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Five things you may not know about sport climbing ahead of Tokyo 2020

Shauna Coxsey will represent Great Britain in the event at this summer's Olympics.

Shauna Coxsey will become the first sport climber to represent Great Britain at the Olympics later this year.

The 27-year-old from Runcorn is a former World Cup winner and a strong medal contender when the sport makes its debut at the Games in Tokyo.

Here, the PA news agency introduces five things you may not have known about sport climbing as it prepares for its big Olympic bow.


Alberto Gotta climbs in the lead semi-finals during the IFSC Climbing World Cup
Alberto Gotta climbs in the lead semi-finals during the IFSC Climbing World Cup (Jane Barlow/PA)

Olympic climbing consists of a combination of three disciplines – speed, bouldering and lead – with medals awarded based on the cumulative placements across each discipline. Speed climbing is a head-to-head elimination on a 12m wall. Bouldering involves the scaling of various routes on a 4m wall. In lead, athletes are given a set time to reach as high up a 12m wall as possible.

Tall order

Most sport climbers specialise in specific disciplines – Coxsey usually competes in bouldering – and have criticised the combined event, particularly the inclusion of speed climbing. Many purists consider it an artificial discipline, and the free-climber Lynn Hill told Climbing Magazine: "It is like asking a middle distance runner to compete in the sprint – speed climbing is a sport within our sport."


Arguably, this will not be the first time climbing has been recognised at the Olympics – nor would Coxsey be the first British climber to win a medal. At the 1924, 1932 and 1936 Games, medals were awarded for alpinism, recognising the most notable feat accomplished over the preceding Games cycle – for example, gold medals were awarded to the participants in the successful 1922 conquest of Mount Everest, led by Briton Charles Granville Bruce. The question of whether these medals qualify as official Olympic titles is still under dispute.


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The inclusion of sport climbing in the Games for a first time should benefit hosts Japan. Rising stars Kai Harada and Miho Nonaka won the respective bouldering competitions at the World Beach Games in Qatar last year, and are considered leading contenders. Coxsey ranked 10th in the 2019 Combined World Cup rankings, behind leader and Tokyo favourite Janja Garnbret of Slovenia.

Hitting the heights

According to the Association of British Climbing Walls, over one million people now visit climbing walls in the UK annually. The surge in interest, mirrored across the globe, was recognised by the sport's inclusion in the Olympic programme. Nick Colton of the British Mountaineering Council, the UK sport's governing body, said: "Climbing represents the only basic human movement not yet included in the Olympic Games – it brings the missing vertical dimension to the world's most prestigious sporting event."

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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
United StatesUnited States14161141
Olympics flagOlympic Athletes from Russia10141034
Great BritainGreat Britain69924
Today's Olympic highlights header

Saturday's key events

· After silvers in both the men's and women's events, Team GB will be fancied to get on the podium again in the mixed relay (11.30pm-1am)

· Touted as Michael Phelps's successor, Caeleb Dressel already has two gold medals from these Games and he will be going for a third in the men's 50m butterfly final (2.30am)
· It is Katie Ledecky vs. Ariarne Titmus III in the women's 800m freestyle final, with Ledecky entering as firm favourite (2.46am)
· Great Britain will be heavily fancied to add another gold medal to their swimming haul, having produced by far the fastest qualifying time for the mixed 4x100m medley relay final (3.43am)

· Dina Asher-Smith is one of three British women in the 100m semi-finals (3.01am-3.20am), and will hope to challenge for a medal in what is likely to be a star-studded final (1.50pm)
· The inaugural Olympic 4x400m mixed relay event concludes with Great Britain one of the eight finalists going for gold (1.35pm)

· Team GB's dreams of an unlikely gold are still alive in the women's event as they face France in their semi-final (3.30am). The winners will face either New Zealand or Fiji in the gold medal match later in the day (10am)

· Gold medals are up for grabs in the windsurfer - RS:X finals. Emma Wilson participates for Team GB in the women's final (6.33am), while Tom Squires is in action in the men's (7.33am)

· Following his shock semi-final defeat, ending his hopes of a Golden Slam in 2021, Novak Djokovic battles for bronze against Pablo Carreno Busta (7am)
· The women's singles event reaches its conclusion with the gold medal match between Belinda Bencic and Marketa Vondrousova

> Today's schedule in full
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