The sports that make their debut at the Tokyo 2020 Games

Spanish karate fighter Sandra Sánchez.

At the first Games, in Athens in 1896, there were competitions in nine different disciplines. Four years later in Paris there were already 19. Since then the number has fluctuated, but has almost always been increasing. In Rio de Janeiro in 2016, rugby was Olympic for the first time in history and golf returned after more than 100 years of absence, reaching 28 sports.

This summer in Tokyo, four more are added to the list of Olympic sports to, according to the committee, reflect “the urbanization of sport.” The events that open this year are karate, climbing, surfing and skateboarding. There will also be several new disciplines in some established sports and baseball and softball are returning to the Games exclusively for this edition thanks to their popularity with local Japanese fans. These are the new competitions that will debut this summer at the Olympic Games:

Japan, the cradle of this ancient martial art, will host the first edition of karate as an Olympic competition. Athletes will compete in the Nippon Budokan pavilion, built for the 1964 Tokyo Games, where judo events will also be held. Karate has two disciplines: kata (forms), in which there is no confrontation between fighters and is based on the demonstration of the different offensive and defensive movements that the judges will score; Y kumite (combat), which consists of the fight between two fighters and the one who connects the most well-executed blows in three minutes will be the winner, having three different weight categories (in men, -67kg, -75kg, + 75kg; in women, -55kg, -61kg, + 61kg).

In total there will be 80 karatecas (60 in kumite and 20 in kata). Spain not only has representation, but also has in its ranks two of the main favorites to get a medal. Sandra Sánchez, who competes in the discipline of kata, was world champion in 2018 and arrives as world number one in Tokyo, considered “the best of all time” by the World Karate Federation. Damián Quintero also attends the Olympic event as the world number one in the category of kata male, after obtaining five world medals (one gold, two silver and two bronze) and another 10 European (six gold and four silver).

Sport climbing competitions are usually divided into three separate disciplines with climbers specialized in each: blocks, difficulty and speed. In Tokyo, however, there is only one competition and athletes will have to participate in all three categories, from which a final average score will then be drawn. In the block event, the greatest number of routes must be completed in walls of maximum 4.5 meters high. The difficulty format consists of climbing a 15-meter wall without falling in the shortest possible time within a maximum of six minutes. Finally, in speed, two athletes compete to climb a 15-meter wall with a fixed route. To obtain the final score, the athlete’s classification is multiplied in each of the tests (for example: 4th in blocks, 2nd in difficulty and 1st in speed, 4x2x1 = 8) and a classification is made, awarding the lowest scores.

Given the very novel format of the competition at these Games, it is difficult to make predictions. However, among women, six-time world champion Janja Garnbret from Slovenia, specializing in the blocks and difficulty disciplines, is the favorite for gold. In the men’s event, Czech Adam Ondra, also a specialist in blocks and difficulty, will be looking to add an Olympic metal to his five world titles. For Spain competes the 18-year-old from Extremadura Alberto Ginés, who hopes to surprise and reach the podium.

Duke Kahanamoku, a three-time gold medalist in swimming and also considered the father of modern surfing, advocated for the sport’s inclusion in the Olympic program more than a century ago. Now, after arduous negotiations, it has finally achieved its mission. 40 surfers from 17 different countries – 20 women, 20 men – will compete at Tsurigasaki Beach, located in Chiba Prefecture. The competition will consist of an event of shortboard or traditional table, which refers to tables that measure between 1.50 and 2.10 meters in length. In a round of half an hour, each surfer will be able to take up to a maximum of 25 waves per series to perform all the possible maneuvers that will be qualified by judges. Of these, the two performances with the highest score will be counted for your series total, and will be the result of your round. Four male and female athletes will compete in each lap.

In Tokyo there will be no representative of Spain in this new sport. Aritz Aranburu, the first Spaniard to enter the Championship Tour (the first surf division, where the 34 first in the world are classified, 17 in the case of women), has not succeeded. Great competitors such as the Brazilians Gabriel Medina and Ítalo Ferreira or the Americans Carissa Moore and Caroline Marks will fight for the first Olympic medals in surfing.

11 years ago, skateboarding used to be only part of the X Games (the most important extreme sports competition) with its own disciplines, but for these Games it will be competed in the two most established disciplines: street and park. In the format street athletes use obstacles such as railings, stairs, walls, or ramps to perform their tricks and demonstrate their skills in three 45-second rounds and five specific exercise attempts; from there an average of points is obtained. In the format park the competition takes place on a concave track called bowl and lyou skaters they must climb up the sides at high speed to make aerial movements. In this case, there are two rounds of 45 seconds in which they will seek to add the highest possible average. In each case there will be a qualifying phase and a final phase in which the competitors do their individual routines and are valued for their originality and difficulty.

Among the 80 athletes who will compete for four gold medals there will be three Spaniards: Julia Benedetti, Jaime Mateu and Danny León. However, the favorites among men are the American Nyjah Huston – who has won the last three World Cups – and Tom Schaar – who is the first skater to complete a “1080”, that is, to do three full turns in the air and land on the board. Among women, the Brazilian Letícia Bufoni, Pâmela Rosa and Rayssa Leal are the favorites to win the medal, accompanied by the Japanese Aori Nishimura, and the young British woman Sky Brown, who at 13 is the most precocious Olympic athlete in the history of the country.

In addition to new sports, the IOC has also boosted its commitment to “urban sports” with the inclusion of Freestyle BMX and Basket 3×3 disciplines, new cycling and basketball formats. In the BMX competition there are nine participants in the male and female category, and the cyclists will have two rounds of 60 seconds to perform all the possible exercises and achieve the maximum score, which will be taken from the average of the two performances. Australian Logan Martin, champion of the Urban Cycling World Championship this year, is the favorite in the men’s category. In the women’s, all eyes are on American Hannah Roberts, winner of the 2021 BMX Freestyle World Championship.

Three-player basketball is a reduced version in all respects of the traditional one. The matches last 10 minutes, only one basket is used and the possession time of the teams is also reduced by half, from 24 seconds to 12. Points are also reduced, with the baskets being worth two points from outside the perimeter and one from within. If a team reaches 21 points, it automatically wins, and if the 10 minutes are tied with a tie, there will be extra time until one reaches a two-point advantage. The big favorite to get a medal in the men’s category is Serbia, which has been champion of the last five World Cups and has the best player in the world, Dušan Bulut. In the female category, France stands out above the rest, with the three best players in the world on their team: Laëtitia Guapo, Migna Touré and Ana Maria Filip. Spain will not have representation in either of these two disciplines.

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