What three types of climbing are debuting in the Olympics? Wichita enthusiast explains

Tokyo Olympics

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – For the first time ever, competition climbing will take the world stage – making its debut as an Olympic event in Tokyo 2020.

The competition will take place at the Aomi Urban Sports Park in Tokyo’s waterfront Bay Zone, beginning on Aug. 3.

The sport’s upcoming debut gives is creating a buzz among the climbing community in Wichita: “It will be interesting to see how people respond to this being in the Olympics,” said Kale Rishel, an instructor, coach and route setter at Bliss Climbing & Fitness. “A lot of people don’t even know that this is a sport, yet.”

20 men and 20 women will compete for Olympic gold in three separate disciplines – speed climbing, bouldering and lead climbing – for a single set of medals. The Olympic finals will be narrowed down to six men and six women.

Speed Climbing

Speed climbing takes place on a standard 15-meter speed wall.

“It’s basically like the 100m dash for rock climbing,” said Rishel. The route has been the same for many years, so the athletes just train that route over and over again until they get their fastest time.”

To advance in the tournament, a competitor will have to be faster than their opponent during each individual heat, not necessarily have the fastest time of the day.

The men’s world record is 5.208 seconds, while the women’s world record is 7.10 seconds.

A false start results in immediate disqualification.


In the bouldering discipline, climbers will each get four minutes to reach the top of each boulder. The object is to securely reach the top hold with both hands.

“With bouldering it’s a much shorter wall,” said Rishel. “It’s the hardest moves that they can possibly do to get to the top, so it shows the most athleticism.”

Lead Climbing

In lead climbing, whoever reaches the highest point on the wall will get the most points, thus, winning the event. When a climber falls, their attempt is over.

“Climbers are on a rope and they are going to be clipping in as they climb up for points,” said Rishel.

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