The Sport of Speed Climbing


Speed climbing, at an event in Munich, Germany
photo by Henning Schlottmann via Wikimedia Commons

Could you run up a wall? Liz Waid and Colin Lowther look at a new sport for the 2020 Olympics – speed climbing. Athletes for this sport look like they are running up a wall!

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Transcript


Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2  

And I’m Colin Lowther. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1  

Two people stand next to each other at the bottom of a tall wall. The wall is 15 metres high. On the wall are rocks. They are not real rocks, but colourful plastic shaped to look like rocks. The plastic rocks are placed at different spaces and positions to create a route, or path, up the wall. So each person has the same choices about where to put their feet and hands. Two climbers place their hands on the wall. They tense their bodies. They wait.

Voice 2  

When they get the signal to go, they race up the wall as fast as they can. They move so quickly they look as if they are running up the wall. When they reach the top, they hit a button with their hand. This marks their time. There is a rope that catches them and brings them slowly back to the ground. This is the sport of speed climbing. These races are only six or seven seconds long. This makes speed climbing the fastest sport in the world. Today’s Spotlight is on speed climbing - a new Olympic sport for 2020.

Voice 1  

In 2020, the Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo, Japan. Sports and events change at every Olympics. The 2020 games will add the sports of skateboarding, baseball and softball, karate, surfing, and climbing events.

Voice 2  

Sports are added through a complex process. Olympics officials consider global popularity, cultural diversity, and if there are organizations that can help set the rules. But two other important goals are to reach younger people and to create an equal opportunity for men and women to perform in the games. With these new sports, especially surfing and climbing, officials hope to achieve these goals.

Voice 1  

Officials chose climbing because it has become more and more popular around the world. When you hear the word climbing, you may think of climbing a mountain. People have been climbing mountains for thousands of years. They climb to travel and explore and to have fun. But speed climbing is a little different.

Voice 2  

Speed climbing does not happen on a mountain. It happens on a wall made by people. It usually happens inside a building. And this sport is becoming more and more popular. The International Federation of Sport Climbing, or IFSC, says that more than 140 countries have speed climbing walls. And 35 million climbers do this sport worldwide.

Voice 1  

The IFSC makes exact rules for this new sport. They also designed the route. Every speed climbing route is the same all over the world, so everyone climbs the same path. Each route is either ten meters or 15 meters high. Brendan Blanchard is a climber who wrote about speed climbing for Climbing Magazine. He explained the sport like this,

Voice 3  

“The rules for the official IFSC speed climbing are simple. Climbers compete on the same path, side by side. The first to the top wins. Times are recorded by a device under the climber’s foot at the base of the path, and a sensor at the top. The path is always the same. Everyone can train on the same path at any climbing gym that has a speed wall.”

Voice 2  

Speed climbing is not for everyone. Many people like to be on a real mountain. Other people do not want the risks of climbing so fast. But many people see it as a new challenge. They compare it to running up a wall! Top speed climbers come from places all over the world, like Spain, Italy, and China. Reza Alipour holds the world record for the 15 metre wall climb. He comes from the country of Iran. He climbed the 15 meter wall in only 5.48 seconds. He is so fast that people sometimes call him Persian Cheetah — the fastest animal in the world.

Voice 1  

Many athletes welcome the choice to include climbing in the next Olympics. They are excited to finally get a chance to compete at one of the world’s largest events. They will get to show the world how climbing is a fun and exciting sport. But they will also get to show what amazing athletes they are. They hope that this encourages more people to try climbing.

Voice 2  

But the excitement about climbing at the Olympics is not just among people who may get to climb in the games. Many people also like to watch speed climbing. Mark Glennie directs the British national climbing team. He told The Guardian that,

Voice 4  

“More people know about the sport. And it clearly works as a sport people enjoy to watch. It is very like the sport of gymnastics. It is very exciting. But, it is also very easy to understand as a normal person.”

Voice 1  

But not everyone thinks that speed climbing is a good thing. For many people who climb, climbing is more like a way of life than a sport. It is about more than speed or competition. It is about being on a rock or a mountain and giving yourself a challenge. Alex Honnold is one of the greatest free climbers in the world. Free climbers climb mountains without using ropes or other protection. Honnold’s climbs often take him hundreds of metres up a mountain with nothing to stop him from falling but his own hands. Would he consider taking part in speed climbing events? He told David Ferry of Outside Magazine that he would not be anywhere near the Japan Olympics.

Voice 5  

“I would not even be able to qualify for these climbing events. Competitive climbing is basically a whole different sport.”

Voice 2  

Ferry argues that the Olympics wants to attract young people, but they are doing it in the wrong way. He writes,

Voice 5  

“Young climbers do not want to watch the world’s best climbers climb on plastic rocks. They want to see climbers pulling hard on La Dura Dura, one of the most difficult sport routes in the world.”

Voice 1  

Have you ever climbed? Would you like to try speed climbing? What is your favorite sport? Will you watch the 2020 Olympics? Tell us what you think. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/spotlightradio.

Voice 2  

The writer of this program was Adam Navis. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, “The Sport of Speed Climbing”.

Voice 1  

Look for our listening app in the Google Play Store and in iTunes. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Will you watch the 2020 Olympics? Which sport are you looking forward to seeing?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
Honneur
said on April 27, 2019

For sure, I will watch the 2020 Olympics Games but comfortably sat in my favorite armchair in front of a 60” television device.
I’m Brazilian so my favorite sport is _____! Who knows? I’ll bring a Coke and a piece of chocolate cake to anyone who hits it.