Tokyo will mark the Olympic debut for sport climbing. At the Games, 20 men and 20 women will compete in three disciplines (speed, bouldering, and lead) under a combined format. The top eight climbers per gender will progress to the final. In the final, athletes again compete in all three disciplines. In both rounds, every climber competes in each discipline in the same order, with speed first, followed by bouldering, and then lead.

Disciplines

SPEED

  • The wall is a pre-set 15m (49-foot) route, with identical holds to the speed route used in every sport climbing World Cup and world championship event. Because every speed course is identical, it is possible for athletes to set world records.
  • Most climbers will ascend the route in under 10 seconds.
  • A false start results in immediate disqualification.
  • There are two identical routes adjacent to each other, and two climbers ascend the two routes simultaneously.

BOULDERING

  • Climbers ascend 4m (13-foot) boulders without a harness.
  • There is a “zone hold” midway up each boulder. In addition to achieving credit for a “top” (i.e. reaching the top hold with control), athletes also receive credit for a “zone” (i.e. reaching the zone hold with control). Climbers are ranked according to their number of tops followed by their number of zones.
  • If tied, the climber with fewer attempts to top is ranked higher.
  • If still tied, the athlete with fewer attempts to zone wins the tiebreaker.
  • Climbers are not permitted to watch their competitors’ attempts.
  • There is a rest period equal to the climbing time between attempts.

LEAD

  • Climbers are attached to a harness and climb a 15m (49-foot) route, attaching their rope to pre-set bolt anchors via loops called quickdraws as they ascend.
  • Climbers are ranked according to the highest hold they reach on the route. In addition, if an athlete makes progress from one hold to another before falling, he/she receives a plus on his/her score. (E.g. if an athlete reaches hold #9, and has control and makes positive movement towards hold #10 before falling, he/she would receive 9+ for a lead score).
  • If tied, the climber to reach the score faster wins the tiebreaker.
  • Climbers have six minutes to complete the ascent and are allowed only a single attempt. It is typical that many climbers will fall midway through the six minutes, while it is possible that others will reach the top in under six minutes. In either scenario, the clock is reset and the next climber’s turn begins promptly.
  • Climbers are not permitted to watch their competitors’ attempts
  • There is a six-minute observation period before both qualifying and the final, when all climbers preview the walls at once.
    • There is an additional 40-second final observation period immediately before each climber’s attempt.

Qualifying

Each of the 20 climbers competes in all three disciplines. An athlete’s placements in the three disciplines are multiplied together for a combined score. The eight men and eight women with the lowest combined scores advance to the final.

For example, a climber finishing first in speed, fifth in bouldering, and seventh in lead would receive a score of 35 (1x5x7), and a climber finishing fourth in all three disciplines would receive a score of 64 (4x4x4), with the first climber ranking ahead of the second climber due to the lower score.

SPEED

  • Every climber attempts both walls once each, and his or her best time between the two runs is counted.
  • Climbers are ranked based on their fastest time (not head-to-head).

BOULDERING

  • Each climber has five minutes to attempt each boulder, with no limit on number of attempts.
  • There are four unique boulders.
  • Each climber attempts every boulder.
  • There is no observation period before qualifying, meaning that climbers cannot preview the boulders prior to their attempts.

LEAD

  • A different route is used in qualifying than in the final.

Final

Scores do not carry over from qualifying to the final. In the final, each of the eight climbers competes in all three disciplines. An athlete’s placements in the three disciplines are multiplied together for a combined score. The athlete with the lowest combined score wins gold.

SPEED

  • Each matchup consists of a single head-to-head run. The eight remaining climbers are placed in a bracket based on their qualifying times.
  • The winners of the four quarterfinals progress to the semifinals. The semifinal winners race for first place and the losers race for third place.
  • Losers of the quarterfinals also compete in further head-to-head matchups to determine placements 5th through 8th. The quarterfinal losers from the same side of the draw face each other. The losers of those two matchups then face each other for seventh place, and the winners race each other for fifth.

BOULDERING

  • Each climber has four minutes to attempt each boulder, with no limit on number of attempts.
  • There are three unique boulders in the final (all different from the ones used in qualifying).
  • Climbers participate one at a time, with each climber attempting the three boulders in the same sequence.
  • There is a six-minute observation period (two minutes per boulder) before the final, when all climbers preview the boulders at once

LEAD

  • A different route is used in the final than in qualifying.

Scoring

The following scoring system is used in determining the final standings at the Olympics. Each athlete’s score will be calculated by multiplying his/her placement in each event. The winner is the climber with the lowest total score. For example, in the following scenario, athlete B would win based on his/her placements in bouldering (2nd), speed (5th), and lead (1st):

Boulder   Speed   Lead   Total
Athlete A      1    x           3   x          4   =       12
Athlete B      2    x           5   x          1   =       10
Athlete C      3    x          10   x          2   =       60

 

More information:

Official Tokyo site – Climbing

USA Climbing

International Federation of Sport Climbing