Reaching New Heights; Sport Climbing added to 2020 Olympics


Climbers are reaching new heights that lead to a summit all the way in Tokyo.

The International Olympic Committee has approved five new events for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics: baseball/softball, karate, surfing, skateboarding, and sport climbing.

For climbing, the ranking of medal winners will be determined by a combination score of three disciplines: sport climbing, bouldering, and speed climbing as stated by an August 2016 article from Climbing magazine. Both men and women are eligible to compete.

Following the 129th IOC Session in Rio de Janeiro, IOC President Thomas Bach said, “We want to take sport to the youth.” He continued, “With the many options that young people have, we cannot expect any more that they will come automatically to us. We have to go to them.”

The popularity of rock climbing — especially in extreme forms — has been increasing over the last few years; also thanks to the ever growing popularity of adrenaline junkie fan favorite activities like parkour and watching/wishing to be a contestant on Ninja Warrior.

“I feel like – especially watching competition climbing – it’s really exciting, it’s super flashy; it’s kind of like ninja warrior,” said Doug Page, of Providence, R.I. “It’s interesting to watch people do some really incredible things with their body.”

Page and other climbers at Rock Spot Climbing gym in Dedham, Mass. spend their Monday afternoons training, climbing, and cheering one another on. Climbing works various muscle groups, strengthening everything from your back, legs, core, shoulders, arms, and even fingers and toes. In addition to physical benefits, many find mental and spiritual benefits to climbing.

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Doug Page, of Providence, R.I., describes rock climbing as a “really interesting way of excercising.” // IMAGE BY CHRISTIANNA CASALETTO

“It’s really meditative sometimes…you just get on the wall and focus on your breathing and the movement and pretty much nothing else and it’s a cool experience that way,” said Page. “It’s just a really interesting way of exercising.”

And while some climbers, like Page, think the addition of sport climbing to the Olympics is long overdue, others disagree with the rules and boundaries the games will be setting.

Patrick McGuigan, of Marshfield, Mass., pointed out the fact that not all climbers practice or participate in the three disciplines the Olympic Games will be requiring.

“I think it’s a little strange just because the normal competition circuits have never done that before usually it’s kind of up to the climber themselves what division and events they want to compete in,” said McGuigan.

“It’s going to force a lot of really stronger boulders to have to get into a different type of shape than they would usually be in.”

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Patrick McGuigan, of Marshfield, Mass. climbing at Rock Spot Climbing in Dedham, Mass. // IMAGE BY CHRISTIANNA CASALETTO

Those who participate in bouldering usually make no more than 15 moves per climb but will also be expected to climb 60 foot walls with 30 plus moves for the other climbing disciplines.

One thing all Climbers can agree on is the light that will be shed on a beloved sport that deserves recognition of being more than just a thrill seekers pastime.

“[Climbing] becoming an Olympic sport is going to really put it out there for a lot of people,” said Page. “I know it has been growing in popularity already but something like the Olympics just helps spread it to so many people.”

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Climbers at Rock Spot Climbing gym in Dedham, Mass. post their favorite parts of the sport. // IMAGE BY CHRISTIANNA CASALETTO