Sport climbing made its debut at the Olympics on Tuesday, and folks, it was extreme.
Athletes competing in bouldering, lead climbing, and speed climbing hit the walls at men’s qualification events on Day 11 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Aomi Urban Sports Park.
Speed climbing, according to the official Olympic rules, sees two climbers scale identical routes up 15-metre-high wall angled at 95 degrees with safety ropes. Whoever is fastest wins.
As athletes scaled the walls of the Olympic apparatuses on Tuesday, viewers who might not have ever watched competitive climbing were met with some seriously fast moves.
Bassa Mawem smashed the men’s sport climbing speed qualification event.
Credit: Photo by MOHD RASFAN / AFP via Getty Images
Here’s France’s Bassa Mawem, scaling a 15-metre wall in 5.45 seconds — just short of the world record of 5.20 — while competing in a heat against Austria’s Jakob Schubert. You might only be able to watch this video in the UK through BBC Sports, unless you have a VPN (damn international broadcasting event, the Olympics is).
Mawem topped the speed climbing qualifier, beating Japan’s Tomoa Narasaki in second, and his brother Mickaël Mawem in third.
Then, there’s bouldering. On a 4.5-metre wall, athletes climb through as many official routes as possible within four minutes, without safety ropes. The routes are different levels of difficulty, you can restart a route if you need to, and when you grasp the final hold (the bits on the walls) of a route with both hands, it is completed.
In both bouldering and lead climbing, the extreme problem solving tests that they are, athletes will not have seen these routes before, and have only a few minutes to study them when they enter the arena.
Here’s France’s Mickaël Mawem, who topped the bouldering qualifier, making incredible moves on the holds. Folks outside Australia might not be able to watch these videos from official broadcaster Channel 7 without a VPN.
Here’s South Korea’s Jongwon Chon going over and above on the bouldering wall, though he didn’t reach the top, it’s such an impressive turn upside down.
And then there’s lead climbing. On a wall measuring over 15 metres, athletes climb as high as they can in six minutes, with safety ropes. If the competitors reach the top or the same height, the fastest time wins.
Here’s Team USA’s Colin Duffy almost hitting the top of the wall.
And here’s Spain’s Alberto Ginés López making some huge dangling moves.
There has been some pushback from athletes, including Czech Republic climber Adam Ondra, over the inclusion of speed climbing in Olympic sport climbing, as it involves a different type of sprinting skill to bouldering and lead climbing. All three disciplines count toward getting a medal.
The Olympic women’s sport climbing events are happening on Wednesday, with all finals on Thursday and Friday, so expect plenty more gravity defying action this week.