develop the awareness of what your body is doing and have the ability to control your body to a finer degree. I feel it's similar to accomplished musicians who are able to play many instruments.
Would I recommend it for new players of a sport? Probably not, but if you have reached a certain level in your chosen sport and are looking for a new challenge, then this could be it.
For more information, please visit the links below.
+ Racketlon.net - the official webpage of FIR - the Internation Federation of Racketlon.
+ Racketlon.co.uk - A UK based racketlon website.
I love the idea of playing all four sports to see who has the best all-around racket ability. I can easily imagine racketball and padel being added to Racketlon, but obviously that would just make things even more complicated for organizers! If I ever get the chance, I'll definitely try to play racketlon - I just need to work on my topspin backhand in tennis.
The four sports chosen; table tennis, badminton, squash, and tennis, are the most popular, but for me you would need to include rackets, real tennis and maybe frontenis to really test the overall skill of a racket player.
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