On Climbing in 2020

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Today, rock climbing officially became an Olympic sport.

If you’re a climber, I probably don’t have to tell you this, judging by the way the announcement by the IOC and IFSC have blown up in my social media feeds over the past few hours. Even if you’re new to the climbing community, you can imagine this is crazy exciting – we finally get to see our niche sport hit the really, REALLY big time alongside surfing, baseball, softball, karate, and skateboarding!

I’m also excited because this changes things. Climbing was approved as a combined sport (you can read the official proposal documents here). This means athletes must compete in the disciplines of lead climbing, speed climbing, AND bouldering. Up until now, these types of climbing were very separate, at least in the minds of the pebble-wrasslin’, bolt-drilling masses. Think skiers versus snowboarders. If someone asks me what type of climber I am, I have a single answer (sport lead).

Maybe it’s time for that to change. The idea of a “climbing combine” makes sense – shouldn’t we encourage more people to cross-train and become more well-rounded climbers? The old adage “jack of all trades, master of none” may not be applicable here; just look at Daniel Woods or Ashima Shirashi. This competition format may just put an end to the one-trick-pony show. Of course, everyone has their favorite way to get vertical and there’s nothing wrong with specializing in the discipline that makes you happiest, but a door has certainly been opened for a paradigm shift in the way climbing is coached, taught, and thought about on a worldwide scale.

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