Sport climbing makes its Olympic debut at this year’s Tokyo Games, joining karate, skateboarding and surfing among the newest Olympic sports. Sport climbing will be contested again at the 2024 Paris Games, although with some differences. As explained by Climbing.com, the International Federation of Sport Climbing, which governs the sport, was only allowed to award one set of medals to men’s climbers and one set to women’s climbers at the Tokyo Games, leading to a format that combines multiple disciplines.

Here’s what to know about sport climbing at the Tokyo Olympics.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How does the Olympic sport climbing competition work?
  • Where will the Olympic sport climbing competition take place?
  • What is the schedule of Olympic sport climbing events?
  • Who are the top American hopefuls in Olympic sport climbing?
  • Who are the top international hopefuls in Olympic sport climbing?

How does the Olympic sport climbing competition work?

There will be one sport climbing competition for men and one for women, each featuring three disciplines: speed, bouldering and lead.

In speed, two athletes compete against each other on a 15-meter wall. In bouldering, the athletes are given four minutes to scale a number of fixed routes on a 4.5-meter wall. No safety ropes are used, and climbers can try again if they fall until time runs out. In lead, the athletes attempt to climb as high as possible over six minutes on a wall that’s at least 15 meters tall (the climbers use safety ropes, and if they fall their final height is their score; they are not allowed to begin another climb). Each climber will compete in all three disciplines, and the final rankings will be determined by multiplying the climber’s placement in each discipline. The athletes who achieve the lowest scores win medals.

The inclusion of speed climbing was controversial in the sport climbing world, as it is seen as a specialized discipline that does not translate well for practitioners of the other two competitions (and vice versa). In 2024, speed climbers will compete for a separate set of medals at the Paris Games.

“It’s a bit like asking Usain Bolt to run a marathon and then do the hurdles,” champion boulderer Shauna Coxsey said in 2017. “No one has really transitioned before. No boulderer has transitioned to speed and lead, and no speed climber has done it to bouldering and lead.”

Where will the Olympic sport climbing competition take place?

The Olympic sports climbing competition will take place at Aomi Urban Sports Park, a temporary venue constructed near the Olympic Village. It also will host the three-on-three basketball event.

What is the schedule of Olympic sport climbing events?

The men’s finals in all three disciplines will take place Aug. 5, with the speed final at 4:30 a.m. Eastern, the bouldering final at 5:30 a.m. Eastern and the lead final at 8:10 a.m. Eastern.

The women’s finals are Aug. 6 and use the same schedule.

Who are the top American hopefuls in Olympic sport climbing?

Of the two men and two women competing for the United States, Colin Duffy stands out as he’s only 17 and still in high school. He qualified by winning the International Federation of Sport Climbing’s Pan American Championship in March 2020 and earned a World Cup bronze medal in lead climbing earlier this month.

Brooke Raboutou, meanwhile, is only 20 and has won three World Cup medals (a silver in lead and two bronze in bouldering). She qualified for the Olympics by finishing ninth at the 2019 combined world championships.

Who are the top international hopefuls in Olympic sport climbing?

Adam Ondra of the Czech Republic is a five-time world champion and excels in bouldering and lead climbing.

Japan’s Tomoa Narasaki won the combined gold medal at the 2019 world championships.

On the women’s side, Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret is a six-time world champion, with gold medals in bouldering, lead climbing and the combined event in 2019. That year, she became the first climber to win all six World Cup events in bouldering in a season.