Climbing is on the shortlist of sports to be added to the Olympic docket for the 2020 Summer Games and, if it does get the nod, people involved in the sport here like Japan’s chances of making the podium.
Tokyo is bidding to host the 2020 Games, which will see another sport added to the list of official Olympic events. Along with baseball and softball, sport climbing is also a candidate. Japan would be a medal contender in all three of those sports, and an official at the Japan Mountaineering Association is on record as saying Japan has an excellent chance to medal if climbing is included on the program. A decision by the International Olympic Committee will be made next year.
Sport climbing consists of three events--lead, speed and bouldering--all of which use artificial walls. Lead climbing involves scaling 15- to 20-meter-high walls using ropes. Speed climbing consists of climbing artificial walls over a designated route while the competitors are timed. Bouldering involves tackling 4- to 5-meter walls through a designated course without the aid of ropes.
Japan boasts world-class climbers in both the lead and bouldering categories, which have been on the program at Japan’s annual National Athletic Meet since 2008.
In bouldering, 22-year-old Akiyo Noguchi has won two World Cup events in the women’s division this season, while Tsukuru Hori, also 22, was ranked fourth in the world among male climbers last year. In the lead event, another 22-year-old, Sachi Amma, ranked third last year in the men’s division.
Japan would also have a shot at any team medals. In the 2011 team rankings announced by the International Federation of Sport Climbing, Japan ranked fourth in bouldering and fifth in lead.
The ample training facilities here seem to be boosting Japan’s level. According to the Japan Mountaineering Association, the number of climbing gyms surged from 55 in 2004 to 191 last year. The number of amateur climbers has risen to roughly 300,000 domestically, with many of them being white-collar workers who enjoy the sport after work.
For now, Noguchi is focusing on the near future.
“I hope to get Japan’s first gold medal (in sport climbing) at the World Championships (to be held in Paris) in September,” she says.
From there, Noguchi will hope to continue to climb toward Olympic glory, provided the sport gets the green light from the IOC.
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