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The Return of International Sport Climbing

The IFSC has announced the return of competition in a never-before-seen style of competition. This could be significant for international Sport Climbing.

International competition is returning to indoor climbing on Aug. 2. On July 23, the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) announced the first ever Connected Speed Knockout competition.

Connected Speed Knockout is a pioneering style of competition in which 50 athletes representing nine nations on seven speed walls in seven different locations will collectively compete. According the press release from the IFSC, “The event will be streamed on the IFSC’s official Facebook page and YouTube channel on Sunday, August 2 at 5:00 pm (UTC+2:00), when clocks in Japan will switch to August 3: exactly one year away from Sport Climbing’s debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, in 2021.”

This event is symbolic of Sport Climbing’s persistence throughout the most challenging of times and a display of international cooperation and support for competition. The publication mentions, “Athletes from Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Poland and Russia will compete in the initial qualification round, with the top-16 climbers in the overall ranking advancing to the finals.”

The final phase of the competition will follow the same knockout pattern as the Speed World Cup, though athletes will be competing from various countries.

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Though this event is unprecedented in its design, it will feature some of Sport Climbing’s most familiar faces. The IFSC said, “Among the participants, France’s Olympic qualified athlete Mickael Mawem, Indonesia’s two-time World Cup gold medallist Alfian Muhammad and six-time World Cup medallist Aspar Jaelolo, Italy’s reigning Speed World Champion Ludovico Fossali, Poland’s twin sisters Aleksandra and Natalia Kalucka – who respectively won the Speed Youth World Championship in 2017 and 2018, and Russia’s Olympic qualified athlete Julia Kaplina and 2016 Speed World Champion Anna Tsyganova.”

The schedule for the competition will begin with female qualification round, followed by a male-qualifiers, before moving into a similarly ordered set of finals rounds.

IFSC President Marco Scolaris said, “We’re pretty excited about this competition. It’s a completely new format, and I have to congratulate with our Sport Department for coming up the whole idea, during these extremely challenging times. Our National Federations embraced the project with enthusiasm, and that already is the greatest satisfaction for us.”

This event raises questions as to what the future might hold for International Sport Climbing in all of its disciplines. Success in this competition could potentially mark a quicker return to sport climbing than was previously considered possible.

Featured photo of Mickael Mawem by Julien Crosnier.