by Derek Waggoner, Gripstone Climbing
After years of meetings, organizing and foresight, USA Climbing (the governing body of competition climbing in the U.S.) has helped set the stage to bring climbing to the Olympics.
In 2020, one of the fastest-growing sports in the world will be in the spotlight in Tokyo, Japan. This sport has been quickly finding its niche with the general public as a recreational pastime. People from just about every walk of life and age have tried it or know someone who has.
The first commercial climbing gym in the U.S. opened in 1987 in Seattle. It started as a place where serious outdoor climbers trained in the off season and soon had its own following with interested participants looking for a form of entertainment that would physically challenge them. Since then, indoor climbing gyms have grown to more than 400 in the U.S.
Family Friendly Sport
One reason for the quick growth of the sport is how easy it is to get involved, be it individually or for an entire family. Every year, these state-of-the-art gyms keep adding more amenities to cater to the new family of climbers. Some of these added niceties include fitness equipment, yoga classes, cafes and pubs.
Inside these facilities, one can be a “greenhorn” just starting to learn, having a great time and literally climbing alongside professional-level athletes. For those who follow the TV show “American Ninja Warrior” (ANW), where participants compete in obstacle courses, take note of how many of them have a background in climbing. Personally, I have had the privilege of coaching Megan Martin of ANW during the competitive climbing chapter of my life.
Making It Into the Olympics
For the International Olympic Committee to consider and accept someone into the Olympics, the structuring of the competitions and selection of the athletes took some tweaking and adjustments. The final outcome is that there will be three disciplines that climbing athletes must partake in: speed, bouldering and difficulty.
Speed climbing is a simple head-to-head competition on identical climbing routes of 15 meters in height; the fastest time wins. The current world record is 5.5 seconds. That is nearly 1 second of time for every 10 feet of climbing.
Bouldering is comprised of short powerful routes of about 16 feet. Moves sometimes look somewhat like parkour, where competitors are leaping horizontally to the next handhold while maintaining enough core tension and contact strength to latch onto the oncoming fingertip strength-testing piece of resin plastic rock.
The third is difficulty climbing. Longer in length by number of moves and steeper in angles than the other two disciplines, sometimes athletes are climbing horizontally on the underside of a roof in sections of the routes. During the climb, routes get continually harder with each move. Theoretically, only the strongest climber actually gets to the final hold.
Since this piece is written for the townsfolk of Prescott, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our own resident Tony Yaniro. Considered the “father of sport climbing,” he is still actively involved in the lifestyle that climbing is becoming.
Equally as exciting, Prescott now has two climbing facilities within its city limits. Do yourself a favor and give it a try. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see you in the Olympics one day.
319 N. Lee Blvd.
Prescott, AZ 86301