Will Ice Climbing Be the Next Winter Olympic Sport?

Sport demonstrated at Sochi Olympics

Flickr/Valais Wallis

Competitive ice climbing at the 2013 World Cup in Saas-Fee, Switzerland.

Now that the closing ceremony in Sochi has gone off without a hitch, it’s time to look forward to 2018, when the Winter Olympics move to PyeongChang, South Korea.

The official program for those Games won’t be announced for a while, but one growing sport may have a good shot at making the list: ice climbing.

A 15-meter ice climbing wall was erected at the Olympic Park in Sochi as part of the Olympics’ cultural program, and at least 60 top climbers from 15 countries were invited to demonstrate the sport, according to climbing magazine Gripped.

In the competitive version of the sport climbers use ice axes and crampons to ascend artificial ice (or ice-like) formations. There are two variations: speed climbing, in which two climbers race head to head on an ice wall; and “lead,” in which competitors must climb a difficult route as quickly as possible, according to the UIAA, the sport’s official governing body. Ice climbing already has its own World Cup, which has existed in its modern form since 2002.

An unofficial demonstration sport (there haven’t been official ones since 1992), ice climbing’s high visibility in Sochi may position it for inclusion in 2018. Several sports have made the leap from demonstration to medal events, including curling, ice dancing, freestyle skiing and short track speed skating.

Watch an American reporter challenge Russian speed climber Ivan Spitsin in the video below:

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