It’s rare to see a climber excel in every facet of the sport. Training programs and skill sets are usually best suited for one or two types of climbing at most. But a new proposal by the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) means that if the sport makes it into the 2020 Olympic games, its competitors will have to be extraordinarily well rounded.
The new program design includes bouldering, lead climbing, and speed climbing. Though all three share the same basic movements, they differ in what they demand from the athlete.
Consider: Competitive bouldering is done un-roped, with thickly cushioned floors to absorb any falls. It requires short sequences grounded in powerful movements that rarely reach higher than 25-feet. Lead climbing tests stamina and endurance with routes sometimes reaching heights of more than 100 feet indoors. Climbers must pause to clip the rope, which runs from their harness to their belaying partner on the ground, through a series of fixed anchors along their designated route. The artificial facades used for both lead climbing and bouldering typically host one competitor at a time. Speed climbing, on the other hand, features two identical routes, side-by-side, pitting climbers against one another in an explosive cardio-intensive race to the top.
In the original bid for the 2020 Games, the IFSC proposed just lead climbing. But after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) saw the 2012 Climbing World Championships in Paris—where all three occur alongside each other— it suggested the inclusion of bouldering and sport climbing into the proposed program.
Climbing thus joins baseball/softball, roller sport, squash, wakeboarding, wushu, and karate on the shortlist for 2020. The IOC will reduce these to three possibilities in late May, and aims to decide by September of this year.
The IFSC hopes that the new proposal “will offer a complete presentation of the vertical challenges of climbing to the audience, while showing all the spectacular features each discipline has,” said Anne Fuynel, communications director for the IFSC. “The three together will be a perfect display of the Olympic motto.”