The Olympic climbing event which started on Tuesday August 3 is a combination of three distinct disciplines (speed, bouldering, difficulty) resulting from a compromise that required years of negotiation. From 2024, speed will again be separated from its two cousins, bouldering and difficulty, which go together quite well.

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Since Tuesday, August 3, twenty female climbers and twenty female climbers have entered the climbing qualification event, a sport which, like others, is entering the Tokyo Olympics program. But while surfing or skateboarding, other entrants, have roughly retained their values, rock climbing has had to bend over backwards to be admitted to the party.

The three events comprising the Olympic Combined involve different athleticism and are held with separate athletes during the regular season. Speed ​​consists of swallowing a facade in six seconds; the boulder is a five-minute obstacle course 4.5 meters high; the difficulty, best known to the general public, takes place on one of those 15 m climbing walls that are popular in all gymnasiums.

The addition of opposites of sorts. On the one hand you have pure power, on the other you need strategy, endurance, etc. Kind of like asking Usain Bolt to line up in the 400m hurdles and 5000m.

Thus, the two French selected who will compete in the qualifications on Wednesday August 4 do not usually practice the same climbing: the powerful and fast sprinter of the airs from Saint-Etienne Anouck Jaubert has hardly ever dabbled in the rock, when her partner, raised in Haute-Savoie, Julia Chanourdie, bouldering and difficulty specialist, regularly escapes into nature.

Jérôme Meyer, a former high-level French climber, who brought the project to introduce the Olympic Games to the international federation, is well aware of the imperfect nature of the decision. “It’s a compromise, it can’t satisfy everyone, but it was the way to get a foot in the Olympics,” he said. The IOC accepted us on two conditions: not to field more than forty athletes in a single event (one for boys, one for girls, Editor’s note). We wondered if we were not going to present just one specialty, but which ones should we eliminate? “

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Good question. The IOC only retains sports practiced anywhere in the world under the umbrella of the universality of the Olympics. And climbing practices are different from continent to continent. Asian countries are fans of speed, while Europeans prefer bouldering and the Americans difficult.

After complaining, the athletes chose to… adapt. “We didn’t really have a choice, we had to make do with it”, say in chorus the Bassa brothers and Mickaël Mawem, the two French representatives who entered the running on Tuesday August 3 (1), one of whom is a cador in speed and the other as a whole. For them, as for a lot of climbers, the Olympic showcase is at this price and they know that the history of climbing is a succession of concessions. “We are a natural sport that has developed indoors in an urban environment, which in itself is a huge development,” analyzes Alain Carrière, president of the FFME, the French Mountain and Climbing Federation.

Same analysis with Liv Sansoz, 44, a renowned mountaineer (she has just completed every 4,000m in Europe), former world climbing champion. “Back in my day, those who made ‘arty’ were frowned upon in the mountains. It is a sport that evolves step by step and that of the Olympics is a very important one. It’s true that we didn’t all understand the IOC’s choice, but the important thing is that we’re at the Games, ”she said.

Its (moderate) reservations have apparently won people’s minds as the Olympic Committee has decided to enter two separate events for the next Games in Paris. On the one hand, speed. On the other, a combination of bouldering and difficulty.

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