An introduction to sport climbing, the new Olympic sport

Thu 15 July 2021 | 10:30

The world would greet warmly the newcomer of this year’s Olympic sports, which is sport climbing. Like a freshman who would grow into becoming a senior year student, sport climbing is also making its way into the classics; we welcome you to an introduction to sport climbing, the new Olympic sport.

Sport climbing is a type of rock climbing that uses permanent anchors placed to the rock for protection, a rope tied to the climber that is clipped into the anchors to stop a fall or in case of ascending short lengths protected with a crash cushion below.

This differs from traditional climbing, which requires climbers to put detachable protection as they ascend. Lead climbing and top roping techniques are common in sport climbing, although free solo and deep-water solo (no protection) climbing on sport routes are also feasible.

Because sport climbing routes do not need to follow conventional climbing routes where protection may be provided, they tend to follow more direct, and straightforward, paths up crags than traditional climbing routes, which can be twisting and devious. This, along with the necessity to put gear, leads to a split in climbing techniques between sport and conventional.

Sport climbing was set to debut at the

Olympic games Tokyo 2020

, Japan, and had already been tried at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics.

A complete introduction to sport climbing, the new Olympic sport

In Tokyo 2020 Sport Climbing article we will talk about everything related to rock climbing. Why rock climbing and not sport climbing? Well, the essentials are the same with the only difference in the routing and paths. We will go over the history, equipment, varieties, ethics, and famous athletes in

Tokyo 2020 Sport Climbing


As told before let’s start with the history of this amazing sport.

Sport climbing history

How much did you like your history classes? If a lot then you would enjoy this part of the

Tokyo 2020 Sport Climbing


The many techniques of rock climbing that are currently widely acknowledged among rock climbers have just emerged in the last few decades and are making their way into the Olympic games Tokyo 2020.

Climbing was just climbing before the 1980s and 1990s. The profusion of bolted routes that resulted from this period, however, demanded the distinction between "trad climbing" and "sport climbing."

Many old-school climbers resisted the popularity of sport climbing when it first became popular. Nonetheless, there was an unmistakable natural progression at work. Sport climbing has allowed for the creation of increasingly difficult routes.

The current peak of 5.15d may never have been achieved if not for this type of climbing. It also gave us more flexibility in terms of development. Before sport climbing, cracks were required to defend a rout, making intriguing face climbs impossible for anybody who didn't want to fall.

Sport climbing became popular in Europe and the United States in the late 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

Although the transcontinental movements impacted one other, they were different. The European movement began a little earlier in France's Verdon Gorge, a beautiful canyon that is sometimes likened to the Grand Canyon.

Meanwhile, climbers from Oregon who frequented Smith Rock began to push the boundaries of hard sport climbing in the United States.

This climbing technique has spread from these two regions. Although some traditionalists still consider sport climbing to be a lesser form of climbing, the majority of climbers now embrace it as a legitimate method to enjoy the sport.

Rise of sport climbing in France

The Verdon Gorge, in southeastern France, takes its name from the bright turquoise river of the same name that carved it out many years ago. The walls of this massive canyon extend from the rim to depths of over a thousand feet in some places. The majority of the hundreds of climbs here are only accessible via rappelling.

Climbing in the Verdon began in the 1960s, although it was first limited to alpine-style ascents protected by cracks. Between the fractures, there were huge stretches of blank rock that appeared difficult to climb.

Even though some sections could be protected with cams, nuts, and pitons, it was impossible to discern from the ground whether this was the case along the route. For many years, the prospect of reaching a point where no further protection could be put kept the Verdon pioneers off most of the area's rock.

All of that changed in 1976 when Stephane Troussier and Christian Guyomar decided to examine the "blank" walls by rappelling down from the top of the Verdon Gorge.

The prevalent climbing ethic up to this point was that all routes should be addressed from the bottom up. Repelling into a climb was considered cheating, and it was viewed as a betrayal of the sport's spirit of daring.

Troussier, Guyomar, and other local explorers discovered a profusion of amazing rock formations that could be connected together in ways that appeared to be planned for human ascents. The top-to-bottom method of route planning was solidified by Jacques Perrier.

He'd descend a piece of rock, working out the movement and optimum bolt placement as he went. Climbers began to use this method for bolting sport routes all over the world after seeing how effective it was.

Rise of sport climbing in the US

Smith Rock is regarded as the birthplace of sport climbing in the United States. Climbers from the Pacific Northwest began to visit this now-famous region in the 1930s and 1940s. By the end of the 1970s, all of the major aid climbs had been completed, and free climbing began to gain popularity in the following decade.

During the 1980s, a group of University of Oregon students drove the development of Smith Rock. They began looking for new and tougher paths up the rock once they had completed the established crack climbs.

Alan Watts, who later produced the Smith Rock guidebook, and the rest of the team began hunting for routs in the prominent rock faces, using the same bolting procedures used by the French in the Verdon.

By 1986, Jean-Baptiste Tribout had sent To Bolt or Not to Bolt, a 5.14c, and Smith Rock had become the site of North America's hardest rock climb. Sport climbing's reputation as a new way to rock climb was confirmed when the difficulty of the ascent became impossible to ignore.

As the sub-discipline has expanded, it has attracted people with a wider range of skills. At Smith Rock, there are currently 1,800 bolted routs, the majority of which are moderates (5.8-5.10).

The Smith Rock climbers' route-establishing tactics served as a model for the development of other sport crags around the country. Shelf Road and Rifle, both in Colorado, American Fork, Utah, and The New River Gorge, West Virginia, are just a few examples of sport climbing places that modeled their development strategies after Smith Rock.

These techniques have already been refined, and sport climbing is now the most popular way to climb.

Sport climbing equipment

In this section of an introduction to Tokyo 2020 Sport Climbing, let us take a look at the equipment the Sport Climbing Olympics athletes need to have in order to climb safely.

Keep in mind that this equipment does not vary depending on where the climbing takes place (indoor, outdoor), but they are a few pieces of equipment that are not necessary in indoor sports because the climber's fall would be usually neutralized by a soft pad on the ground in case of bouldering.

First on the list of sport climbing essentials are the shoes which are the most required equipment for the Sport Climbing Olympics athletes.

Some of the country's most distinctive and difficult sport climbing routes, such as those at the Red River Gorge or the Waimea crag in Rumney, are extremely steep or overhung, necessitating down-turned climbing shoes with a pointed toe. This kind of shoe allows you to use toe hooks and protects your feet from cutting on overhanging parts.

Next is the harness. While all climbing harnesses are meant to distribute weight and catch you if you fall, several are adapted to the particular requirements of different types of climbers.

Because sport climbing does not need a climber to hang heavy gear from his or her harness, sport harnesses have fewer gear loops and other minimalist design characteristics. Sport harnesses feature narrower leg loops and waist belts since many sport routes are single-pitch and do not necessitate hanging in a harness all day.

A chalk pack is required for every climber. Chalk dries your hands and provides you a firm grip on your grasp. A waist belt, a drawstring to keep your chalk from falling out, and a soft, comfy inside lining are all features to look for in a chalk bag.

Sport climbing gear

Sport climbers only require a rack of quickdraws—two non-locking carabiners joined by a sewn sling—to secure a route since it has a fixed-line of bolts drilled into the rock to safeguard the route and a pair of fixed anchors at the summit.

Next on the list of

Tokyo 2020 Sport Climbing

essentials are quickdraws. Quickdraws are generally available in two lengths: a small version of 10 to 12 cm and a long version of 15 to 18 cm. Shorter draws are less bulky and lighter on your harness. They're great for routes that aren't too complicated. Longer draws minimize rope drag and are ideal for overhanging cliffs or meandering climbs.

Weight is a key factor in all areas of sport climbing gear. As attempting to send a difficult project, having a rope that you can quickly clip and that won't weigh you down when you approach the final movements of a route is essential.

A 9.5mm or 9.6mm rope is a fantastic all-around sport rope since it is lighter than bigger diameter ropes while yet being able to survive several falls when working a route or learning to lead. Ropes in this series are simple to belay, inconspicuous when climbing, and compact enough to take to the crag or from route to route.

Bring an aided braking belay device to the crag, such as the Petzl Grigri or the Trango Cinch, for added safety. The aided braking mechanism of this type of belay gear pinches the rope underweight. The belayer pays out the rope and stops a fall using traditional belay techniques, but the assisted braking mechanism adds more friction for safety and control.

Rock climbing varieties

Time to take a look at the types of climbing and understand where sport climbing stands in this list.

Mountaineering is the most traditional and dangerous form of climbing. Mountaineering is also the most perilous form of climbing, requiring a wide range of abilities to successfully ascend and descend a mountain.

Climbing on rock, snow, and ice is required of a mountaineer. He must be mindful of any natural risks, such as rockfall, avalanche, and lightning, among others. In both regular and extreme situations, he must know how to care for himself and his partners/friends.

Cooking, medicinal, and a variety of other abilities are included in this expertise. Mountaineering also needs cultural understanding in order to reach inaccessible mountains in other nations.

Traditional climbing, often known as Trad climbing, is a form of rock climbing in which a climber or group of climbers puts all necessary safety equipment (pitons, etc.) and then removes it once the passage is completed.

Prior to the introduction of sport climbing in the 1980s in the United States, and maybe earlier in areas of Europe, the most common form of unassisted rock climbing was what is now known as "traditional." In trad climbing, a leader ascends a segment of rock while wearing his or her own safety equipment.

Sport climbing is a type of rock climbing that is protected by permanent anchors fastened to the rock and perhaps bolts. Sport climbing emphasizes gymnastic-like skill, strength, and endurance – rather than the adventure, risk, and self-sufficiency that define traditional climbing – because the need for protection is practically gone.

Sport climbing is a type of free climbing because artificial techniques are employed primarily for safety rather than upward progress.

Bouldering is a type of rock climbing that is done without using a rope and is usually confined to very short climbs over a crash cushion (called a bouldering mat) to prevent catastrophic damage in the event of a fall. It is usually done in gyms and outside urban settings on huge natural or manmade rocks. It may, however, be done at the base of bigger rock cliffs.

Top-rope climbing (or Top-roping) is a climbing method in which a rope goes from a belayer at the bottom of a route, through one or more carabiners connected to an anchor system at the top of the route, and back down to the climber, generally attached to the climber via a harness. Climbing on top rope is a great way to educate novice to intermediate climbers.

Free solo climbing, also known as free soloing, is a type of free climbing in which the climber (the free soloist) ascends without the use of ropes, harnesses, or other protective equipment, relying only on his or her physical strength, climbing aptitude, and mental fortitude to escape a catastrophic fall.

Free solo climbing is not to be confused with general free climbing, which uses gear for safety in the event of a fall but not to aid the ascent.

Climbers that perform free solo climbing are typically either total fools, climbing geniuses, or Siberians. All three groups have members who die on a regular basis. It is strongly advised that no one try it!

In the next section of introduction to Tokyo 2020 sport climbing we would talk about the ethics.

Sport climbing ethics

Climbers' attitudes regarding their sport aren't always consistent, and they often change depending on the location. The following examples are only generalizations that may or may not be accurate regarding the venue.

It's frequently debatable whether a route should be bolted as a sport climb. If a route cannot be safely climbed with traditional gear in some places, including several in the United States, it is widely accepted by the climbing community to bolt it.

Similar bolting is largely regarded as undesirable in parts of the United Kingdom. Bolting regulations differ from state to state, as well as between landowners and property managers.

Furthermore, the bolting method is frequently criticized. A "traditional" method was used on many early sport routes, with the first ascender bolted on first. When routes began to be bolted from the top, it was considered "sport" climbing.

A newly bolted route is sometimes referred to as "red-tagged," and climbing ethics dictate that the person who bolted it should be the only person to attempt it until they've completed a free ascent (a continuous roped ascent made using only hands and feet, unaided – yet protected – by the bolts, quickdraws, or rope).

This is due to the fact that outfitting a new route is a costly and time-consuming task for the individual who discovers it. Other times, the bolter will make the route they created an "open project" for anybody to attempt. A number of disputes have erupted in the sport climbing industry as a result of ascents of designated routes.

An ascent, or the manner in which it is performed, may be contested at times. A leader who feels the strain on their rope from their belayer while climbing without falling, for example, may not have accomplished a legal ascent due to no fault of their own.

Furthermore, the distinction between an onsight and a flash is sometimes contested. Any knowledge of a route, including its grade, is considered by some climbers to constitute data that invalidates an onsight.

Other climbers, on the other hand, will go so far as to belay another climber on a route and yet argue that they lack the necessary prior expertise to progress from onsight to flash.

Sport climbing famous athletes

In the last portion of the introduction to Tokyo 2020 Sport Climbing, we would take a look at the most famous athletes of this sport, most of which will get the chance of being 

Sport Climbing Olympics athletes


The first and most famous man on the list is Adam Ondra. Adam Ondra (born February 5, 1993) is a professional rock climber from the Czech Republic who specializes in lead and bouldering. Ondra was regarded as a prodigy and the leading climber of his generation by Rock & Ice magazine in 2013. He is among the athletes that are qualified to compete in Tokyo 2020 Sport Climbing.

Next on the list of famous athletes who may or may not compete in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 is the German Alex Megos. Alexander Megos is a German rock climber who was born on August 12, 1993.

He was the first person to climb a route rated 9a on-sight (without prior practice or guidance) (5.14d). He has also been qualified for Tokyo 2020 Sport Climbing.

Last on the list is one of the homeowners. Tomoa Narasaki is a professional boulderer and sport climber from Japan. He began climbing with Sachi Amma at Sachi's home climbing gym when he was ten years old.

He had previously worked as an apparatus gymnastics coach. He won the Bouldering World Cup and the Bouldering World Championship in 2016, and the Bouldering World Cup in 2019. With a mark of 5.73 seconds set in March 2021 in the Climbing Japan Cup speed competition, he holds the Japanese record for speed climbing.

We are looking forward to seeing these legends clash in the Tokyo 2020 Sport Climbing in the near future.

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