New Olympic Plan: Climbers Must Compete in Bouldering, Lead, and Speed

3/20/13 - If climbing makes it into the Olympics in 2020, the medalists will have to be all-around masters of plastic. To win gold under a new IFSC proposal for the Games, climbers must score high in all three competition disciplines: bouldering, lead, and speed. Climbing is vying with seven other sports to enter the Games in 2020.

Last year, the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) announced that lead climbing would be the sole event in its Olympic proposal. The decision to reverse course and include all three disciplines in the medal chase was "mainly due to an analysis made after the World Championship in Paris in September 2012, where lead, speed, and bouldering competitions took place alongside one another and an overall medal was awarded," said Anne Fuynel, communications director for the IFSC. "The spectacle and the complementarity of the three disciplines were evident in front of everybody."

According to a story at the Inside the Games website, the IFSC decision was influenced by a recommendation of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Technical Commission, which evaluated the 2012 World Championships.

Under the new proposal, which was first presented to the IOC in December and will be offered to the IOC Executive Board in late May, 30 men and 30 women will compete in the Olympics, and only two medals will be awarded, one each for men and women. Climbers will compete in all three disciplines—lead, boulder, and speed—over two days to determine an overall winner. Canadian Sean McColl took the men's overall gold at the 2012 World Championships in Paris, and Korean Jain Kim won the women's overall gold.

The IOC is expected to reduce the shortlist of potential new sports for the 2020 Games to three at its May meeting. Earlier this year, the IOC announced its decision to drop wrestling from the Games after 2016, and now climbing must vie with proposals from wrestling advocates as well as supporters of bids from baseball, karate, wakeboarding, and other sports. The IOC's final decision will be announced in September.

The IFSC's new plan "will offer a complete presentation of the vertical challenges of climbing to the audience, while showing all the spectacular features each discipline has," Fuynel said. "The three together will be a perfect display of the Olympic motto."

Sources: IFSC,



Previous Comments

Speed is just retarded. I could care less about Olympics to begin with but it would be nice for the publicity to help open up more areas to climb. But really speed? Since when does anyone give a shit about speed when it comes to climbing. I would much rather watch someone slowly walk up an extremely hard route instead of running up a ladder. Then i have always heard people say that the average person out there can understand watching speed but would likely not understand the difference and difficulty between normal routes.

jack - 08/22/2013 11:42:23

if you don't like the rules, don't play the game.

Lise - 04/26/2013 3:34:13

i hope climbing makes it to to the olimpyics

climbinghigh - 04/02/2013 7:57:38

Good point Heidi; its more about getting the ball rolling on this. This means a lot for the sport as a whole.

Eric - 03/25/2013 11:01:18

Each discipline should be a separate medal. It's total nonsense to get people competing across all 3 particularly speed climbing. Speed was never really the object of any climber so for me at least speed climbing is a comical addition.

Will - 03/24/2013 7:56:17

We are very happy to read this news, IOC include three discipline in 2020 winter Olympic. This is a ice break for IFSC to promote our game in the world. Hope our athletes will get more opportunity in future. Wish all the best IFSC. Megharaj Poudyal Secretary General Mountaineering & Rock Climbing Sports Association Nepal

Megha Raj Poudyal - 03/24/2013 4:25:53

Angel Calderón's analogy is excellent, and let me add mine: fencing is an olympic sport with three disciplines: foil, épée (sword) and sabre. Fencers compete in one, two or the three disciplines as they may wish, but your gold medal in épée will not depend on your performance in sabre or foil, and so forth: you can be a specialist in sabre but completely suck at foil. Going back to climbing, we all know Kim Ja-in crushes in lead and sometimes in bouldering, but cannot do speed, and the same applies for some of the greatest names in our sport, such as Ramón Julián, Adam Ondra, Sachi Amma, and a long etc. Let there be medals for every discipline, and not a single medal for the three, which will only alienate the best talent there may be around.

RAIV - 03/22/2013 11:27:45

Many Olympic sports include multiple disciplines such as gymnastics, swimming, equestrian events, track and field - and award medals for both individual events - vault for example- and an overall medal. Why would climbing be any different? You can always rule that teams can only bring 3 athletes for each discipline (for example) like they do in other sports if having too many bodies is a concern, but honestly it doesn't seem like that would be a major factor when you are discussing an event on the scale of the Olympics?

Heidi - 03/22/2013 2:55:59

It's all about the IOC wanting to have minimum athlete numbers at theOlympic Games. Perhaps not the most preferred possible start... but a start none the less.

Mac Stirling - 03/22/2013 2:09:23

I guess that this kind of triathlon is interesting. But as we know, the decathlon didn't replace all of its parts. Each discipline could be considered on a separate basis. It would also allow a greater number of athletes to be rewarded for either their incredible talent or their versatility.

Danielle - 03/22/2013 12:55:16

this is somewhat unfortunate......... Angel Calderon's analogy sums it up. i do wonder if this suggestion will still stand come september..

Hatta - 03/22/2013 12:46:57

It's great to see speed not being left out but speed is totally different from lead and boulder. I don't hate speed. In fact I speed often too but the IFSC needs to know what they are doing. It is still understandable of boulder and lead were together but trust me.. Theres a reason why you don't see top speed climbers doing all three.... Well, unless they are trying to get everyone to be like the russians, being masochists.. I agree that they should give out medals for the top 3 in each discipline and trophys to the overall winners. Otherwise they will only force the top climbers to step out of the competition. If this is the IOC recommendation they should not even listen to it as the IOC probably knows nothing about climbing

Samsom - 03/22/2013 12:18:32

I agree with Patrick. If climbing must be in the Olympics, I'm for bouldering and rope being included, but speed climbing skills have little to do with actual climbing skills. It's also not particularly engaging to watch. There's a "wow" moment for a few minutes, then it's just kind of boring... especially because each race by definition only lasts for five seconds or less. Very little drama there. It's sort of like if the IOC included speed gymnastics - it just doesn't make sense. Frankly, I'm not thrilled to see rock climbing become an Olympic sport... there are already enough yahoos around who don't respect the crags... it's only a matter of time before access starts really being restricted because of folks who don't know what they are doing and are trying to imitate what they see on TV or Youtube. You won't truly see the best actual rock climbers on the podium if you include speed. However, determining who is the best climber is not really the goal of the IOC considering including climbing in the Olympics, is it?... luring advertising is the point.

Diana - 03/22/2013 11:42:31

Interesting read! I would be interested in hearing why speed climbing is less closely related to real rock climbing. In real bouldering you'd almost always mantle out, never in competition bouldering. Designated footholds in lead climbing whilst I can put my foot anywhere I like in real world climbing. There seems to be a common shared believe that competition climbing should mimic real world climbing as much as possible, but why exactly?

abel - 03/22/2013 11:10:12

Personally I'm not a fan of speed climbing BUT I can completely see why it has been included in the bid. What people don't seem to understand is that in order to be included in the Olympics a sport has to have enough mass appeal, by that I mean that it has to be practiced in a large number of countries and have a high number of active participants worldwide. By including all three events you increase the number of athletes involved in the sport that the bid concerns and that surely increases its chances of being selected as an Olympic sport.

Alex - 03/22/2013 11:09:05

Oh no!! Who cares about speed climbing.. That just a spectacle. And combining the three events? What a disaster.

ron - 03/21/2013 10:46:23

I think using all 3 disciplines is a great idea, more for the IOC to think about and not get hung up on issues with one discipline. Bouldering requires power and technique, routes require technique and endurance, while speed requires power and different technique (can't watch and place feet). Speed levels the field as all the static slow motion climbing styles that work in bouldering or lead, will not work in speed. Strategy and training will play a larger role with 3 disciplines and I think it is a great idea, fun to watch also....

Mark - 03/21/2013 5:32:01

Sean McColl competes in speed and does pretty well for a guy who doesn't train for it exclusively. I see this going the way of pentathalon or decathalon. If I remember correctly some of those events have had staggered starts to the final foot race based on your earlier scoring. Basically if you were 5 points off the leader and each 0.1 seconds equated to a point you'd start a half second later than the leader. This way the winner of the last race is the overall winner because of the way the math is done ahead of time. That said the, math equation for decathalon is a nightmarish thing.

PLURBUS - 03/21/2013 8:47:23

@Zach maybe not, but it doesn't change the fact that speed climbing is stupid and completely misrepresents climbing

johnnyjim - 03/20/2013 3:00:21

Ridiculous, try telling Usain Bolt that in order to get a gold medal he has to win both 100 m sprint an a marathon. Same translation from speed climbing to bouldering or sport routes.

Angel Calderon - 03/20/2013 12:41:04

Patrick I doubt very highly that any top climber would miss the opportunity to be one of the first climbing Olympic medalists due to their distaste for speed climbing.

Zach - 03/20/2013 10:39:43

I'm ok with either lead or bouldering, but speed climbing is just silly. There is absolutely no real world translation between speed climbing and real world climbing. I have never met a climber who boasted about being able to climb a jug haul in 6 seconds. In all the comps I've been to, speed climbing is the competition that climbers who can not win lead or bouldering look to to try and get a medal. In fact I've never even seen a top climber compete in speed. I fear that if all competitors must participate in all three disciplines, lots of top climbers may not compete.

patrick - 03/20/2013 9:58:37