Next year in Tokyo, climbing makes its bow in the Olympics for the very first time. Excited? Us too!
The format is simple – three events, one winner. Speed, lead and bouldering. The best overall climber takes home the coveted gold medal. There aren’t individual medals for the individual events, just the combined.
Now, there has been a lot of talk and rumblings about the format and while everyone would have preferred separate events, it is what it is and it is now time to get excited about the fact that there is climbing in the Olympics at all.
In terms of British interest, Shauna Coxsey is the main medal hope. A World Cup bouldering podium regular, she suffered a variety of injuries – most notably finger and knee - and missed most of last season. She is limiting her workload this year and so far has medals from the opening bouldering event in Meiringen and the follow up in Moscow under her belt, before sitting out the rest of the bouldering season.
The opposition is looking daunting though – especially in the form of Janja Garnbret from Slovenia. She was untouchable this season, winning an unprecedented six golds from the six bouldering world cup events. The Japanese have a strong team too, with Akiyo Noguchi winning four world cup medals this season and Miho Nonaka starting to look back to her best after a shoulder injury ruled her out of the start of the season.
The types of boulder problems you see in these finals varies from country to country, but there are lots of crowd pleasing dynos, big sloping holds and bold moves. Occasionally something different is thrown in, like in Meiringen when the route setters added in a hand-jamming problem for the men. Only Adam Ondra – a prolific outdoor climber – was able to top that, showing that there is still scope for outdoor techniques to be brought indoors.
One thing which is familiar to all of us is fatigue. The final events at the Olympics will be contested across one day and thus maintaining energy levels could be crucial to the outcome. The order is speed, boulder and lead to finish. Given the lead finals are usually contested on steep overhanging walls, that is sure to be a tough one for the athletes – and what is left of their skin.
It is worth keeping your eyes on the rest of the lead world cup events this season, as athletes are starting to try and build ranking points to qualify for their place at the various championships that can lead to Olympic selection – namely the World Championships in Tokyo in August and an Olympic qualifying event in Toulouse in November.
Only two representatives can qualify from each country per gender – so a team like Japan, who have serious strength in depth, will see some of their leading climbers miss out.
Climbing thoroughly deserves its spot on the Olympic platform – after all faster, higher, stronger pretty much sums the sport up. Add in unforgiving, tough, brutal and fun and you pretty much have the climbing disciplines nailed.