Sport climbing

Sport Climbing Made Its Olympic Debut. How Is It Scored?

With men’s sport climbing inaugural finale set for this Thursday, questions have arisen around the sport’s disciplines and scores

Colin Duffey reaches his left arm up to grab a yellow rock.
Jeff Roberson - Pool/Getty Images

Two members of Team USA clinched their spots Tuesday in the sport climbing final at the Tokyo Olympics. 

The sport’s Olympic debut this week has thrust climbing into the national spotlight. With Colin Duffy and Nathaniel Coleman competing for medals in the men’s final on Aug. 5 at 4:30 a.m. ET, many Americans will be watching the sport for the first time. 

Here’s how viewers should understand the disciplines and scoring at the sport climbing final. 


The Olympics include three disciplines: bouldering, lead and speed. 

Bouldering gives climbers four minutes to complete four different "problems" — including overhangs, wedges and holds — as they scale a 4.5-meter wall. A completion is counted when both hands secure the top hold in a controlled manner. Athletes can have as many attempts as necessary within the time frame. 

Lead is most similar to outdoor rock climbing. In six minutes, climbers must get up a wall of about 15 meters. The highest climb gets the win, with ties broken by time. If a climber — attached to safety ropes — falls, the height attained is recorded. Unlike bouldering, there are no re-climbs. 

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Speed requires a very different set of skills. Climbers must race side-by-side over identical routes at 95-degree angles to the top of a 15-meter wall 


An athlete’s placement in each discipline is multiplied to determine their score, with the lowest score winning. For example, a first-place finish in one discipline, third-place showing in another, and fifth-place finish in the last would result in a score of 15 (1x3x5=15). 

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