20 Colorful Slang Terms From Olympic Sports

Between tennis’s ‘bagel,’ volleyball’s ‘pancake,’ and cycling’s ‘bacon,’ we’ve pretty much got breakfast covered.
The Olympic rings outside the IOC headquarters in Switzerland.
The Olympic rings outside the IOC headquarters in Switzerland. / (Speech bubble) Justin Dodd/Mental Floss; (Rings) Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

Every two years, the Olympics give us all an opportunity to dive into the culture of certain sports that we might not actively follow otherwise—and that includes learning some new lingo. From bingo to twisties, here are 20 colorful slang terms from various Olympic events.

Bingo (Diving)

Bingo is diving shorthand to convey that all the judges have given a dive the exact same score. 

Bacon (Cycling)

Bacon refers to any scrapes or road rash a cyclist gets during a crash (and sometimes the scars or scabs left over after the fact).

Bagel and Double bagel (Tennis)

Whenever a tennis player wins a set six games to zero, it’s a bagel. If you score two bagels in one match, that’s a double bagel.

Bell lap (Track)

On the last lap of a race with multiple laps, officials ring a bell to remind the runners that they’re entering the last lap—so that lap is sometimes called a “bell lap.”

Chicken wing and Pancake (Volleyball)

A chicken wing is when you bend your arm in the shape of a chicken wing to make contact with the volleyball. It’s typically only done when a defensive player doesn’t have time to move into a better position, which makes it all the more impressive whenever it works.

Equally impressive is the pancake: a save in which your palm hits the floor just in time for the ball to bounce off the top of your hand.

Dead ball (Table tennis)

In table tennis, a dead ball isn’t one that’s out of play—it’s one with no (or almost no) spin on it.

Death cookies and Chocolate chips (Skiing and Snowboarding)

Avalanches and grooming machines tend to churn up snow that sometimes freezes into hazardous chunks known as death cookies. They can make for an especially bumpy ride, and skiers and snowboarders understandably hate them.

It’s not the only cookie-themed slang you might hear on the slopes: Chocolate chips refers to rocks sticking out of the snow.

11. Flutz (Figure skating)

A Lutz is a figure skating move in which you skate backward on the outside of one skate and then tap the front of the other skate’s blade on the ice to help you push off into a spinning jump. (A double Lutz is two rotations, a triple Lutz is three, and so on.) Part of the difficulty is staying on the outside of your skate as you transition into the jump, so you’ll lose points if you do it from the inside of your skate—that’s called a “flutz.”

Hammer and Brick (Curling)

A typical curling game comprises eight or 10 ends, and teams alternate to deliver eight stones (per team) during each end. The last stone delivered is known as the brick or the hammer—and if you’re the last team to shoot, you’re said to “have the hammer.”

Kufen and Steels (Luge)

The fiberglass or wooden runners of a luge sled are sometimes known by their German name: kufen. The lengths of steel that cover the bottoms of the runners are simply called “steels.”

Land bolts (Skateboarding)

If you land bolts in skateboarding, you’ve totally nailed the landing of a trick—i.e. with both feet right on top of the bolts of your board.

Men in gray suits (Surfing)

In the surfing world, men in gray suits has nothing to do with drab businessmen. It’s a euphemism for sharks.

Stuck in the bucket (Pole vaulting)

Good form for a pole vault is when you get your hips above your shoulders before you go over the pole. It’s harder to clear the pole if you’re stuck in the bucket—i.e. your hips are level with or below your shoulders.

Touch (Swimming)

Swimmers end a race by touching the wall of the pool, so it’s easy to see how touch became another way to refer to a race’s finish.

Twisties (Gymnastics)

Sometimes, a gymnast’s mind will momentarily fall out of sync with their body in the middle of a difficult skill—particularly one involving any airborne twists—and they’ll lose the spatial awareness and control needed to land safely. This phenomenon, colloquially called “the twisties,” can result in serious injury if you keep attempting high-level tricks without first working to realign your mind and body (which is why Simone Biles opted to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics rather than finish the competition with a bad case of the twisties).

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