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.