Rock climbing reaches new heights in 2021 olympics

Rock climbing reaches new heights in 2021 olympics

Getting to the Top

The Tokyo Olympics were postponed at the onset of the pandemic last year, and since then it's been a long climb.

We held on and clamped down, though, and we got through one of the rockiest times our world has ever faced together. We found the holds, and one limb at a time, we overcame a challenge that shook up our lives.

After more than a year of clinging on, it's time to conquer the mountain. It's time to look over the peak and finally see what's next. It's time to redefine the boundaries of physical challenges, and find new adventures to explore.

It's time to climb again!

Rock climbing was set to debut as an Olympic sport at the Tokyo 2020 Games, but another year has only added to the anticipation. Not only will this year’s events feature skateboarding and surfing, rock climbing has finally made its way into the Olympic catalogue. Luckily, rock climbers are very patient people (well, except for speed climbers maybe).

Now the world will get to witness these climbers at their peak performance as the sport as a whole reaches its pinnacle.

How much do you know about the newest Olympic sport? Below, we'll get you caught up on rock climing's recent ascension in popularity and get you ready to climb on the bandwagon when you watch the first rock climbing event later this month!

A Rapid Rise

You may think you know the scale of the rock climbing scene, but if you haven't been climbing in a few years, you might have missed the skyrocketing popularity of the sport among 20-somethings.

Since the release of the 2018 documentary film Free Solo, about climber Alex Hannold’s climb of a 900-meter rock face in Yosemite National Park – without a rope – rock climbing’s rise in popularity amongst 20-somethings has been well documented.

Later that year, the Guardian declared that rock climbing was no longer an alternative recreational activity for a niche crowd, and instead a “worldwide sensation.” They reported over a million annual visits to indoor walls in the UK alone, with over 100,000 regularly active climbers – and those numbers are increasing 15-20% each year.

Last year, Vice documented a rise in climbing among millennial men, due to movies like Free Solo and The Dawn Wall and climbing’s increased accessibility, with more rock walls popping up in cities worldwide, at gyms, amusement parks, and dedicated climbing facilities.

The rise in climbing is also due to the fact that more people are finding it’s a great way to work out without just lifting weights which appeals to young men today.

“Scrambling up a wall also has the added benefit of being exercise without feeling like exercise,” the Vice piece notes, “which, if you’re a twenty-something lad who used to play football before he fucked up his hamstring and doesn’t fancy taking up running, is ideal.”

That Natural High

The health benefits of rock climbing are well-documented, and include increased endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance. Climbing also helps build hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness.

As Adventure HQ notes, “It’s an exciting sport that can be adopted by virtually anyone, of any age and fitness level, whether you’re a hardcore athlete, weekend warrior, or a desk jockey.”

Climbing also has a very low impact on your body for the workout you get, and it has mental health benefits too – it helps build focus, has meditative effects, provides stress relief, and promotes ambition, personal challenge, and problem solving, as well as confidence and resilience.

Rock climbing can also be an incredibly sociable sport – many participants will tell you that once you start, the climbing community will embrace you, and you’ll struggle not to become a part of it. The energy of the climbing community is something that keeps climbers coming back.

Find Your Olympic Climbing Event and Follow the Leaderboard!

At the Olympics, the first ever rock climbing medals will be awarded to the winners of a combine event with three disciplines – Speed Climbing, Bouldering, and Sports Climbing. The event will be divided into men's and women's competitions, and climbers will have to be world-class in all three phases to top the leaderboard.

Climbing blog Send Edition writes that “Being proficient in each discipline is unheard of, which makes this competition even more interesting since some climbers will be significantly better at one than the other two.”

Speed Climbing

In speed climbing, participants climb 15 meters at a 95-degree angle. The average time for men is between five and six seconds, with the world record sitting at 5.48 seconds, and the women’s record at 7.10.

Speed climbing requires a different skillset than the other two phases of the event, since climbers can take the same route every time – in fact, they train on the same route for their entire career. The best climbers develop explosive movements they have practiced for years. 

Sports Climbing

The most recognizable climbing discipline, the sports climbing event will feature a 15-meter wall with angles and dimensions unknown until the start, and climbers will have a six-minute time limit. Climbers will receive points for each hold they control and each quick draw they clip into.

If your feet can’t go above a quick draw before clipping in, or you fall, the climb is over.


Bouldering is a very common competitive discipline, and involves climbers strategically making their way up a wall under a time limit without having planned out a route in advance.

The bouldering leg of the climbing competition at the Olympics will feature a 4.5-meter wall and most likely a four-minute time limit for each problem. The routes contain specific holds worth points if climbers control them – climbers get full points for topping out on these holds, but are deducted points for additional attempts.

Climbers are not allowed to watch fellow competitors in order to prevent disadvantages for those who go first – participants won’t be able to learn from someone else’s technique or route. 

Make Your Way Up – Start Your Rock Climbing Adventure at DIVERT!

Climbing can be done by people of nearly any age, and it can be practiced year round. It improves trust and communication, as well as focus and resilience, and it gives participants a new perspective on life.

Ready to climb onto something new? DIVERTsessions is a great place for anyone looking to try rock climbing for themselves. The brand new adventure sports park not only has a rock climbing wall, but also features a skate park, a snow hill, and a wave machine, and you can ride one or all of them!

DIVERT is fully staffed by competent, friendly instructors for each of our experiences, so you can always get some pro tips and advice while you practice or learn. Book a session today, and give yourself a whole new mountain to climb!

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