Climbing New Heights: Tokyo welcomes new sports to the Olympic program

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Up for some kickflips and ollies? Ready for a dyno on the climbing wall? How about a goofy-footer carving waves? Will you watch the karatekas in kumite or kata?

Four sports will make their Olympic debut this year and they'll bring some new lingo and a freshness injection along with them. Karate, sport climbing, skateboarding and surfing are all on the program for the July 23-Aug. 8 Games in Tokyo.

One thing is clear after the additions: these are no longer your parents' Summer Olympics.

"I think that as the world evolves, as the Olympics evolve, as generations come and go, I think that if the Olympics didn't add and sometimes remove sports, I think that they would become old with themselves," said Canadian climber Sean McColl.

Baseball and softball are also returning to the Olympics after a 13-year absence.

Canada has some big names in traditional events — sprinter Andre De Grasse and swimmer Penny Oleksiak to name a couple — but the country's list of Olympic stars could soon grow thanks to the new sports.

Andy Anderson is one of the most versatile skateboarders around and McColl is a four-time world champion.

Canada's lone karateka is Daniel Gaysinsky of Vaughan, Ont. Canadian surfers did not qualify for Tokyo and will instead shift focus to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

A crash course on Anderson's skillset is perhaps best delivered via a six-minute sponsor video that has generated about half a million views on YouTube.

The 25-year-old from White Rock, B.C., rolls through town, long hair flowing under his helmet, for a rollicking journey through street and park settings. Anderson fearlessly slides on rails, benches and steps with an incredible ability to stay balanced on the board.

"I think I can really achieve my dreams here," Anderson said. "What my dream is is to inspire others to skateboard and for the right reasons. For creativity and for artistic expression.

"Skateboarding is much (like) an art show. I think that's what we're going to witness at the Olympics."

Anderson won the inaugural Canadian park title last year and competed at the SLS world skate championships in 2018 and 2019.

He's the lone Canadian in the men's park field at the Ariake Urban Sports Park. Matt Berger of Kamloops, B.C., and Micky Papa of Vancouver will compete in the men's street event.

McColl and Alannah Yip, both from North Vancouver, B.C., will represent Canada in sport climbing at the Aomi Urban Sports Park.

"Sport climbing is similar to a triathlon where the triathlon was not born first," McColl said. "We've always had running, swimming and cycling. But climbing is lead climbing, bouldering and speed climbing."

The speed competition is like a sprint up a wall. Two athletes go head-to-head in a race to climb the holds and touch the timing pad first.

In lead, athletes climb a fixed course on a wall within a specified time frame. Bouldering is done on a shorter wall with a mat below as climbers rely on their explosiveness and use jumps and swinging techniques to their advantage.

Gaysinsky qualified for Tokyo in the men's over-75-kg kumite division at a qualification tournament last month in Paris. He was a silver medallist at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.

Twenty-eight nations will participate in the karate competition in Tokyo, which will feature both kumite and kata. Kumite involves sparring while kata is the demonstration discipline consisting of a series of movements against a virtual opponent.

Surfing will be held at Tsurigasaki Beach, about 100 kilometres away from Tokyo's Olympic Stadium.

Canada did not qualify in men's baseball but the women's softball team is expected to be a medal contender.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 12, 2021.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting