Is Jump Rope a Sport?


We live in world where people race lawn mowers and “athletes” can actually compete to be the world’s best Lumberjack. It’s outrageous! Yet still, I’m asked “Is Jump Rope a Sport?”.

Jumping rope, or skipping rope, is a competitive sport. While it’s not recognized as a sport by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), it is recognized by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). Athletes compete in various events including Singles, Pairs, Double Dutch, and Team Jump Rope Competitions.

Determining whether an activity is a sport is actually pretty simple. According to Dictionary.com and the Oxford University Press (OUP) a sport is defined as:

“An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”

With that definition you can see why jumping rope is a legit sport. Individuals, or teams, compete against each other to demonstrate their speed, power, and coordination.

But, what does the sport involve? How are athletes judged? What actually goes on in a jump rope competition?

What is Competitive Jump Rope?

Competitive Jump Rope is as much a test of skill and coordination as it is a performance. Individuals and teams, from all over the world, challenge each other in a variety of events to showcase their speed, power, coordination, and choreography.

The sport is growing rapidly, with increases in popularity here in the US, as well as China, France, Germany, and Japan, among other countries. Sanctioned tournaments are held at various times throughout the year for athletes as young as 8 years old!

Events vary from competition to competition. Some of the more popular events include Individual Freestyle, Individual Speed, Individual Power, Pairs Freestyle, Pairs Speed, Double Dutch Freestyle, and Double Dutch Speed.

Individual Freestyle:

Think of Freestyle Jump Rope as more of a dance than anything. Athletes will put together a variety of intricate tricks, roughly choreographed, to showcase everything from their speed and power to their endurance.

Some of the tricks athletes perform range from double unders and cross overs, to hand stands and even flips! The routine is usually paired with music making it the ultimate jump rope performance.

Individual Speed:

The Individual Speed event is an event where an athlete is evaluated on his or her ability to jump over their rope as many times as possible, in an allotted time. The athlete usually has anywhere from 30 seconds to 60 seconds.

The world record for speed is actually held by China, in both the male and female divisions. According to the Guinness Book of World Records: “The most skips in 30 seconds – alternate step is 208 and was achieved by Cen Xiaolin (China)”.

Individual Power:

The Individual Power category is an event where athletes are graded on how many double unders they can complete in an allotted time. Double unders, for those of you who aren’t familiar, are when the rope rotates around the jumper twice in a single jump.

The record for most consecutive double unders is held by Frank Oliveri who completed 10,709…over ten thousand double unders, in a row! While competitions are timed and athletes are usually given only 30 or 60 seconds, it’s still an amazing feat.

Pairs Freestyle:

The Pairs Freestyle event is where two athletes come together to choreograph a single routine. This event, although similar to the Individual Freestyle category, demands additional coordination. The rhythm and teamwork these routines require make for a really entertaining performance.

Pairs Speed:

Think of this event as a tag team style competition. Similar to the Individual Speed event, athletes are judged based on how many jumps they can complete in an allotted time.

One jumper goes, getting as many jumps as possible in 30 seconds. Then, the other jumper goes, getting as many jumps as possible in 30 seconds. The total score is the combined number of jumps the two athletes were able to complete.

Double Dutch Freestyle:

This is another entertaining event to watch. Double Dutch, for those of you who aren’t familiar, is where two long jump ropes are spun, in opposite directions, while one or more jumpers skip between the ropes.

The Double Dutch Freestyle event is similar to the Individual and Pairs Freestyle events, however it’s performed by 3 athletes (2 spinners and 1 jumper). The three athletes prepare a choreographed routine where each athlete is required to be both a spinner and a jumper.

As you can see in the video below, sometimes 2 or even 3 people will jump at the same time. It’s impressive!

Double Dutch Speed:

The Double Dutch Speed event, also performed by 3 athletes (2 spinners and 1 jumper), is a test of how many times the jumper can jump over the two revolving ropes. It’s usually a timed event, giving the team 60 seconds to complete as many jumps as possible.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records: “The most Double Dutch-style skips in one minute is 245, achieved by Ayumi Sakamaki (Japan) of the Double Dutch team Diana.”

With the growing popularity of jump rope competitions and the incredibly talented athletes coming up in the sport, it’s only a matter of time before athletes are competing on a bigger stage.

Is Jump Rope in the Olympics?

As of today, jump rope is not a recognized sport by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Being recognized is only the first step though. Once recognized, there’s a lengthy process which usually takes years to complete.

Just being a recognized sport does not automatically admit you into the Olympic Games.

There’s a number of sports recognized by the IOC, but not part of the Olympic Games. Racquetball and Bowling are two examples of sports recognized by the IOC but not included in the Olympic Games.

For a recognized sport to be admitted into the Olympic Games, there are a variety of requirements that need to be met. For example, if Jump Rope were a recognized sport and wanted to be included in the Olympics it would need to meet the following criteria:

  • Practiced by men in at least 75 countries, on at least 4 continents
  • Practiced by women in at least 40 countries, on at least 3 continents
  • Add to the “value and appeal” of the Olympic Games
  • Demonstrate the “modern traditions” of the Olympic Games

There are a variety of other regulations a sport must meet in order to be considered. Bans on “mind sports” and sports reliant on mechanical propulsion have kept a variety of sports out of the Olympics.

This year should be an interesting year for the Olympics as 5 new sports have been approved by the IOC for the 2020, Tokyo Olympics. Now, Baseball and Softball, Skateboard, Karate, Sports Climbing, and Surfing will be included in the Games.

Still, jump rope has yet to be approved by the IOC as a recognized sport. Given how new competitive jump rope is, it may be a while before we see people competing in the Olympics.

Resources

For those of you interested in the sport of Jump Rope, whether as an athlete looking to compete or a spectator seeking some entertainment, here is a list of resources to help you on your journey.

Get After It!

Will Holmes

Former personal trainer and athlete, currently working full-time as a health and fitness writer. Getting in shape, losing weight, and eating better, isn't always easy. It helps to have a friend... that's me, I'm the friend! Sincerely, Your biggest fan

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