Climbing tests controversial new competition format for Olympic debut – .

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Climbing tests controversial new competition format for Olympic debut – .


                Après le surf, le skateboard et le basket 3x3, Tokyo verra mardi l'entrée d'un autre nouveau sport olympique : l'escalade.  L'événement présentera un format unique combinant trois styles d'escalade très différents - une décision qui a ébouriffé certaines plumes parmi les passionnés de ce sport.  
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    <p>Dans de nombreux sports olympiques emblématiques, les athlètes se spécialisent dans des disciplines hyper spécifiques : le 100 m papillon, le 800 m course, la poutre ou le saut à la perche.  Ceux qui se battent pour le podium lors de leurs débuts en escalade aux Jeux seront confrontés à un type de défi très différent : un hybride de trois compétitions différentes, normalement divisées en championnats distincts. 

Bouldering, lead climbing and speed climbing merge in Tokyo under the umbrella of “sport climbing”. There will only be two sets of medals – one for men, one for women – with 20 athletes competing on each side.

“In order not to exclude one of the activities, the international federation has decided to merge the three disciplines; it has become a combination of the three, ”Pierre-Henri Paillasson, national technical director of the French Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (FFME), told FRANCE 24. “The athletes here are therefore not specialized in the three disciplines.

The three areas involve very different skill sets. The lead involves scaling a 15-meter-high wall, tying your rope to the carabiners along the course as you go up. You only have one try and whoever comes closest to the top wins.

The boulder is more technical, with a lower wall (4.5m) that you climb without a rope. Routes are known as ‘problems’, which climbers try to mentally map out before hitting the wall. In competition, climbers have a total of five minutes to “solve” a given problem, study it, and seek to reach the last hold in the fewest tries possible.

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La course de vitesse est simplement un sprint vers le sommet, toujours sur un mur de 15m mais cette fois avec un parcours standardisé de vingt prises.  Le parcours, avec son dévers à cinq degrés et ses prises rouges en forme d'amibe, est identique dans les salles d'escalade du monde entier.

“You have to draw on different skills for each discipline,” Cécile Avezou, coach of the French climbing team, told FRANCE 24. “For the speed test, it’s about explosive power. For bouldering, it’s strength, imagination and creativity. Climbing in the lead requires more sustained effort, so it involves adaptation, information gathering and control.

Speed ​​climbing: the “least attractive” format?

The combination of the three events is not suitable for all athletes. The inclusion of speed climbing in particular irritates many, who argue that it lacks the problem-solving element common to both bouldering and lead climbing.

Czech climber Adam Ondra, currently the world’s best climber, fears the sprint event will cost him Olympic gold.

“It really is the least attractive and understandable format of any climbing format imaginable,” he told The New York Times. ” Yes it was [always] part of rock climbing, but it was a very small group of people dedicated to speed.

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<p>Ce n'est pas qu'Ondra n'est pas bien équilibré : il est en fait connu comme l'un des rares grimpeurs qui excelle aussi bien en extérieur qu'en compétition, y compris en bloc.  Mais sur la voie rapide, il pourrait bien être l'un des plus lents de Tokyo.  Avec 7,46 secondes, son meilleur temps en compétition est presque 50 pour cent plus lent que celui du détenteur du record Veddriq Leonardo, d'Indonésie, à 5,2 secondes.

Others complained that speed climbing was only included because it made good TV, or even claimed it was a Russian plot, because modern speed climbing developed widely in the Soviet Union. (However, Russian funding for the sport largely evaporated after 1989, and other countries have since caught up.)

Whatever the impetus of the hybrid competition, it will not last beyond the Tokyo Games.

“It’s a first step, the combination of the three disciplines. At the Paris 2024 Games, there will be a second stage, ie the speed test will be separate from the combined bouldering and leading climbing event, ”explained Avezou.

For now, some speed climbing specialists are hoping the common format could be their ticket to a medal. And they hope to win over some of their less enthusiastic counterparts to the discipline along the way.

“When I’m up against the wall, my only thought is to reach the buzzer at the top as quickly as possible”, Frenchwoman Anouck Jaubert told FRANCE 24. “To succeed, you have to be technical, know how to place your body, shift your center of gravity.

All of these skills are also crucial in leading rock climbing and bouldering. But speed demands extra effort on the part of the legs – and a willingness to travel the same route over and over again.

A French favorite

Jaubert will be joined by three teammates in Tokyo, making France one of the best represented countries on the climbing walls, along with the United States and Japan. This suits a country that has played a key role in the development of modern climbing.

In 1492, France witnessed the first recorded major ascent using power tools, after King Charles VIII ordered a military captain to climb the 2,000 m of Mont Aiguille – then known as name of “Mount Inaccessible”. The captain relied on hooks, ladders and his experience in the siege of medieval castles to perform the almost vertical ascent, in a first feat of mountaineering.

Four centuries later, in the late 1800s, members of the newly formed French Alpine Club began gathering in the forest of Fontainebleau, outside of Paris, to practice their technique on its unique collection of boulders. Today, Fontainebleau remains one of the most iconic bouldering destinations in the world and gives its name to one of the three main scoring systems used to assess the difficulty of climbs.

Even the current standardized speed climbing route was established by a French mountaineer, Jacky Godoffe, in 2005.

In Tokyo, however, the France team face stiff competition, including Ondra of the Czech Republic; six-time world champion Janja Garnbret of Slovenia; Tomoa Narasaki and Akiyo Noguchi from Japan; and Rishat Khaibullin from Kazakhstan.

The qualifying rounds will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, before the men’s finals on Thursday August 5 and the women’s finals on Friday.

Sport’s governing bodies are hopeful that, despite a somewhat difficult start, rock climbing’s presence at the Olympics will only add to its growing popularity. Already, escalation has exploded in recent years, fueled in part by the 2018 film “Free Solo”. In the Paris region alone, a dozen climbing rooms have opened over the past decade, including five in just a year and a half, despite the pandemic.

At this rate, one thing is certain: the sport is far from having reached its peak – and it is climbing faster than ever.

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