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FEATURE Excitement growing as sport climbing gets ready for Olympic debut By Manuel Schwarz, dpa

Europe, Europa
30.03.2018
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Sport climbers will make their Olympic debut 2020 in Tokyo. Making then 20-strong fields for men and women will be a tough task but there is already plenty of excitement in Germany

Munich (dpa) - Christoph Hanke‘s eyes light up when the Olympic debut of sport climbing at Tokyo 2020 is mentioned.

"There is a big hunger to be part of it in 2020," says the 24-year-old Hanke who is among Germany‘s best in the sport.

While there are still more than two years left until the competition for gold in Japan the Olympic adventure in fact starts in 2019 in the form of qualifying events.

In Germany, the governing body German Alpine Club (DAV) has started a campaign under the hashtag #climbtotokyo, a new high performance centre is to be opened in Augsburg, and there is hope as well to lure wealthy sponsors to the trendy sport.

"We don‘t know exactly where this will lead to but that is often the case when it comes to adventures," DAV managing director Olaf Tabor says.

Sport climbing is one of five new sports approved for Tokyo 2020, and possibly future Games, as part of an effort to make the Games more appealing for a young audience.

The Olympic competition in downtown Tokyo combines the three disciplines of lead, bouldering and speed climbing, with the overall winners from 20 athletes each getting the women‘s and men‘s gold.

Combining the disciplines has not been met with approval by everyone because athletes normally specialise in one of them.

But British two-time bouldering World Cup champion Shauna Coxsey is among those who have given the nod, naming it "exciting and daunting" to the BBC when she confirmed her bid for the Games in October.

"It‘s a bit like asking Usain Bolt to run a marathon and then do the hurdles," she told the IOC website last year.

"No one has really transitioned before. No boulderer has transitioned to speed and lead, and no speed climber has done it to bouldering and lead."

Czech star Adam Ondra, a three-time world champion in bouldering and lead, is among those gunning for a place at the Games and German teenager Romy Fuchs names the all-round format "cool, something new."

Lead climbing is a height event in which athletes fixed to a rope climb a fixed course higher than 12 metres. Bouldering sees athletes complete as many routes as possible in a wall of five metres or less in a designated time. Speed climbing takes place on a fixed route on a 15m wall, with the world records below six and eight seconds respectively for men and women.

Tabor is optimistic that the climbers will provide a lasting impression at Tokyo 2020 for a bright future.

"We have big potential to become something like beach volleyball," he says.

Germany coach Urs Stoecker meanwhile faces the tough task of getting his currently 17 leading athletes ready for the qualifying events. The Germans are among the top in bouldering and lead but lag in speed climbing where he hopes that "we won‘t fall behind too much."

Stoecker is meanwhile not concerned that the sports once founded without any competition formats will suffer from the strict Olympic rules and the magnitude of the Games.

"I don‘t think that the Olympic octopus will crush the sport," Stoecker.

 

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