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Sport climbing’s controversial Olympic debut is just around the corner, and we’re here for it

Sport climbing is coming to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, finally happening in August 2021, and we’re eagerly watching to see how it goes down. Simply having climbing included in the Olympics was cause for much excitement: the sport has surged in popularity in the last 20 years, but is still relatively new on the competitive scene, outside of the recreational world.

However, climbing’s Olympic debut is fraught with its share of controversy. The various climbing disciplines are all unique sports in their own right, but for the purposes of the 2020 Olympics, three disciplines are combined into a singular event: lead climbing, bouldering, and speed climbing. Scores from all three will be combined to determine the winner.

In particular, many in the climbing community derided the inclusion of speed climbing, which requires an entirely different skillset, training, and philosophy. Free climber Lynn Hill, in an interview with Climbing Magazine, said of the format: “That is like asking a middle distance runner to compete in the sprint. Speed climbing is a sport within our sport.”

Many wonder, does this competition even represent what it means to be a “good” climber?

Insiders say this format was necessary for 2020 to get climbing included in the Olympics, because you can’t ask for many medals and participants right out of the gate (or at the base of the wall, if you will). The Olympic committee has already confirmed that speed climbing will be separated into its own event in 2024.

For 2020, there will be six total medals, with 40 athletes, and no more than two athletes of each gender from each country. That will increase to 72 athletes in 2024.

During the year delay, the Olympic qualifying athletes have had additional time to train in all three disciplines. Nathaniel Coleman, for example, one of USA’s four climbing qualifiers, is a boulderer who has had to work hard on his speed climbing game. No matter how you feel about the format, watching how climbers perform across all three disciplines is sure to bring excitement and surprises.

The full climbing team representing Team USA in Tokyo are Kyra Condie, Brooke Raboutou, Nathaniel Coleman, and Colin Duffy. The Olympics will air on NBC with the climbing qualifiers airing on Aug. 3 and 4, 2021, and the finals on Aug 5 and 6.

And, SOKO Outfitters will be happy to host your climbing group on our climbing wall during the Olympics! We’ll share more details as the date gets closer.

SOKO has The North Face’s exclusive Olympic gear in stock

The North Face has created a small, curated collection of Team USA Olympic gear for those watching from home, and SOKO has several items in stock for you to choose from. Windbreakers, sweatshirts, t-shirts and even a “fanorak” (an anorak that folds away into its own fanny pack) bear the Team USA logo.

The North Face women’s Team USA sweatshirt and men’s t-shirt

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