For the first time in history, Sport Climbing will be part of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, 2020. Many people have been wondering how athletes qualify to compete at this monumental event. Below is a breakdown.

Things to know off the top:
(a) There are spots for 20 men and 20 women at these Olympic Games
(b) There is a maximum of 2 men and 2 women per country allowed

The 20 athletes (per gender) will be selected via the following:
7 Athletes: Selection Event in Hachioji, Japan (Aug 2019)
6 Athletes: Selection Event in Toulouse, France (Nov 2019)
5 Athletes: 1 per Continental Championships (x 5) (Feb-Apr 2020)
1 Athlete: Wildcard athlete invited by the Olympic Committee
1 Athlete: Japanese athlete selected by the Olympic Committee
=20 Total

Jakob Schubert at the Bouldering portion of the Combined Event in Innsbruck, 2018. Photo courtesy of IFSC

Hachioji, Japan (Aug 11-21, 2019) – 7 Spots

The first selection event takes place immediately after the IFSC World Championships in Hachioji, Japan. Only 20 climbers qualify to compete at this event. Athletes are ranked according to the product of their results in each discipline of the World Championships (Bouldering x Lead x Speed) and the top 20 athletes participate in the selection event.

The selection event is a combined format, as it will be at the Olympics. There are two rounds, with eight climbers advancing to Finals. The top seven athletes per gender (maximum two per nation) qualify to compete at the Olympics.

Petra Klingler in the Lead portion of the Combined Event in Innsbruck, 2018. Photo courtesy of IFSC.

Toulouse, France (Nov 28-Dec 1, 2019) – 6 Spots

The second selection event takes place in Toulouse, France, at the end of November. Once again, only 20 athletes per gender can attend this combined format competition. This time, athletes qualify based on a ranking determined by their top two results at World Cup events in each discipline. (This is why many athletes opted for a reduced World Cup season). The seven athletes who qualified for the Olympics in Hachioji are excluded.

The top six athletes from this selection event earn a spot to compete at the Olympics.

Jessica Pilz and Sol Sa at the Speed portion of the Combined Event in Innsbruck, 2018. Photo courtesy of IFSC

Continental Championships – 5 Spots

The top-ranked man and woman from each Continental Championships – who haven’t already qualified and whose country has not reached its two-competitor limit – earn a spot at the Olympics. The 5 events are scheduled as follows:

  • Pan America (Los Angeles, Feb 27-Mar 1, 2020)
  • Europe (Moscow, Apr 16-18, 2020)
  • Oceania (Sydney, Apr 18-19, 2010)
  • Africa (Johannesburg, May 1-3, 2020)
  • Asia (Morioka, May 18-24, 2020)
  • Selection by the Olympic Committee – 2 Spots

    The two remaining spots are selected by the Olympic Committee.
    (1) One spot is for a “wildcard” athlete. S/he must have qualified for and competed in the first selection event in Hachioji, but not qualified for the Olympics there or through any other event.

    (2) The other spot is reserved for the Japanese team. This way, as the host country, Japan is guaranteed at least one man and woman in the Olympic games. In the (very likely) event that the two spots for Japan are filled at the qualifying events, this spot is given to the next athlete in the rankings from the Hachioji selection event.

    Tomoa Narasaki in the Bouldering portion of the Combined format event in Innsbruck, 2018. Photo courtesy of IFSC

    So there you have it! We will keep you posted on the results and rankings of Canadian athletes as the season progresses. The Difficulty season begins and the Speed season continues on July 4 in Villars, Switzerland and the World Cup season culminates with the World Championships in Hachioji, Japan in August.

    As shown above, this year’s World Championships have very highs stakes because it is by doing well in all 3 disciplines at the World Champs that an athlete qualifies for the first Olympic selection event.

    And the Hachioji selection event gives an athlete a big chance of making it to the Olympics because even if he or she doesn’t end up in the top seven, both the Wildcard spot and the replacement for the Japanese spot are chosen from the athletes who qualified for this competition.

    Big thanks to Shauna Coxsey, who put up this video outlining the process:

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