Is climbing even a sport?

1 July 2021

By Sophie K

Did you know that there will be four new sports at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics this month? Skateboarding, karate, surfing and, most importantly for me, sport climbing will join the other traditional sports.

When considering new sports, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) considered factors including the impact on gender equality, the youth appeal of the sports and the legacy impact of adding them to the games.


Focusing on sport climbing, the first thing to know is that it’s made up of three disciplines: speed climbing, bouldering, and lead climbing.

  • Lead climbing – like traditional climbing with ropes, but you clip the rope in as you go. This needs balance and a lot of stamina.
  • Speed climbing – a race against someone else up the wall with big climbing holds. You need a lot of planning ahead, good positioning, and strength.
  • Bouldering – there are no safety ropes for this one, just mats to land on and a lot of gymnastic moves to climb up the wall. You’ll need flexibility, balance and confidence to do this. It’s my favourite!


I started climbing when I was four years old. Since then, I have improved my strength, perseverance and agility. Personally, I find having to do all three disciplines in the Olympics strange.

This is because all three are very different from each other: one needs speed. One needs problem-solving. One needs stamina. You could say it’s like a runner being told to do a marathon, a sprint, and hurdles.

Yet, despite this, all climbers are happy to take part and try out this new format. Even more impressively, the UK has a real chance of a medal in the Olympics too.

Shauna Coxsey is one of our leading climbers due to her amazing stamina, strength, balance, and ingenuity. She is Britain’s most successful competitive climber and the UK’s first-ever Bouldering World Champion.


Coxsey has stood on 30 World Cup podiums and won 11 World cup gold medals. If this wasn’t convincing enough of her talent, she is one of only four women ever to have climbed a boulder graded 8B+. This is the third most difficult rating of all in the world.

I’m looking forward to seeing Shauna in the Olympics this year. I’m sure it will be very different for her to compete in all three disciplines, but I know that she is going to do everything possible to bring a gold medal home.

Sadly, this is going to be her one and only chance to get an Olympic gold as Coxsey has just announced that she’ll be retiring from competitive climbing after the Tokyo Olympics.

Good luck Shauna – and go team GB!

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