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Climbing and the Olympics: Part One

Climbing and the Olympics: Part One

Are you excited?!

Just in case you haven’t heard (are you living in a climbing-free cave?), in 2016 it was announced that Sport Climbing, along with Skateboarding, Surfing and Karate, would be trialed at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. But a climbing competition? How do you decide who is the best climber in bouldering, lead and speed all at once?

With just one year to go until the climbers leave the ground at Aomi Urban Sports Park, we decided we’d bring you a mini-guide to how it’s all going to work.


On your marks, get set, SPRINT!

The first event will see each competitor go hell for leather up a set route on a 15m wall. The Speed route is the same world over, so this is the one section where competitors know exactly what they’ll be facing.

This event is top-roped and, because of the phenomenal speed, competitors are clipped onto an autobelay. To add to the tension, they ascend two at a time, in a ‘duel’, giving the event much more of a race quality.

At the top, the climbers hit a timer button to finish the route, calculating their time to the nearest 0.01 second!

Check out this video from BBC Sport of Olympic hopeful Will Bosi racing someone drinking a glass of milk!


Picture this… You’re at your local climbing gym, about to face the hardest boulder problem you’ve ever seen. But you have only seconds to even read the route before starting.

In the Olympics, once an athlete is on the pads, they’ll have just four minutes to get to the top of their route! They can fall off as much as they like, but once the time is up, that’s it.

Bouldering sees climbers at their most gymnastic and the four routes they take on will likely showcase the hardest technical climbing of the competition. Expect to see athletes facing the wrong way and even running their way across volumes.


I hope you’re not scared of heights! Watching competitive Lead climbing can sometimes really make my stomach lurch as athletes struggle to clip as they hold themselves on with little more than a toe hook and micro-crimp, sometimes even missing draws to stay in the flow of the route.

Each athlete has just six minutes to make one attempt at a single towering route. The further they get, the harder the moves and the more pumped they get, but once they fall or the time is up, that’s game over. The climber who gets the furthest is the winner!

Once the three events are over, the competitors places in each event are multiplied together to form a ranking. The competitor with the lowest score wins!

Olympic-Style climbing is going to test the best climbers in the world on their strength, power, endurance, coordination, problem-solving and speed. Most of all, it’s going to bring climbing to the masses and we know they’re going to love it.

So who do you want to see up there on the podium? Let us know your favourite athletes in the comments!

If you liked this article, watch out for Part Two – coming soon!

Would you like to find out more about Womenclimb, and how you can become part of our inclusive community? You might like to see Reasons to become a Womenclimb member

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