Tokyo Olympics 2020: Skateboarding to sport climbing, a look at sports that will make their Games debut

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The Tokyo Olympics 2020 are bound to be a vastly different experience from previous Games, due in large part to the effect of COVID-19 and the protocols that come along with hosting a mega-event during a pandemic. However, even before the coronavirus pandemic truly began, this edition of the Games already had several new and interesting things lined up for viewers, namely, the addition of five new sports to the programme.

Of those five sports, four will be making their debut at the Summer Olympics, so with Tokyo 2020 just days away, let's take a look at what new and thrilling sorts of sporting action we'll have coming our way:

Sport Climbing

Sport climbing will make its debut at the Tokyo Olympics 2020, and it will be comprised of three disciplines, namely speed climbing, bouldering, and lead climbing. The medals will be awarded on the basis of points accrued across the three disciplines, and all three events will take place on artificial climbing surfaces. There will be separate events for men and women, with 20 climbers being involved in each.

Here's a quick look at what exactly the three events are, and how they differ from each other:

Speed Climbing

Speed climbing is more or less exactly what it sounds like. Athletes attempt to scale a 15m wall as quickly as possible. The climbers are acquainted with the walls, and know the best route up the wall before their attempt begins. They face off in head-to-head battles against other athletes who are also climbing similar routes, in a race to the top. Each athlete is given two tries to record their fastest possible time. The event prioritises speed over all else.

Bouldering

Bouldering features shorter walls than the other two disciplines, and each wall presents athletes with a series of problems, i.e. complicated routes that the athlete needs to figure out and climb in a set time period. Athletes that solve the most routes in the least number of attempts are scored the highest. In the qualification and semi-final rounds, athletes head into their attempts blind, while in the finals, they can preview the boulder during a two-minute observation period.

Each boulder is divided into starting holds, zone holds, and a top hold. These different points are a yardstick to measure the performances of climbers against each other. For example, if two athletes are incapable of correctly solving a route and reaching the top of the 'boulder,' then the athlete who has reached the higher zone hold will receive more points. The athletes are not tethered to safety ropes, and the event takes place above a matted floor.

Lead Climbing

This event takes place on a 15m wall which athletes are not familiar with. Before attempting to scale the wall, athletes will be given a six-minute window of observation, after which they get one attempt to climb it in a span of six minutes. The holds in this wall are numbered, and the athlete that manages to reach the highest hold gets the top rank. An athlete completes a wall after they get both hands on the top hold. Each hold is worth a certain number of points, and if an athlete should fall during their attempt, that athlete will be given points on the basis of the highest hold they managed to reach.

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Surfing

Surfing at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 will take place at Shidashita Beach, located about 64 kms from Tokyo. While surfing usually has several different categories, only the shortboard (1.8m) category will be contested at Tokyo 2020. This category will be further divided on the basis of gender, and will involve 20 male and female surfers who will face off against each other over the course of three rounds, followed by three finals comprised of 30-minute heats. In round one, four athletes will go head to head against each other, while round two will feature five. Everything else from then on out will be decided by 1v1 contests.

In the heats, surfers will have a 30-minute time period to catch and ride as many waves as possible. A panel of five judges will then rate their performance on each wave by the following parameters: Commitment and Difficulty, Innovation and Progression, Variety, Combination, Speed, Power and Flow. A surfer's best two waves will be taken into account for their scores.

Surfers will have to play by a certain set of rules at the tournament, in order to avoid getting in each other's way on the unpredictable and ever-changing staging ground that is the ocean. Each wave can only be ridden by one surfer, and the surfer closest to a wave will have 'right of way,' meaning that they can approach it first. Interfering with another surfer's attempt can result in a points penalty, depending on how severe the infringement is.

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Karate

Rather surprisingly, karate will be making its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, despite it being a martial art that has existed in some form or the other for centuries. The Olympic version of the sport will be divided into two disciplines, namely kumite, which features sparring between two individuals from a common weight class, and kata, in which practitioners demonstrate their skills in a solo exhibition. Kumite will feature three weight classes each for men and women, while kata will have just one all-inclusive category divided on the basis of gender.

Kumite's three weight classes for men are 67kg, 75kg and +75kg, while the women's categories are 55kg, 61kg, and +61kg. In kumite, two contenders face off in an area of 8m x 8m on a matted surface. Each individual match lasts a maximum of three minutes, but can also end early if one of the competitors achieves an eight-point lead. Athletes in this discipline face three rounds of competition, namely an elimination round, a semi-final, and the final.

Meanwhile, kata is a discipline that ranks competitors on the basis of their mastery over the 102 kata that are officially recognized by the World Karate Federation. These forms are evaluated by seven judges, who take a number of technical aspects into consideration, such as stances, techniques, transitional movements, timing, and assign a points-based score on a scale of 5.0 to 10.0. The top and bottom two scores are then disregarded, and an average of the middle three scores is calculated to find the final points rating.

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Skateboarding

Move aside X Games, skateboarding is an Olympic sport now! Skateboarding's debut at the Olympics will see a total of 80 competitors in action, divided across two disciplines €" park and street. Both of these will have separate competitions for men and women, and the event will be held at the Ariake Urban Sports Park in Tokyo.

The park section of the sport will be held in a classic skatepark, and will feature all manner of bowls and slopes, allowing skaters to pull of impressive leaps and manoeuvres. The street portion will be a straighter course which, as the name suggests, is more like a general everyday street, with curbs, handrails, and walls that skaters can incorporate into their routines.

Athletes will be allowed to pick their routes, and will perform a series of skills and tricks that they've chosen. These runs will have a time limit on them, and each athlete will be allowed three goes. These attempts will all be given a score by judges based on the level of difficulty, height, originality, speed and execution of the moves.

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