Houston Matters

Houston Is A Hotbed For Many Of The Summer Olympic Sports

In a five-part series, Houston Matters takes a closer look at how some of the sports at the Tokyo Olympics are enjoyed in Greater Houston.

Summer Olympic Sports
While sports like table tennis, fencing, archery, and gymnastics have long been staples of the Summer Olympics, sport climbing and skateboarding are new additions for Tokyo.

With the Summer Olympic Games in full swing now in Tokyo, you may be watching some of these competitions and wondering – could I do that? Or at least some far less competitive version of that?

The answer is, of course, yes. And a lot of Houstonians do engage in many of the sports featured in the summer games.

Throughout the Olympics, Houston Matters is bringing you stories of how Houstonians enjoy — and even in compete in at the highest levels — sports featured in Tokyo, from table tennis to archery, to skateboarding and sport climbing, to fencing.

Don’t Call It Ping-Pong: Table Tennis Is A Serious Sport

Table Tennis
Competitors face off at the Houston International Table Tennis Academy near Katy.

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Table tennis is an Olympic sport that is extremely popular in some parts of the world. But, here in the United States, it’s often enjoyed in a more casual, less competitive manner — and often by the entirely different name of ping-pong.

To learn more, Houston Matters host Craig Cohen recently visited the Houston International Table Tennis Academy, a major training facility that can be easy to miss, tucked away next door to a pizza place in a strip mall near Katy.

Archery — An Ancient Tradition Alive In Houston

Archery
Archery instructor James Loesch and his student Meg Basu, a former competitive bobsledder who picked up archery during the pandemic.

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Competitive archery at the Olympics had come and gone at various points throughout the 20th century. But this ancient tradition is certainly alive and well both at the Tokyo games and at West Houston Archery, a large retail store just off I-10 in the Memorial area.

Houston Matters producer Joshua Zinn visited the store where kids and adults alike learn the sport from Houston Archery Lessons, which operates out of the center.

There, he met with certified instructor James Loesch and his student Meg Basu, a former competitive bobsledder who picked up archery during the pandemic.

Houston Skateboarders Wonder If Olympic Acceptance Comes With A Cost

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While skateboarding has been around for decades, and competitions are nothing new, it is new to the Olympic Games, with medals being handed out for the first time in Tokyo.

Some wonder if the sport's growing global acceptance comes at a cost to its roots in rebellion and self-expression. Producer Troy Schulze visited a local skate park to find out what Houston area skaters think.

And you can root for Houston's own Jordan Santana in the women's park-skating competition next week.

Sisters Show How Houston Became A Hotbed For Fencing

Kelley and Courtney Hurley
Olympic fencers and sisters Kelley and Courtney Hurley live and train in Houston.

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Fencing has been a part of every modern Olympic Games since 1896. But only in recent years has Houston become a bit of a national hotbed for it.

A lot of that is due to Houston's Alliance Fencing Academy, which has become one of the nation's premiere places to train for the sport. And that is largely by virtue of its founder, Andrey Geva, who's the coach of the U.S. Olympic and National teams.

The academy's alumni include medalists at all different levels of competition. And two who've reached the highest level are sisters Courtney and Kelley Hurley. They both competed in Tokyo last week. For Kelley, it was her fourth Olympics. And for Courtney it was her third.

Originally from San Antonio, they've lived and trained in Houston with Coach Geva over the last several years. They compete in épée (pronounced “EH-pay”), which is the only version of fencing in the Olympics where the entire body is an eligible target. Together, they were part of the only American women's épée team to win an Olympic medal in the sport, taking bronze back in 2012 in London.

For them, love of the sport runs deep. Both their mother and father were fencers. That's how they met.

So, as they tell Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty, it was only natural they took up what became the family sport.

Houston Climbers Offer Insight Into One Of The Newest Olympic Sports

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While sport climbing is a new summer Olympic event this year in Tokyo, its roots in rock climbing are practiced regularly here across Greater Houston, including at Momentum Climbing in Katy.

That’s where Houston Matters producer Brenda Ruiz met up with Rees Williams, its general manager, to learn how the sport works.

VIDEO: How to Complete a Climbing Route in Competition

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Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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