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Sport Climbing at Tokyo Olympics - How fair is the combination of 3 disciplines for one set of medals?

Athletes have to perform in all three disciplines - Lead Climbing, Speed Climbing and Bouldering, with these events separated in Paris 2024.

Sport Climbing Tokyo 2020

Sport Climbing (Source: CNN)


Eshaan Joshi

Updated: 15 July 2021 5:02 PM GMT

Sport Climbing is all set to make its debut at the Tokyo Olympics 2020, five years after the announcement of its inclusion was first made. While there is jubilation over the inclusion of the sport for the first time in the quadrennial event, the format of participation has raised a fair amount of skepticism among the athletes.

The format of the event shall comprise of all the three disciplines, speed climbing, lead climbing and bouldering, requiring each athlete to compete in all the disciplines. The event shall comprise of 20 competitors apiece in the men's and the women's category, with a maximum of two athletes per country per gender shall be permitted to participate. Speed climbing will be done in a bracket form, while lead climbing shall be done as per points system. Bouldering shall be done in the form of a leaderboard. The athletes shall be placed as per their performances in the individual disciplines, and final placement numbers shall be calculated by the multiplication of the individual ones. The athlete with the lowest score shall clinch the gold medal, and the ones with the second and third lowest shall clinch silver and bronze respectively.

While the system seems fairly straightforward at hand, there is much more to it than appears prima facie. The three disciplines are essentially disparate in character, with each requiring a specific set of skills to succeed. While speed climbing is a vertical sprint, lead climbing tests the endurance of athletes, and bouldering demands a combination of both physical and mental strength.

Speed Climbing

Speed climbing requires athletes to climb a 15 m wall set out at 95 degree, with the one reaching fastest on top being declared the winner. In lead climbing, the climbers have six minutes to climb the 15 m wall. Bouldering has a shorter wall of 4 m, with the climbers having four minutes to scale as many possible routes on it.

Lead Climbing

While lead climbing and bouldering require problem solving as one of the skills, speed climbing is merely focused upon reaching at the top. The training for speed climbing and lead climbing result into stark eventualities, leaving athletes lost for choice in preparation.

Bouldering Climbing

This has resulted in multiple opinions from multiple athletes; while some call it extremely erroneous, others have termed it to be challenging. For the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC), the goal of establishing the disciplines at the pedestal of an 'Olympic Sport' has been fulfilled, albeit the sacrifice on individual events due to the medal quota. However, the three disciplines are all set to appear as individual events at the Paris Olympics in 2024.

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