Artwork by Constant Climbing as posted in Rock & Ice.

Olympic Sport Climbing

Article by Mike Paukner

As I’m sure many of you have heard, rock climbing will be making its Olympic debut in the Tokyo 2020 Games this summer with four (4) incredible days of climbing starting on Tuesday, August 4 until Friday, August 7! This is a major step forward for our sport, and will introduce a whole new audience to the wonderful world of rock climbing. As we approach the start of the 2020 Games, Rock Spot Climbing will be your one-stop-shop to learn all about the format, the athletes, and the stories we will see in Tokyo!

UPDATE: As of March 24, 2020 the International Olympic Committee (ICO) has decided to postpone the 2020 games until 2021 as a precaution to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. We will keep you up to date on this decision, but to see what we’re doing for our community and members, click here.

UPDATE: The IOC has announced the new dates for the Olympics will be from June 23, 2021 to August 8, 2021.

Olympic Format

Competitive climbing focuses on three distinct disciplines – bouldering, lead, and speed. Each showcase a different style of movement, and therefore lend themselves to different athletes. The 2020 Olympics will have competitors compete in all three disciplines, with a combined score being used to determine final placements. This means that competitors will need to be extremely well-rounded climbers in order to excel.


The bouldering format will test competitors with diverse problems meant to showcase a variety of climbing styles. Competitors will take as many attempts as they can on each problem within a given time limit. Judges score them based on how far they make it in each problem, whether they completed the problem or not, and how many attempts it took them. 


The lead format will task competitors with one attempt at a long, difficult lead route, with scoring based on highest progress and/or completion of the route. A time limit is implemented in order to break ties, as well as to provide agency for the competitor to plan their rest spots strategically. 


Speed climbing, pits two competitors in a head-to-head race on the standardized speed route. Since the route never changes, competitors spend their training sessions perfecting the route. This makes for extremely impressive displays of control and speed.

America’s First Olympic Climbing Team

The United States is allowed two (2) male and two (2) female competitors for a total of four (4) Olympic spots. Three (3) of these coveted spots have already been claimed from the two (2) International Olympic Qualifying events in Hachioji and Toulouse. The final American Male spot is up for grabs at the Pan-American Championship taking place at Sender One in Los Angeles, California from Monday, February 24 until Sunday, March 1. The competition will be aired on ESPN3 so plan accordingly and check back here for updates as soon as we have them!

UPDATE: Colin Duffy claimed the final American Male spot with his win at the Pan-American Championship.

Here are your current competitors representing the Unites States:

Brooke Raboutou

Brooke Raboutou was the first American to secure her Olympic Spot with her finish in the Climbing World Championships. She is also the youngest person to climb 5.14b.

Nathaniel Coleman

Nathaniel Coleman secured his Olympic spot with his finish in the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) Combined Qualifier in 2019. Coleman has been a mainstay in competitive climbing since 2012.

Kyra Condie

Kyra Condie secured her Olympic spot with her finish in the IFSC Combined Qualifier in 2019. She credits her climbing ability to the strength she gained from training hard in smaller gyms.

Colin Duffy

Colin Duffy claimed the final Olympic spot with his win at the Pan-American Championship. Not much is known about this young gun out of Boulder, CO, but we’re excited to see him compete.

Follow the Road to the Olympics

Tune in to the 2020 Olympic games from Tuesday, August 4th to Friday, August 7th to see these competitors and more represent our amazing sport for the first time! Rock Spot Climbing will continue to provide updates and hype, so check back to learn more and get psyched!

Our next Olympic article will focus on the current competitors; who they are and how they became the very first climbers to represent the United States. Keep it locked here as we update this article to be your main hub for all things Olympic in the sport of climbing.

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