Climbing on the Tokyo Olympics: When it begins, methods to watch, predictions


Adam Ondra is probably the best climber in the world right now.

Sebastian Widmann / Getty Images

Climbing will celebrate its premiere in a few hours at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Were excited.


Traditional climbing takes place outdoors without a predetermined route.

Getty Images

The combination of speed, bouldering and traditional lead climbing makes climbing at the Olympic Games something of a mixed event – something like a triathlon. Regardless, it will almost certainly become one of the most fun sports in the Tokyo Olympics.

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Here’s what you need to know.

When to see climbing at the Tokyo Olympics

The Olympic master plan has already been published, with qualifying events in sport climbing on August 3rd and 4th.

Here is the breakdown for the men …

  • The men’s speed climbing qualifications will take place on August 3 at 4 a.m. EDT (1 a.m. PDT).
  • The men’s bouldering qualifications will take place on August 3 at 5 a.m. EDT (2 a.m. PDT).
  • The men’s lead climbing qualifications will take place on August 3 at 8 a.m. EDT (5 a.m. PDT).

And for the women …

  • The women’s speed climbing qualifications will take place on August 4 at 4 a.m. EDT (1 a.m. PDT).
  • The women’s bouldering qualifications will take place on August 4 at 5 a.m. EDT (2 a.m. PDT).
  • The women’s lead climbing qualifications will take place on August 4 at 8 a.m. EDT (5 a.m. PDT).

The finals will take place on August 5th and 6th. NBC broadcasts events in the US, with the BBC securing the rights in England and Channel Seven, 7Mate and 7Two in Australia. All events take place in the Aomi Urban Sports Park in Tokyo.

This is how climbing works at the Olympics

Sport climbing is divided into three disciplines: speed climbing, lead climbing and bouldering. Not every country will be represented; Only 20 athletes per gender (a total of 40 climbers) are allowed to compete in the Games, and only 2 athletes per gender per country will compete in a given event.

For your information, the International Olympic Committee currently only recognizes two genders – female and male. There are currently regulations for athletes who identify as transgender, both female and male, to compete. But there are no guidelines or regulations for athletes who do not identify as female or male – including those who are not binary, agender and genderqueer.

The combined nature of climbing in the Olympics has been somewhat controversial. Speed ​​climbing requires very different skills than bouldering and lead climbing. At the next Olympic Games, speed climbing will be broken out as an independent discipline and bouldering and lead climbing will be left as a combined discipline.

Speed ​​climbing


Two climbers, one wall.


Speed ​​climbing is relatively easy: there are two climbers with safety ropes and a 15-meter wall at a 95-degree angle. The climbers compete against each other to get to the top, with the fastest winning. The speed route is exactly the same at all times: The same applies in the same position at exactly the same angle. The inclusion of speed climbing was a bit controversial in the climbing community, as it requires completely different skills compared to other climbing disciplines.



Athletes climb to the top of a bouldering route with physical and mental precision.


Bouldering takes place on a shorter wall, where climbers take turns trying to climb as many routes on a four-meter-high wall in 4 minutes. Each route (also known as a bouldering problem) is designed with hand and foot grips in a specific color and the level of difficulty varies depending on the size of the grips and the way they are distributed. A climber completes a problem by grasping the top handle with both hands.

Bouldering is traditionally about strength and finger strength, but recently, competition route builders have created problems that require fine coordination and explosive gymnastic movements. It will be fun to see this one.



When leading the way up, the participants secure themselves with a rope.


Lead climbing is probably the best known of the three disciplines. The climber has six minutes to climb that high on a wall more than 15 meters high. They use safety ropes attached to quickdraws on their way up so the rope can run freely while they remain anchored to the wall. If two athletes reach the same point on the wall, whoever was there first wins.

In either bouldering or lead climbing, climbers are not allowed to practice climbing the routes before they compete or watch each other climb the wall, and they only have a few minutes to study the routes and determine their strategy, before the timer starts.

Medal system

Tokyo 2020 Medals

The Olympic and Paralympic medals are made from recycled electronics. The Olympic Games will not change the medal year, by the way.

Olympic Games in Tokyo

If you thought the qualifying system was a little complicated, take a deep breath. Only one set of medals per gender will be awarded, so all three events will be used to determine which country will receive gold, silver and bronze.

The speed climbing discipline is carried out in a bracket format, with athletes competing head-to-head, while bouldering takes place in a leaderboard format. In lead climbing, a point system applies, in which every hold on the wall counts as one point and the athlete who climbs the highest receives the highest number of points.

Once all athletes are ranked by placements per event, their placement numbers are multiplied and the climbers with the lowest scores win medals. Due to the rating format, every climber takes part in every event. For example, if an athlete takes second place in speed climbing, third in bouldering and first in lead climbing, his total score is six (2 times 3 times 1 equals 6).

Who should you watch out for?

The men’s favorite is almost certainly the favorite Tomoa Narasaki. Some of the other climbers like Adam Ondra and Alex Megos are considered stronger climbers in terms of their performance on real rock, but this is competitive climbing and it’s a whole different animal. Narasaki was born in the darkness of competitive climbing. It is the bouldering boulder and of all strong climbers it evolved best into the weirdness of speed climbing. This gives him a great chance to claim gold.

With the ladies you would have to choose Janja Garnbret. She is literally unbeatable in the competitive scene, especially in bouldering. There are many others worth seeing. From Japan, both Akiyo Noguchi and Miho Nonaka have a great chance. Noguchi is probably the most decorated female comp climber of all time, and Nonaka is a great all-rounder who can measure herself well in speed – the boogie event that most top climbers are nervous about.

Can’t wait to see how it all turns out.