Skateboarding Sport Climbing
Most people under the age of 40 have at some point tried to master skateboarding, making it one of the more ‘contemporary’ sports among those contested at the Olympics. But it is also one of the most participated sports, especially in Australia.
“Australia has the highest number of skate parks per head than anywhere else in the world,” Guy Gibbons, Chairman of the Australian Skateboarding Federation, said.
“For every kid that plays rugby league football, 20 kids are skateboarding.”
With a large pool of talent from Australia, and the two current junior world champions (Keegan Palmer and Poppy Starr), skateboarding could be a big medal opportunity for the green and gold. The sport is also likely to attract a younger audience, ensuring the future of the Olympics is strong.
“The course is yet to be built but we’re hoping to get something in the middle of Tokyo which will be spectacular,” Gibbons said.
“It will not be what your average Olympics viewer will have seen before.”
At Tokyo it’s believed that skateboarders will compete in the ‘park’ format of competition with individual and team components.
Park Skateboarding — A combination of bowl and street skateboarding, park features ramps, stairs, rails, stairs, transfers and pipes in one big course that athletes will perform all sorts of tricks on. The winner will be determined by a points system similar to what is currently in place at major skateboarding competitions.
Sport climbing is probably the sport people are least familiar with in the group of new additions to the Olympic Games for 2020.
For Tokyo the format is yet to be confirmed, but Australia’s national team coach William Hammersla gave some insight into what it will most likely look like.
“At this stage the Olympics is going to have all three of main disciplines, as an individual event with male and female medallists,” Hammersla said.
“It’s such an exciting thing to happen for us. It is a relatively new sport for Australia but we’re seeing the sport grow exponentially in recent years, so the 2020 Olympics is a perfect goal and destination for some of the talented climbers coming through now.”
The three disciplines are expected to be Lead Climbing, Speed Climbing and Bouldering. So how do they work?
Lead Climbing — The climber sales a wall and the higher they get the more difficulty they’ll face, so the higher they get the more points they receive.
Speed Climbing — It’s a race to the top of a 15m-high course. Each climber has an identical wall, with exactly the same holds (these are what climbers use to grip the wall).
Bouldering — The most complex of each of the disciplines, bouldering combines problem solving with athletic prowess with the winner decided on points. Climbers have a five-minute time limit to go from a starting point to the final hold, and they do not see the course until they compete. A team of route setters design the boulders and their aim is to see climbers fall off a different hold each so the course is as fair as possible.
It’s a triumphant return to the Games for baseball, set to be played for the first time since Beijing 2008, and where better to have it staged than at Tokyo, in baseball-mad Japan.
Nippon Professional Baseball, the country’s national league is set to be put on hold to accommodate the Tokyo Games, and the locals will provide an energetic crowd to cheer on the sport’s return to the Olympics.
There are three Australians currently with Major League Baseball teams in the US in Liam Hendriks (Oakland Athletics), Warwick Saupold (Detroit Tigers) and Peter Moylan (Kansas City Royals). Whether these guys will still be about for Australia’s national team in 2020 for Tokyo is yet to be seen but there is some quality younger talent coming through the ranks.
“Confirmation that the IOC will include Baseball in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, is another great step forward for baseball in Australia,” Baseball Australia Chief Executive Officer, Brett Pickett said.
“We have a great Olympic tradition in baseball, having secured Silver at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
“Our Men’s National Team, The Southern Thunder, have just returned from the Honkbal Tournament in Holland, where we were able to get some important international experience into our younger players.
“That, coupled with a strong group of senior players, playing both here in the ABL and in the Major League Baseball (MLB) and Minor Leagues, will hold Australia in good stead as we seek qualification for the 2020 Olympics.”
When it comes to softball, Australia once again stands an excellent shot at medalling, having previously come away with a podium finish in every appearance of the sport at the Olympics to date. In Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008 the Aussie Spirit national team won bronze and at Athens 2004 they claimed silver. It sets quite a precedent for Tokyo 2020 when the sport returns to the Games.
“The Olympics is the pinnacle of our sport and I know it is a goal for many young Australian girls to represent their country at this elite level,” Aussie Olympic softball medallist Tanya Harding said.
“Softball is an incredible sport, played by some of the most talented athletes in the world — it definitely deserves its place on the Olympic stage.”
In previous years eight teams, including the host nation and other qualified teams from around the world, competed in a round-robin tournament until the top-four are determined, followed by the semi-finals and final where medallists are decided.
“Olympic re-entry is an incredible opportunity for our national women’s team to again participate and excel in their chosen sport on the biggest competition stage in the world,” John Hollingsworth, Chairman of Softball Australia said.
“It will inspire future generations of young women to look to softball as a serious, competitive sport that will enable them to fulfil their sporting dreams.”
Softball is much like baseball, apart from a few minor changes.
The players — Softball is a female-only sport at the Olympics.
The pitch — In softball the pitcher throws the ball underhand rather than overarm.
The mound — In softball there is no pitcher’s mound like in baseball.
The ball — Softballs are visibly larger than baseballs, measuring about 30cm in circumference.
The field — The pitcher’s area is closer to the home plate than in baseball, and the infield is usually smaller too.
Combat sports are a popular fixture at the Olympics, but surprisingly at Tokyo 2020 karate will be making its debut.
“It’s been a long time coming,” General Secretary for the Australian Karate Federation Hani Zahra said.
“We had people up at 4am waiting for confirmation from over there and once is was confirmed there was a feeling of elation to be put on the schedule for 2020.
“At the Olympics spectators will see aggressive and explosive combat, but it will be controlled and that will tick the box for parents and children to be comfortable to watch.”
At Tokyo the plan is to have two disciplines called Kata and Kumite that are separately competed by men and women. Instead of the regular five, Kumite will likely have three weight classes — lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight. Most karate athletes specialise in either Kata or Kumite disciplines, with few crossing over.
Kata — This discipline of karate focuses on form and execution of karate. In the same way a gymnast performs a floor routine, karate competitors in Kata will showcase different techniques with differing degrees of difficulty. Points will be awarded by referees.
Kumite — A form of sparring that is super quick and like kata puts emphasis on correct execution of karate moves. In a two-minute time frame athletes will face off and fight, trying to score points for different moves against their opponent.
Former surfing champion Layne Beachley says the addition of surfing for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is a ‘game-changer’.
“It’s a game-changer,” seven-time world surf champion Beachley said of the news.
“It’s so exciting, especially for surfers in Australia. The one thing missing from my trophy cabinet is an Olympic medal so that’s what they’ll be going for in Tokyo 2020.”
While some sports like golf and tennis have faced scrutiny over their commitment to the Olympics following the withdrawal of their biggest players for Rio, Beachley dismissed any speculation that surfers may view the Olympics as inferior to competing on the world tour.
“A world championship is the highest pinnacle of the sport right now,” Beachley said.
“But to compete for your country, to compete as a team, to stand on the podium with an Australian flag behind your head and hearing the national anthem — we don’t even know what it means.”