RunOut #6: Olympic Dreaming

The old adage “sport climbing is neither” is now a sad relic of atavistic time in climbing—a time before there were gyms, before there were World Cups, and before there were climbers capable of onsighting 9a+ but who instead choose to spend 30 hours a week training indoors, six to eight months a year, all in preparation for a single event when they are finally released by their coaches onto a competition stage, like animals out of a cage.

It was a time that most climbers today will not even remember.

Climbing is making its big debut in the 2020 Olympics. When this news was jointly announced by the International Federation of Sport Climbing and the International Olympic Committee two years ago, no one, it seemed, was very happy about it. Grizzled old chuckleheads read the news as yet another omen that climbing had been utterly yuppified, while the most hardcore competition climbers were seemingly united in their disappointment with the proposed format of combing lead, bouldering, and speed.

This September, during the biennial World Championships, the IFSC got its first chance to show the climbing world not only why this combined format would be great, fair and just and even exciting to watch—but also that this format would translate to a successful event in the forthcoming Olympics.

So, did the IFSC win over the naysayers? Was the World Championships everything world-class comp climbers had hoped for and deserve? And what does this all mean for our sport, the outdoor industry, and the future of climbing?

Since neither Chris nor I know squat about comp climbing, we invited our mutual friend and colleague Chris Parker to be our guest for this episode. Chris is a former editor at Rock and Ice magazine and now he works as a content creator for Black Diamond. He got to travel to Innsbruck to witness and report on the entire World Championships. You can check out Black Diamond’s website for his report. It explains the format, what works, and where some serious and legitimate concerns remain.

One quick show note. I referenced an Iranian speed climber, whose name I didn’t know at the time. His name is Reza Alipour, and he is a total major beast.

9 comments on RunOut #6: Olympic Dreaming

  1. Cheryl J. Willson says:

    My husband and I (Americans) are big Tomoa fans! We watch World Cup competitions and know most of the competitors from watching.

    1. Chris Kalous says:

      We know you guys are out there, like the 2 am Futbol watchers, but by and large, those amazing athletes are woefully unknown on this side of the pond. But the march of this kind of event seems inevitable, and we as Americans will catch up just as soon as the olds (like us) controlling the media either retire gracefully or go tits up.

      1. Scott Willson says:

        Not every sport needs to become popular and I’m not sure elite athletes deserve anything more than anyone else. But it’s fun to watch these guys! Tomoa hasn’t been the best this season, but he is the undisputed dyno champ:

        For sure, Americans don’t need to be the best in *everything* (we can leave soccer for the rest of them). Check out Ashima Shiraishi, though—my dark horse Olympic medal pick.

        1. Chris Kalous says:

          Ashima is certainly our best bet, I think. We did talk about her a bit, but the audio got garbled and I cut it. The Americans, including her are going to have to dig deep, though.

      2. Cheryl J. Willson says:

        We’re more or less your age, old man!

  2. Paul says:

    Hey guys, love the podcast, great topics you’ve chosen to discuss and entertaining too! Keep it going!
    But I’ve got to call you out on something, your knowledge of climbers outside the US is shockingly poor. People like Nacho Sanchez and Barnabe Fernandez are pretty well known in Europe, not randoms claiming to have done super hard things (Sanchez having V15/16 boulders on film, not arguing about Fernandez though).
    Same with the comp climbers, and saying the guys who will be in finals of the Olympics will be the same as this year is ignorant of lots of up and coming talent (or those having an off year, Shauna coxsey for one).
    Also, I’m pretty sure Jongwon Chon would crush 5.11 dihedral, watch some of the stemming type moves he can do. Same was said about Ondra before he came to Yosemite.
    Just think you could be a bit more considered when making some assumptions. Having said that, it is quite amusing…
    Big fan whatever, but maybe read about climbing outside the US a bit more?

    1. Chris Kalous says:

      Agreed. One of our premises of that episode is that very issue of lack of understanding of the comp scene and the scene outside the US. And the challenge to these athletes to climb pedestrian level trad routes was of course facetious. We think the American obsession with 5.11 crack routes as some sort of benchmark is silly.

      But we will continue to educate ourselves as part of this project.

      1. Paul says:

        Good to hear Chris! Also, sounds like the 5.11 thing is a bit like Brits and the old “What’s he done on grit” adage. It seems that a Brit didn’t get the American sense of humour and irony this time!
        Also as a sneaky aside, just listened to the Enormocast Peter Croft episode, don’t think I’ve ever wanted to run out of office and go climb so much in my life, brilliant episode!

        1. Chris Kalous says:

          Ha. Thanks. That guy has infectious little kid energy. He has payed me a bunch of compliments to other people about knowing what I was talking about. I think once he realized that I wasn’t some mainstream know-nothing, he really got rolling.

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