Back in 2016, the IOC added five new sports to Tokyo 2020. The move was seen by many as a way for Olympic organizers to appeal to the young people of the world — who are totally rad, bro.
Yes, the countercultural sports of skateboarding, surfing, and climbing will go mainstream this summer. Karate will also make its debut at the Games. Maybe the kids will be into that, too?
In addition to these four brand new sports, Baseball/Softball (which, for whatever reason, is classified by the IOC as one sport) will return to the Olympics.
So, you want to know more about these new events?
2 / 7
One of my biggest pet peeves in sports media is when we call 21-year-old adults “kids.” They can drink, smoke, go to war, and make their own decisions and life choices.
And 21 might be young in some sports. But not skateboarding.
At 13, Brighton Zeuner became the youngest X Games gold medalist. Now, at 16, she’ll compete for the U.S. in the women’s park competition.
Nyjah Huston, once a child prodigy himself, is now a skateboarding superstar. The 26-year-old will headline the men’s street event for team USA.
Those two different events, Park and Street, will each have their own medalists for men and women, respectively.
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Surf’s up in the Pacific! Shidashita Beach, otherwise known as “Shida,” will be the first beach to host an Olympic surfing event.
At the contest, four athletes will compete in 20 to 25-minute heats with two moving onto the next round. Surfers will be judged on the difficulty of maneuvers from wave to wave. Scores are out of 10.
For this massive air reverse, upcoming US Olympian Carissa Moore received a 9.90.
Shida will probably be a great place to stage this 2021 competition. But what happens when a city that’s not known for its waves has to put on a surfing event?
Well, if you’re Paris, you move the 2024 Olympic surfing competition to Tahiti — an island in French Polynesia.
4 / 7
If Spider-Man competed in any Olympic event, it would be sport climbing.
The sport features three different disciplines on an artificial rock wall. All events will be combined for one medal in this year’s games:
Speed Climbing is as wild as it sounds. Two competitors race up a 49 foot wall side-by-side. The fastest climber wins. And it’s absolutely nuts.
Lead climbing is a solo competition done with a rope. Climbers have six minutes to get as far as they can on a more challenging 49 foot wall.
Bouldering is done without a rope, but the stakes aren’t as high as Alex Honnold’s Free Solo attempt. Climbers have four minutes to face four “problems.” Those could involve jumping from rock to rock, hanging upside down, or holding onto pieces by the fingertips.
I’m not sure why three seemingly different events will all count towards one medal in this year’s Olympics, and neither do some climbers.
“I am NOT in support of the format that imposes that all climbers must compete in speed climbing,” said Lynn Hill, a legendary free climber. “That is like asking a middle distance runner to compete in the sprint. Speed climbing is a sport within our sport.”
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It’s safe to assume that Karate is the oldest new sport to debut at the 2021 Olympics.
Although many have been led to believe Karate has its origins in Japan, historians think the earliest version of the martial art was actually created in the Ryukyu Islands during the 1300s. At that time, the sub-tropical archipelago was not a part of the Japanese empire.
But it will be Japan who hosts the first Olympic Karate competition.
There will be two separate events in this year’s games:
Kata is an individual, choreographed discipline where athletes showcase martial arts moves in front of judges. If you’ve never seen a Kata competition, it’s worth a watch.
Kumite involves two competitors on a mat going head to head. Each match lasts three minutes and a winner will not be declared until he or she receives eight more points than their opponent. A competitor can receive one, two, or three points depending on the strike.
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In the eyes of the IOC, Baseball and Softball are the same game. Hence, here’s your fifth new event! But neither is technically new to the Games. Both are returning after a 13-year hiatus.
Team USA baseball is shaping up to be an old-timers’ beer league squad while the USA softball team will look to grab their fourth gold. But the host nation could stand in their way. Japan won the last Olympic softball tournament in 2008.