Climbers around the world are anticipating an exciting new sport in the 2020 Olympics. Sport climbing will be making its official Olympic debut in Tokyo, 2020! This is a big deal for both competitive climbers around the world and for the spectators who love watching them. If you are interested in climbing but don’t know much about the sport, stick around as we give you the low-down on everything that is sport climbing and what you can expect to see in 2020.
What is sport climbing?
There will be 20 males and 20 females that make it into the Olympics. When competing in sport climbing, the competitors will be judged based on the three disciplines considered essential to climbing:
- lead climbing- a timed height competition where climbers will attach a safety rope and climb a course that has been fixed to a wall that is over 12 meters
- speed climbing- a climbing race, speed climbing will require split-second timing as climbers ascend a fixed route (including holds) on a 15-meter wall. The climbers will be notified in advance about the placement of the holds. Athletes will compete head to head in a knock-out style format.
- bouldering- climbers will ascend a fixed course on a wall that is 5 meters (or less) and receive a ranking based off of how many routes were completed in a specified frame of time. The key to success here is climbing the most routes with the least attempts
Each climber will be required to participate in every discipline and the final ranking will be determined by the combination of disciplines.
The origin of sport climbing
The Soviet Union used to hold speed climbing competitions on natural rock formations (from what we can tell) starting around the 1940’s. There was a surge in climbing in Europe around the 1980’s and the first lead climbing competition was held in Italy. Around this time, indoor walls started to increase around France and thus, indoor climbing was born and popularized. As the 1990’s came around, climbing competitions spread out to locations outside of Europe such as Japan and the United States. From there, the Climbing World Championships and the World Cup were created and bouldering was added to the original two disciplines of the sport (speed and lead). There has been an explosion in the competition scene ever since it left Europe and now it is pretty common that people know of the sport or have even tried climbing at some point themselves.
Keys to success in sport climbing
- Technical know-how and tactical skill
Bouldering is often considered to be the most “unstable” of the three disciplines making it the most difficult to navigate. Described as a game of “physical chess”, competitors have to know how to make the right movements quickly while also consdiering their next move and the moves ahead.
Getting sport climbing approved for 2020
It was by no means an easy journey to get the sport through the approval process. Votes to get the sport into the Olympic Games were divided. Some argue that getting climbers to participate in all three disciplines is innovative and has the structure of a triathlon. They believe it to be an exciting addition, whereas others see it as defiling the sport and the specialists that have worked hard at mastering their chosen discipline. There is much debate surrounding sport climbing and its ability to be what pro-Olympic sport climbers hope it will be.
As stated, not everyone is satisfied by the inclusion of the sport and for various reasons:
- the best climbers are unlikely to be competing in the Olympics because of the need to be the best in all three disciplines
- it is easier to transition from lead climbing to bouldering but speed climbing is a specialty that requires more specific demands
- some climbers are expressing the desire to boycott the inclusion of sport climbing in the Olympics because they feel it goes against original morals of the sport (they refer to sport climbing as a sub-sport of climbing or something different entirely)
- lead and bouldering climbers are lighter and more agile than speed climbers potentially allowing for imbalances between competitors causing viewers to question the validity of the scoring protocol
Whether you are for Olympic climbing or against Olympic climbing, no one can deny that the 2020 Games will go down in history for climbers and fans all over the world. The event is sure to be unpredictable, very exciting, and yet another display of world-class athleticism.