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What to know about sport climbing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

At this year's Tokyo Olympics, sport climbing will make its Olympic debut, joining karate, skateboarding, and surfing as the newest Olympic sports. Sport climbing will be contested at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, but with some changes. The International Federation of Sport Climbing, which oversees the sport, was only authorized to give one set of medals to men's climbers and one set to women's climbers during the Tokyo Games, according to, resulting in a structure that incorporates numerous disciplines.

How does the Olympic sport climbing competition work?

There will be a men's and a women's sport climbing competition, each with three disciplines: speed, bouldering, and lead.

On a 15-meter wall, two competitors participate in a speed competition. Bouldering requires athletes to scale a series of predetermined routes on a 4.5-meter wall in four minutes. Climbers are not required to use safety ropes, and if they fall, they can attempt again until time runs out. The athletes in the lead strive to climb as high as they can on a wall that is at least 15 meters tall in six minutes (the climbers use safety ropes, and if they fall their final height is their score; they are not allowed to begin another climb). Each climber will compete in all three disciplines, with the climber's overall ranking established by multiplying their placement in each category. The athletes who achieve the lowest scores win medals.

In the sport climbing community, the inclusion of speed climbing was controversial, as it is considered as a specialist discipline that does not translate well for competitors in the other two competitions (and vice versa). At the Paris Games in 2024, speed climbers will compete for a separate set of medals.

In 2017, champion boulderer Shauna Coxsey commented, "It's like asking Usain Bolt to run a marathon and then do the hurdles." “No one has ever truly transformed. No boulderer has made the crossover from bouldering to speed and lead, and no speed climber has made the journey from bouldering to lead.”

Where will the Olympic sport climbing competition take place?

The Olympic sports climbing competition will take place at Aomi Urban Sports Park, a temporary venue constructed near the Olympic Village. It also will host the three-on-three basketball event.

What is the schedule of Olympic sport climbing events?

All three men's finals will take place on Aug. 5, with the speed final starting at 4:30 a.m. Eastern, the bouldering final at 5:30 a.m. Eastern, and the lead final starting at 8:10 a.m. Eastern.

The women’s finals are Aug. 6 and use the same schedule.

Who are the top American hopefuls in Olympic sport climbing?

Colin Duffy, who is only 17 and still in high school, stands out among the two men and two women fighting for the United States. He qualified by winning the International Federation of Sport Climbing’s Pan American Championship in March 2020 and earned a World Cup bronze medal in lead climbing earlier this month.

American Colin Duffy competes in the men's lead final during a competition in Switzerland in July, 2021. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

Brooke Raboutou, on the other hand, is only 20 years old and has already won three World Cup medals (a silver in lead and two bronze in bouldering). She qualified for the Olympics by finishing ninth at the 2019 combined world championships.

Who are the top international hopefuls in Olympic sport climbing?

Adam Ondra of the Czech Republic is a five-time world champion and excels in bouldering and lead climbing.

Japan’s Tomoa Narasaki won the combined gold medal at the 2019 world championships.

Janja Garnbret of Slovenia is a six-time world champion in the women's event, having won gold in bouldering, lead climbing, and the combined event in 2019. She became the first climber to win all six World Cup bouldering events in a single season that year.

Source: The Washington Post

Paraphrased by: Joey Tai

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