Let the Games begin: New Olympic sports to keep an eye on

Posted by Alan Valkenburg on 23 July 2021

The 2020 Olympics have started and if you, like us, like to keep an eye out for some of the lesser-known sports and then wonder why we don’t have anyone competing in them, we highlight some of this Games’ new sports.

There will be five new sports at these Games this year: baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing. Together these sports add 18 new events and 474 athletes to the overall event. Baseball/softball has taken place at the Olympics some years before – most recently in 2008 – so we’ll focus on the others.

1. Karate

Olympic Karate will consist of two disciplines: Kumite and Kata.

Kumite is the fighting discipline that you’re probably used to seeing, where two participants go toe-to-toe in one-on-one combat.

There will be six gold medals offered at these games, three weight categories for men and three for women.

Men’s: less than 67kg, less than 75kg, greater than 75kg

Women’s: less than 55kg, less than 61kg, greater than 61kg

There are several ways to earn points with fighters receiving one, two or three points for proper striking technique. A three-point strike comes when a participant hits the head or neck of an opponent with a kick or if a technique is used against a fallen adversary. A two-point shot involves landing a kick to the side, back, belly or torso of the opponent. A one-point strike comes for delivering a close-handed punch or strike to the opponent’s head, neck, belly, side, back or torso.

The second discipline is the Kata, which is a demonstration of offensive and defensive techniques against a virtual opponent. Players earn points from judges based on their power and form.

2. Skateboarding

There’s a lot of excitement about skateboarding and it will debut as one of the most diverse sports with competitors across the age spectrum.

There are two types of events: park and street. The park competition will take place in a bowl-like course that features plenty of twists and turns. Skaters will look to perform twists, spins and other tricks before landing without falling.

The street competition will feature straighter, flatter courses with stairs, rails and curbs. Skateboarders in this competition will look to get air to allow them to ride and grind along the curbs, rails and other obstacles.

3. Surfing

Surfing is a tough sport to host as you’re left depending on the weather and the elements. Will the wind and tides play ball, so to speak?

For these Games, only shortboards will be used, although who knows what will happen in future events. There will be men’s and women’s competitions, with 20 competitors in each.

The early rounds will feature four- or five-person heats. The final rounds will feature head-to-head battles with the losers eliminated. Surfers can ride a maximum of 25 waves during heats that are typically 30 minutes, depending on the conditions.

As is the case with figure skating or gymnastics, scoring is subjective. Five judges will grade each ride focusing on the degree of difficulty, execution of moves by the surfer, speed, variety and more. Surfers cannot ride the same wave. Spectators will be on the edge of their seats to see if any punch-ups break out if a surfer ‘steals’ another’s wave. That was a joke.

4. Sport Climbing


Sport climbing is a form of rock climbing but don’t worry, deaths and serious injuries are unlikely as competitors are attached to permanent anchors for protection.

At the Tokyo Games, there will be three disciplines: speed climbing, lead climbing and bouldering.

In speed climbing, athletes try to scale an object as quickly as possible.

In lead climbing, athletes must scale as much of a 15-metre wall as they can in a fixed amount of time. The wall will also be at an overhang of 6 metres.

In bouldering, the goal is for athletes to overcome the most obstacles or problems on their routes. They are judged based on the number of problems they overcome on the 4.5 metre-high structures in a set period of time.

Although one climbing discipline may seem very much like another to the uninformed, it’s unlikely any climber will excel in more than one category as they are so different.

And there you have it. We’re an outdoorsy nation. Why don’t we have competitors in these events? Maybe you’ll be the first. Get outside and start surfing/climbing/skateboarding or take up karate. And if these sports aren’t for you, you’ve got three more years to hone your skills in breakdancing, set to debut at the next Games.

Pictures: Unsplash

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