Sport climbing will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo in two years’ time
Sport climbing will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo in two years’ time

Countdown continues for revolutionary Games

TOKYO 2020 will venture into uncharted territory by featuring four new Olympic sports which, although you may know little about, offer medal opportunities to a new wave of Australian sporting stars.

Skateboarding, sport climbing, surfing and karate will make their Olympic debuts and appeal to younger markets, extending the Summer Games' schedule to include a record 33 sports and 339 events.

Australia will be considered an outside chance for gold in sport climbing in Tokyo - where the host nation Japan is expected to be favourite - while our skateboarders are poised to battle it out with the United States for the top step of the podium.

But with two years still left on the clock, climber Ben Abel, 19, and skateboarder Amar Hadid, 19, believe there is time for Australia to improve and mount a serious charge.

"The Japanese are looking really strong but it's anyone's game. Everyone is so strong and it comes down to the day and if your headspace is right or if the climbs suit you," Abel said on Tuesday, which marked exactly two years until the Opening Ceremony.

Ben Abel, 19, is aspiring to be Australia’s male climbing representative in Tokyo.
Ben Abel, 19, is aspiring to be Australia’s male climbing representative in Tokyo.

Sport climbing will be split into three disciplines; speed, lead and bouldering, with the gold medal being awarded to the individual who performs best overall.

Speed climbing involves being the quickest up a set route on a 15 metre wall, while the more endurance-based lead discipline determines who can climb highest up a route which the athlete has no prior knowledge of.

The final discipline, bouldering, requires athletes to 'problem solve' their way up five boulders in a limited time.

"We (Australia) are strong in the individual disciplines. Right now we have very strong boulderers, some strong lead climbers and strong speed climbers, but they're not all-rounders," Abel said.

"So right now we are trying to get more rounded for the Olympics."

Youngster Angie Scarth-Johnson will be Australia’s youngest climbing hopeful in two years’ time, when she will be only 16.
Youngster Angie Scarth-Johnson will be Australia’s youngest climbing hopeful in two years’ time, when she will be only 16.

Australia faces a similar tough assignment in skateboarding, in which aspiring Olympian Hadid considers the United States to be the strongest nation.

However, the 19-year-old believes Australia, along with Brazil, are best placed to force an upset in skateboarding's Olympic debut.

"Athletes from Australia are just as good as America but there are so many more of them and the facilities they have there are much better than we have here," Hadid said.

"A lot of the competitions are in America, so they have the upper hand because their local skateparks host the most important competitions. But we are definitely up there."

Skateboarding will be split into two disciplines; street and park, which will test athletes' abilities on stairs and rails, and on ramps respectively.

Tony Hawk led an international push for skateboarding to become an Olympic sport.
Tony Hawk led an international push for skateboarding to become an Olympic sport.

Park skater Hadid said skateboarding's inclusion at the Olympics was inevitable, and will finally see its athletes handed some long-awaited recognition.

"Now it demands the respect it deserves," she said. "Being part of the most important sporting event in the world - now skateboarders can be seen as real athletes."

"It's very exciting, only two years away is not a long time but enough to get up there ... Representing Australia at the Olympics would mean everything."

The top 15 skaters in the world qualify for Tokyo 2020, with each nation being limited to three representatives.

Meanwhile, Abel is hoping to win an Oceania competition at the start of 2020 to qualify as Australia's male climbing representative at the Olympics, and pull on the green and gold, which he says would be an achievement in itself.

He added: "I wasn't surprised sport climbing was included, I knew it was going to get there one day. I knew it had the potential to be an Olympic sport, and now it is.

"I'm super excited and now training is harder than ever."

Australia’s Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman said the two year mark “provides a focus” for the team’s aspiring members to continuing striving towards becoming Olympians.
Australia’s Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman said the two year mark “provides a focus” for the team’s aspiring members to continuing striving towards becoming Olympians.

Youngster Angie Scarth-Johnson will be Australia's youngest climbing hopeful in two years' time, when she will be only 16.

"I started climbing seven years ago ... At first it wasn't very serious, it was just for fun and then I realised how much I loved it," she said on Tuesday.

Australia is preparing to send one of its biggest ever Olympic teams of around 470 athletes to Tokyo.

Australia's Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman said the two year mark "provides a focus" for the team's aspiring members to continuing striving towards becoming Olympians.

Speaking of the inclusion of the new sports, Chesterman said: "They open the Olympic movement to a new generation of athletes who can represent their country at the highest level, inspiring countless other young Australians to follow in their footsteps."

Six-time world champions Steph Gilmore hailed Japan as an “awesome” location for surfing to make its Olympic debut.
Six-time world champions Steph Gilmore hailed Japan as an “awesome” location for surfing to make its Olympic debut.

Six-time world champion Steph Gilmore on Tuesday hailed Japan as an "awesome" location for surfing to make its Olympic debut.

"I know the current Surfing Australia national squad will have goosebumps thinking about the opportunity to show the world what our sport is all about to an audience like no other," she said.



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