Rock Climbing Sport Gains Popularity
Australian rock climbers eye ascent to Tokyo 2020 as sport gains popularity
Posted on 30.05.2017
Yes, rock climbing is a sport. And yes, it’s in the Olympics.
Rock climbing will make its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, and since the announcement late last year, the numbers in Australia have surged.
The most recent national youth titles featured twice the number of competitors on the previous year, as rock climbing moved from an activity to an elite sport.
One of Australia’s best young talents is 16-year-old Ned Middlehurst.
He regularly makes the impossible seem effortless at his training facility in south-east Melbourne.
“If you think ‘I’m tired and I won’t be able to do this’ then chances are you won’t be able to,” he said.
“Even if I won’t be safe, I still have to say ‘I will’, just so I don’t freak out.”
For Middlehurst, the knowledge he could be in the frame for selection has given him a renewed focus.
“Ever since I found out about Tokyo 2020, all my training is sort of leading up to it, even though it’s in a couple of years. So it’s always in the back of my mind,” he said.
National head coach Will Hammersla said there had been incredible growth in the sport.
“We’ll be pushing our athletes harder and harder and I think the quest for the Olympic gold will be something that’s on people’s minds,” he said.
The need for high-performance coaching and resources is also front of mind.
“I’ve been thinking about all the things I want climbing to become, and all the support I want to give our athletes,” Hammersla said.
Climbers keeping community spirit alive
The Olympic inclusion has forced Sport Climbing Australia to modify its program to replicate the competition format that will feature in the 2020 games.
“They do bouldering, lead climbing and speed climbing, and the disciplines can be rather different,” Hammersla said.
The three variations of climbing encompass a physical challenge, a technical challenge, and raw speed. Athletes will need to be good at all three to have a chance of a podium finish.
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