Athletes will get their first chance to qualify for the Olympics at the World Championship in Bern this year. Still, only 3 Olympic places are on offer for Boulder&Lead and 2 for Speed per sex.
The rest are awarded to the winners of the Continental Qualification events later this year and the Olympic Qualification Series (OQS) next year. Most places will be awarded through the Olympic Qualification Series (OQS), but athletes need to have amassed enough ranking points from Boulder, Lead and Boulder&Lead events to get an invitation to the series.
The World Championship enables athletes to compete for the medals, the Olympic places and, for those on the edge of the invitation threshold for the OQS, more ranking points.
The Olympic Formats
Climbing will have two sets of medals per sex at Paris 2024, split between Speed and a combined Boulder&Lead discipline.
In the new Boulder&Lead format, climbers are awarded points for their performance in bouldering and lead with a maximum of 100 points per discipline. For bouldering, each boulder will have two zones worth 5 & 10 points, and a top is worth 25 points. A score of 0.1 points is deducted for each unsuccessful attempt, so an athlete who tops a boulder on their second attempt scores 24.9 points. The lead route is split into segments, with more points awarded to athletes as they near the top and zero points near the start.
This change rewards athletes for their performance compared to the previous combined scoring system, which used multiplication. However, the route setting will need to be fair between the two disciplines for the scoring to be even. A very hard set of boulders and an easy route, or four easier boulders and a too-hard a route could swing the competition. We will dive deeper into the scoring system in a future article.
For Speed climbing in the Olympics, the qualification round will run differently from the current World Cup format. Instead, athletes first run a seeding heat to record their best times from two runs. They then enter an elimination heat which replicates the first run in Speed finals but with 7 runs instead of 8. The winners from the elimination heat and the fastest loser from any qualification runs will qualify for the final. The final will be run in a standard format as World Cup finals are currently but with 8 competitors.
The 3 Qualification Paths
There are 3 main paths for athletes to qualify for the Olympics:
- World Championship in Bern, which runs from 1st-12th August 2023.
- At one of the 5 Continental Qualification events running September - December 2023.
- At the Olympic Qualification Series running next year from March to June 2024.
Additionally, there is a Universality space for one athlete per sex for each discipline nominated by the Tripartite committee to broaden the representation of countries at the Olympics. France can nominate another as the Olympic host nation if they have yet to qualify an athlete. These athletes must have participated in one of the pathways above and performed well, details still forthcoming, in the Olympic Qualification Series to be eligible for these places.
These places are capped at 2 places per country, sex and discipline, just as in Tokyo 2020. So the maximum number of athletes who could qualify from the same country is 8: 4 Speed (2 Men, 2 Women)and 4 Boulder&Lead (2 Men & 2 Women).
At the World Championship this year, athletes can compete in the three disciplines of Speed, Lead and Boulder and the combined Boulder&Lead discipline. The top 20 per sex from a combined Boulder&Lead ranking base on the Boulder and Lead competitions will take part in a combined semi-final, with the top 8 progressing to the final. Olympic Qualification spots are on offer for the top 3. For Speed, Olympic qualification spots are offered to the top 2.
The second path for Olympic qualification is at a Continental Qualification event. The winners of the Speed and Boulder&Lead events will be offered a qualification place.
These events are scheduled to be held at:
- European Speed Qualifier (Rome - ITA) 15-16 September 2023
- Pan American Qualifier at the Pan American Games (Santiago - CHI) 21-24 October
- European Boulder&Lead Qualifier (Laval - FRA) 26-29 October
- Asian Qualifier (Jakarta - INA) 9-12 November
- Oceanic Qualifier (Melbourne - AUS) 24-26 November
- African Qualifier (Pretoria - RSA) 7-10 December
The Pan American Continental Qualifier at the Pan American Games will be a special event as it will be the first time Sport Climbing will be part of the Pan American Games.
Olympic Qualification Series in 2024
The 3rd and final path is the Olympic Qualification Series (OQS), organised by the IOC.
This series of 2 events will combine BMX freestyle, breaking, skateboarding, and sport climbing inside a city for 4 days while athletes compete for Olympic qualification places. For sport climbing, each event will consist of a Speed and a Boulder&Lead competition. Athletes will win points at each event and be ranked based on the sum of these points. So each athlete will need to compete in all three events to gain an Olympic spot.
There are 80 invitations for the series per sex, split between 32 in Speed and 48 in Boulder&Lead. These invites will include at least one French athlete (as the Olympic host nation), one from each of the events host nations, one from each continent and the highest place Universality nominated athlete.
Unused quota places will be reallocated to the next highest-placed eligible athlete. These invites are capped at 4 athletes per country per sex. If a country has already qualified all possible athletes, then that country cannot send any other athletes to the OQS. Athletes will qualify for the series based on their IFSC World Ranking in Boulder&Lead or Speed.
Olympic places will be offered to the top 10 ranked athletes per sex in Boulder&Lead and the top 5 in Speed per sex in the series, the highest number of places available.
These events will be held in Shanghai, China at the Huangpu Riverside from 16 to 19 May 2024, while the second in Budapest, Hungary will take place at the Ludovika Campus from 20 to 23 June 2024.
Olympic qualification events happening in 2023 will be the focus for many athletes, targeting first the World Championship and then the Continental qualifiers. Still, there are only 8 places in Boulder&Lead and 7 in Speed on offer. Most will have to wait until next year to qualify at the Olympic Qualification Series just before Paris 2024 starts on July 26.
Updated 16th August 2023: Date and locations of Continental Qualifier events have been updated.
Updated 4th December 2023: Updated the number, location and dates for the Olympic Qualification Series in 2024.