Sport climbing is new to the Olympic competing world, but rock climbing has been around for years. With it becoming an Olympic sport, there are rules for what is required from a competing athlete. There's also a lot that goes into sport climbing, so we have put together this guide on how to get started, what equipment you will need and answers to what sport climbing really means.


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What Is Sport Climbing?

man climbing a climbing wall

Sport climbing, which made its Olympic debut in Tokyo 2020, is competitive rock climbing, consisting of three different climbing types. It involves competitors climbing short but high-intensity routes and focuses on the physical aspects of the climb rather than reaching the top within a time frame.

The key feature of sport climbing is that the climbers use fixed clips and bolts in the climbing wall and their harness and ropes to ensure they can climb safely. The ropes are managed by another person (belayer) on the ground who keeps the rope tight to prevent any serious injuries if the climber falls.

Climbing Types

For sport climbing, there are 3 different event types that the climbers must take part in. Currently, in the Olympics, the athletes must perform well and place high in each of the three to be able to win; however, it will be changing so that there are medals for each type at later Olympics.

Lead Climbing

In lead climbing, it's all about who can get the highest on the climbing wall. The highest touched or jumped for point dictates the winner, and if there is a draw, the winner will be the athlete that got there first. All athletes must compete on the same route to keep the competition fair and equal.

Bouldering

Another climbing type is bouldering. This involves low-level climbing on a boulder with a maximum height of four and a half meters. There are four different routes on different parts of the wall for the athletes to compete on, and each of them gets four minutes to get as high on the boulder as possible. Each athlete must aim to get the most tops or "zones" (halfway points) to be in for a chance of winning.

Speed Climbing

Finally, there is speed climbing, which is basically what it says on the tin. Two athletes must race up the wall side by side, and the first to the buzzer wins and goes on to compete in the next round or wins. In this part of the competition, climbers use an auto belay instead of a person for safety.

Climbing Gear

person preparing to climb a climbing wall

Knowing how to sport climb is great, but there is a lot of equipment you need to go with the event to keep you safe. If you are sport climbing at a climbing centre, people will be there to help and guide you. It is advised to always go with someone, that way, you have a partner to help keep each other safe.

Equipment needed:

  • Climbing Rope
  • Harness
  • Climbing Shoes
  • Quickdraws
  • Autobelays
  • Helmet
  • Chalk

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