Olympic rock climbing is going to take the World by storm after its debut at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. It’s simplicity combined with the drama and intrigue created when the best athletes in the World compete to make mind blowing move, after mind blowing move, is the stuff that prime-time sports ratings are made of.
The history of rock climbing in America has always centered around awe inspiring places like Yosemite Valley and other crags around the country that are epic because they are hard to get to. Now, climbers can experience the same style of climbing the Olympic climbers do at gyms in the city, suburbs and even Libby, MT.
With more people than ever participating in climbing at younger and younger ages, it is plausible that the next generation of climbers are going to destroy boundaries and limitations that we have not even yet imagined. Many of their first inspirations will happen this Summer during the Tokyo games. Get ready for history by checking out the National and International competition.
The home team will no doubt be the favorites for the first Olympic games. Japan has a well developed and well funded climbing team that is the envy of much of the rest of the World. Smart money is on the Japanese climbers to dominate the podium in the inaugural competition.
The exception to expected Japanese domination is Slovenian Jana Garnbret, who is considered by most to be pound for pound the best sport climber in the World. The 21 year old has already won 13 World Titles and is the only climber in history to sweep a Bouldering World Cup season.
Nathanial Coleman was the first American man to qualify for the 2021 Olympics. The Utah native will join Brooke Raboutou who became the first America woman to qualify for the Olympics. There is still opportunity for two more Americans to qualify for the Olympic field.
The best known climbers in the World are mostly big wall climbers who will not be participating in the inaugural Olympics. Americans Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold have brought climbing to the forefront based on their big wall work and choose to focus on that instead of change gears and learn the Olympic disciplines. One exception is Adam Ondra of the Czech Republic who is one of the most revered rock wall climbers in the World and will take place in the Olympic competition.
Ondra was called the future of climbing for good reason. His build, his mindset, his persona are all built for climbing. He is exhaustingly self critical and that is often on display during competition. It is one of the traits that allowed him to repeat Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s infamous Dawn Wall route in Yosemite. He will be a contender and draw a ton of media attention during the competition.
The inclusion of speed climbing in the Olympics was hugely unpopular with traditional rock climbers like Ondra. The idea of everyone training on the same holds and racing to the top on completion day goes against what many consider the traditional spirit of rock climbing.
While speed climbing being included in combined qualifying has angered many of the traditional climbers, it has left the World Speed record holder on the outside looking in for the 2020 Olympics. Iranian Reza Alipour holds the World record for speed climbing, but he won’t qualify for the Olympics because of his inability to train in the lead and bouldering disciplines. He trains without a coach, without a doctor, without a team. In that situation it will be nearly impossible for the fastest climber in the World to overcome subpar scores in lead and bouldering and qualify for Tokyo.
Incorporating climbing into the Olympic games is a process and there have already been changes proposed for Paris 2024 that will make speed climbing a separate discipline. In 2021 the World will be treated to a spectacle of the top athletes in the World performing skills that defy the limits of human possibility on the largest stage they have ever been on. We’re watching the beginning of the next big thing.
Tune in and enjoy the show.