Sport Climbing

[Competition venue: Aomi Urban Sports Park]

    • Overview

      In sport climbing, climbers compete in three disciplines: lead climbing, bouldering and speed climbing.
      Lead climbing is a height competition within a specified timeframe in which climbers attach a safety rope and climb a fixed course on a wall exceeding 12 meters. In bouldering, climbers climb fixed routes on a wall of 5 meters or less, and are ranked by the number of routes they have completed in the designated timeframe. Since climbers may keep trying to climb each route as long as it is within the time frame, it is important to climb in the least number of attempts as possible. Speed climbing is a sprint race in which split-second timing is required. Speed climbers climb a fixed route on a 15-meter wall with holds (climbers are informed in advance about the arrangement of the holds). Top-ranked men and women climbers can climb a 15-meter wall in less than six seconds and less than eight seconds, respectively. Sport climbing is one of the five additional sports proposed for inclusion in the Tokyo 2020 Games to the IOC. Each climber is required to competes in all three disciplines (lead, bouldering and speed, which are normally competed in separately). The final ranking is determined by the combined results of the three disciplines.

      Key Points

      As climbers cover the longest distance in lead climbing, “endurance” is a key factor in determining the difference between winning and losing. Since the route is too long to climb at full speed from the beginning to the end, lead climbing demands various technical “skills” to complete the route by minimal effort, "resilience" along the route, and "tactics" to control their movements along the long route. Routes in bouldering are the most difficult, intensive and unstable of all three disciplines. Since working out the best movement is the key to winning, bouldering is sometimes described as "physical chess." It demands "insight" into figuring out how to conquer the fixed routes. In speed climbing, execution of "explosiveness" to climb fast is the critical factor. "Mental strength" to concentrate on their own climb is also important since two climbers climb side by side in a knockout format.


      The origin of sport climbing can be traced back to speed climbing competitions held in the Soviet Union on natural rocks from the late 1940s. From the 1980s, competitions increased in Europe, such as the first lead climbing competition in Italy held in 1985, and a competition using indoor climbing walls in France.
      In the 1990s, international competitions were held outside Europe, such as in Japan and the US, and the Climbing World Championships, the World Cup and the World Youth Championships were launched. Initially, there were only two disciplines, lead and speed, but three disciplines (lead, bouldering and speed) have been contested since bouldering was introduced to competitions in the late 1990s.
      From the early days, Japanese climbers have been active in competitions, standing first in the World Cup individual rankings three times in men's lead and four times in women's bouldering. Japan's team event has also enjoyed success, placing first in the national team ranking in bouldering for two consecutive years in 2014 and 2015.

      * Courtesy of The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (as of September 2019)


      Event Bouldering, Lead & Speed Combined Bouldering, Lead & Speed Combined

(Updated on April 10, 2019)