Rock Climbing in the Olympics

Ultimate Speed Climbing Guide & Everything You Need To Know

Over 50 years since the euphoric rise of speed climbing in the Soviet Union, the climbing discipline has continued to struggle for its rightful place in the minds of rock climbing heavyweights.

Compared to its counterparts, such as bouldering, free soloing, and top -roping, speed climbing, a reasonably new climbing discipline has been given the youngest sibling treatment.

This comes as no surprise, considering the availability of standards regulatory speed climbing walls and the lack of emphasis placed on the climbing discipline even among top rock climbers.

But in a remarkable twist of event, speed climbing, which may have been the least concern of avid competitive climbers, has become the center’s focus on these climbers. It stands as the most formidable obstacle between them, clinching the first-ever Olympics rock climbing medal.

Speed Climbing Olympics

Following the International Olympic Committee greenlight for rock climbing to part of the plethora of sports activities in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

The International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) devised a format for the tournament, and guess what? Yeah, you think right, speed climbing, the proverbial rejected stone, has become the chief cornerstone.

The IFSC format for rock climbing in the Olympics involves climbers competing in lead climbing, bouldering, and speed climbing. With several climbers already experienced in lead climbing and bouldering, speed climbing stands gallantly as the climbing discipline determines who eats dust in Tokyo and who returns home with a medal.

In light of speed climbing newfound fame, Climbing Apex presents answers to the question on every climbing enthusiast mind, “What is Speed Climbing ?” 

Speed Climbing: What is it? 

Speed climbing is a somewhat known rock climbing discipline, which involves two competing climbers ascending a climbing route in the fastest time possible.

This form of climbing, which has been described as addictive by the few climbers who have surrendered themselves to this sports thrills, is often carried out indoors. In simpler terms, think of speed climbing as a race, with the standardized routes as the race tracks and the climbers as Usain bolt.

But unlike track racers, where several runners sprint to the finish line in their respective paths, speed climbing tournaments usually involve two competing climbers competing against each other on the climbing route.

Speed Climbing Route

A significant difference that set speed climbing apart from other rock climbing disciplines is the nature of its climbing route. Most climbing disciplines, i.e., bouldering and lead climbing e.t.c, have various routes with different grade levels, which requires climbers to adapt techniques in ascending these routes.

On the other hand, Speed climbing has a standardized route designed by French veteran climber Jacky Godoffe in the early 2000s.

The route rated 5.10, is about 15 m high and has 11 footholds and 20 handholds. Since speed climbing routes are constant, climbers can train from everywhere without adjusting route to fit with tournament organizers’ requirements.

This is sometimes viewed as a downside, but it keeps the sports fair and standard. Due to the route’s simplicity, advanced climbers can complete the route in about 30 seconds, while more experienced climbers can finish the route in about 10 seconds. Speed climbing time is measured in 0.01 seconds.

In speed climbing tournaments, pressure plates are placed at each route’s foot, triggered when climbers behind the race. A light sensor at the summit of the route stops the clock as soon as climbers reach the summit.

IFSC regulations guide the race, and failure to adhere to such rules such as false starts is often penalized with disqualification.

World Speed Climbing Record

Iran’s Reza Alipour, dubbed the “Usain Bolt of Speed Climbing,” holds the Men’s Speed Climbing World record at 5.48 seconds, a feat he achieved at the IFSC Climbing World Cup in 2017.

While Indonesia’s Aries Susanti Rahayu holds the Women’s Speed Climbing record at 6.995 seconds, which he accomplished in 2019 despite climbing with a broken finger. These records may be broken at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, as the best climbers on the planet will be competing for rock climbing Olympics glory.

While this kind of climbing may be depicted as reserved for only seasoned climbers seeking to add more feathers to their proverbial caps, it is an activity that beckons all, even climbers with oblivious how to go about the sports.

Tips for Speed Climbing

Revealed below are three tips on how to begin the most straightforward rock climbing discipline.

1. Master the Zigzag movement

Unlike other rock climbing disciplines, speed climbing does not require many techniques and rock climbing aerobics. It is so simple that a newbie can be transformed into an expert in a concise while, based on the climber’s commitment and determination to learn.

The core element of effectively ascending a climbing route is the fluid-like motion. The handholds and footholds on its climbing route ate arranged in a zig-zag pattern.

Ascend the route by grabbing on to the left handhold with the left hand and right handhold with the right hand, then place your left foot on the left handhold and right foot on the right handhold. As your hands find the handhold, do not give in to the urge to look as you place your foot on the right holds.

Allow the body to get its precise movement on track. Looking at the foot as it’s being placed on the hold defeats the purpose of climbing, as climbers would lose speed. It’s is imperative that beginner speed climbers get the body I the rhythm of the zig-zag movement before ascending faster.

2. Get your rhythm right

As climbers get in the zig-zag movement’s rhythm, they need to get their pattern movement right. The zig-zag movement serves to introduce the body to this new movement, but mastering the pattern involves adding specific handholds that may have been ignored during the zig-zag movement.

When doing this for the first few times, applying visual control is allowed before allowing the body sync to its muscle’s memory. The motive in getting the movement rhythm here is to be precise in the feet movement as much as possible.

The feet form the basis of ascension and are not as flexible as the forearms, so detailed feet movement plays an integral role in fast ascension.

3. No Pressure

The ultimate goal of this type of climbing is reaching the route’s summit in the shortest time possible, but as beginner speed climbers focusing on that may rob you of mastering your footwork.

Ditch the stopwatch, and master your movement effectively. After getting your movement rhythm, with the precise footwork and the muscle memory working brilliantly, bring back the stopwatch, and focus on beating your record.


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