Getting to Know the New Olympic Sports at Tokyo 2020

By Ben Morris in Olympics
| July 14, 2021 6:54 am PDT
Olympic Sports at Tokyo 2020

Since the first Summer Olympic Games back in 1896, dozens of different sports have featured on the schedule.

Many key events such as athletics, gymnastics, and swimming have remained on the schedule throughout Olympics history, while other sports including cricket, lacrosse, and polo have come and gone.

This year, four new Olympic sports will debut at Tokyo 2020, with a further two events returning to the program for the first time since 2008. Fittingly, Karate is launching at the Japan Games, along with several other interesting sports.

So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the new sports debuting at the Tokyo Olympics.

Surfing Set to Make Waves at Tokyo 2020

Many of the world’s best surfers will head to Tsurigasaki Beach on Japan’s Pacific coast this summer, as surfing makes its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020.

The sport was featured on a shortlist back in 2015 before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to add it to the program for the Tokyo Games.

Let’s take a look at how surfing will work at the Olympics.

What Are the Olympic Surfing Events?

Shortboard is the only surfing discipline at Tokyo 2020, with one event for men and another event for women.

Overall, 40 athletes – 20 men and 20 women – will compete across the two events, while 18 different nations will be represented. Australia, Brazil, France, Japan, Peru, and the United States each have four participants.

The competition begins with heats, giving surfers the chance to qualify for the next round. Each heat contains four competitors and runs for 20 to 25 minutes, with the top two riders from each round advancing to the next stage.

A panel of judges determines each surfer’s score, taking factors such as trick difficulty, speed, power, and flow into consideration.

There are three rounds of heats before the quarter-finals and the semi-finals, with the four remaining contestants battling it out for the medals in the final.

Who Are the Surfing Favorites at Tokyo 2020?

Sitting first in the Men’s World Surf League Rankings, Brazil’s Gabriel Medina is the favorite to win gold in the men’s event.

Fellow Brazilian Italo Ferreira – who is currently ranked number two – is also expected to challenge for a spot on the podium, along with South Africa’s Jordy Smith.

On the women’s side, Carissa Moore is expected to claim gold for Team USA. The Hawaii native is the highest-ranked female surfer in the world right now.

Caroline Marks (USA) is also set to compete for a medal, as is Stephanie Gilmore (Australia).

Skateboarding At the Tokyo Olympics

Skateboarding is another extreme sport that will feature at the Olympic Games for the very first time this year. In fact, it has already been approved for Paris 2024, too.

The competition will be held at the Ariake Urban Sports Park on the shore of Tokyo Bay, with multiple high-profile skaters set to compete.

Here is a breakdown of skateboarding at the Tokyo Olympics.

How Will Skateboarding Work at Tokyo 2020?

In total, two skateboarding disciplines – park and street – will feature at the Tokyo Olympics, with men’s and women’s events for each discipline.

Park competitions take place within a large dome-shaped bowl, while skaters use steep ramps to generate speed and perform mid-air tricks.

On the other hand, street events feature real-world obstacles such as stairs, handrails, and benches. Competitors use these obstacles to perform ground-level tricks like grinds and flips.

Much like surfing, skateboarders are scored by a panel of judges. The top athletes from the prelim heats will qualify for the final, leaving only the very best skaters to compete for the medals in the showpiece event.

Assessing the Skateboarding Medal Favorites

There is no denying that Nyjah Huston is the guy to watch in the men’s street event. After all, the American is widely regarded as the best street skater on the planet at the moment.

Yuto Horigome (Japan) is likely to be Huston’s main rival for street gold, while Margielyn Didal (Philippines) looks set to dominate the women’s street event.

Over in the park event, keep an eye out for Great Britain’s Sky Brown. The prodigy turns 13 just days before the Games get underway and stands a genuine chance of winning a medal in the women’s park event.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that I included Brown among my top young athletes to watch at the Tokyo Olympics.

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Sport Climbing Will Debut at Tokyo 2020

Situated in the waterfront of district Aomi, the Aomi Urban Sports Park will host Olympic rock climbing for the very first time.

This sport requires athletes to scale large man-made walls, using grips and holds to reach the top. Alongside surfing and skateboarding, sport climbing is being classed as an extreme sport at the Olympic Games.

This is what you can expect from this new Olympic sport.

Sporting Climbing Events at the Olympics

Although there will only be one sport climbing event per gender at Tokyo 2020, each athlete must compete in three different disciplines – speed climbing, bouldering, and lead climbing.

Here are the differences between the three disciplines.

  • Speed Climbing – This discipline sees two climbers go head-to-head in a race to the top of a 15m wall. Naturally, the first climber to the top wins the heat.
  • Bouldering – Without safety ropes, climbers must navigate a 4m wall within a given time. The climber that solves the most problems is the winner.
  • Lead Climbing – This discipline requires climbers to reach the highest point on a 15m wall within a time limit. To complete the course, a climber must grab the final hold at the top.

There are 40 athletes – 20 men and 20 women – competing in sport climbing at the Olympics. Ten from each event are eliminated after the qualification round, leaving the remaining ten climbers to battle for the medals in the finals.

Once an athlete has competed in each discipline, their overall score is calculated by combining their three individual scores.

Who Will Win Sport Climbing Gold at Tokyo 2020?

The Czech Republic’s Adam Ondra is among the favorites in the men’s event, along with Miho Nonaka (Japan), Bassa Mawem (France), and Mickael Mawem (France).

22-year-old Janja Garnbret is the favorite in the women’s event. The Slovenian currently sits atop both the lead climbing and bouldering world rankings and will be the woman to beat in Tokyo.

Anouck Jaubert (France) is also expected to challenge for a medal, as she is currently the world’s number-one ranked speed climber.

Karate Comes Home for the Tokyo Olympics

Karate was born in Japan towards the end of the 1800s, so it’s only right that it debuts at the Tokyo Games. However, the sport has not been included in the Olympic program for 2024.

There is a lot to get your head around when it comes to this new Olympic sport, so let’s get right into it.

What Are the Olympic Karate Events?

There are four men’s and four women’s karate events at Tokyo 2020 and two different disciplines – Kata and Kumite.

Sixty athletes from across the world will compete in the Kumite events, while 20 will take part in the Kumite events. Both divisions of the sport will feature an equal number of men and women.

Here is a breakdown of both disciplines.

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  • Kata – This karate discipline requires competitors to perform a series of offensive and defensive movements against a virtual opponent. Each karateka is judged on aspects like strength, speed, rhythm, and balance.
  • Kumite – Also known as sparring, Kumite sees two athletes face off against each other. Kumite contestants are allowed to use three techniques – kicking, striking, and punching – in order to overcome their opponent.

While there are no weight classes for Kata, there are three different weight divisions for both men and women in Kumite. Let’s take a quick look at the weight classes.

  • Kumite weight classes for men: –67kg, –75kg, and +75kg
  • Kumite weight classes for women: –55kg, –61kg, and +61kg

Analyzing the Olympic Medal Favorites for Karate

When it comes to Kata, Spain looks set to dominate. As things stand, Spaniards are top of both the men’s and women’s world rankings, with Damian Quintero and Sandra Sanchez likely to challenge for gold in Tokyo.

That said, Kiyou Shimizu (Japan) is expected to challenge Sanchez, while Ryo Kiyuna (Japan) could push Quintero in the men’s event.

Look out for top karatekas such as Steve Dacosta (France), Vinicius Figueira (Brazil), and Rafail Aghayev (Azerbaijan) in the men’s Kumite events.

As for women’s Kumite, Anzhelika Terliuga (Ukraine) is the current world number one in the –55kg discipline. Jovana Prekovic (Serbia), Xiaoyan Yin (China), and Irina Zaretska (Azerbaijan) are also likely to challenge for medals in women’s Kumite.

Baseball and Softball Return to the Olympics

Technically speaking, baseball and softball are not new Olympic sports. Still, neither sport has featured at the Games since Beijing 2008, so they both deserve mention here.

Baseball and softball return to the Olympic schedule as one sport, with men’s teams taking part in the baseball competition and women’s teams competing in the softball tournament.

Here is everything you need to know about baseball and softball at the Olympic Games.

Baseball and Softball Events at the Olympics

The baseball and softball tournaments both comprise six nations. However, the two competitions will follow different formats at the Games.

Here are the nations competing in both events.

  • Baseball teams at Tokyo 2020 – Japan, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Israel, South Korea, United States
  • Softball team at Tokyo 2020 – Japan, Mexico, Australia, Canada, Italy, United States

The baseball tournament has two groups of three teams, with each country playing a series of games before the bronze and gold medal matches.

On the flip side, all six nations in the softball competition play against each other in the same group. At the end of the group stage, the top four teams will qualify for the semi-finals.

Who Are the Baseball and Softball Favorites at Tokyo 2020?

Baseball is Japan’s national sport, so the host nation is likely to challenge for gold in Tokyo. The Japanese also find themselves atop the world softball rankings ahead of the Games.

Along with the United States, South Korea is expected to shine in the baseball event. South Korea’s KBO League is hugely popular, with many of the league’s players set to compete at the Olympics.

Check out the video below to find out what happened in the last Olympics softball final back in 2008.

Closing Thoughts on the New Olympic Sports

Personally, I can’t wait to watch the new sports at the Tokyo Olympics.

Of course, watching the popular track and field events is always fun, while tuning in to see the finals of events like tennis, soccer, and hockey is great.

But if you’re looking for something a little different at this summer’s Games, why not check out the new sports at Tokyo 2020?

Make sure you keep up to date with all the latest Tokyo 2020 developments in our Olympics blog, as our writers will be adding regular posts throughout the Games. We also have a detailed guide to betting on the Olympic Games.

In the meantime, check out the must-watch events at the Tokyo Olympics.

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