Ranking the newest sports at the Tokyo Olympic games

By Jimmie Searfoss

Finally, after a year of postponement and questioning of whether it was even possible, Tokyo will finally get its chance to host the now 2021 Olympic Games. Modifications had to have been made for these games, but the athletes are ready and waiting to compete. This year features more events than any other Olympics, with 34 different sports being played, seven of which are new or returning. Some are much more recognizable than others. Here we will break down and rank which are the most exciting to watch of the new Olympic sports for the 2021 Tokyo Games.

7. Sport Climbing

The relatively young sport of Sport Climbing is making its Olympic Debut in 2021. Starting in the mid 1980’s, the sport garnered a large following through the 90’s up to present day. The competition consists of three disciplines of climbing, bouldering, lead climbing, and speed.

Lead climbing consists of athletes making their way up a 15-meter wall as fast as possible within a fixed amount of time. The wall grips for climbers to grab are relatively straight up which makes for a bit of a faster climb. Climbers only get one shot to get as far up the wall as possible within the time limit.

Bouldering consists of a 4.5-meter-high wall where athletes must complete a climb in the least attempts possible. This is a much slower climb as the wall is made for as difficult of a climb as possible. It is built like a puzzle the athletes must figure out on their way up. Athletes do not get to see the wall before attempting their climb to add to the degree of difficulty.

Speed is the Olympics fastest event. With each race to the top lasting normally less than 10 seconds, sets of two climbers must race eachother up a 15-meter wall. The first to hit the buzzer wins. 

Climbers must compete in all three events. Their placement turns into their score, which is multiplied together to create the final rankings. The climber with the lowest score wins.

Climbing is an acquired taste. Outside of the speed portion, which is quick and exciting, lead climbing and bouldering are much slower events that require understanding of the sport to fully appreciate. The climbers are essentially figuring out a puzzle while making their way up the wall, which is a much slower process, and can turn off the casual viewer who is looking for fast action. However, it is not unheard of for slower paced Olympic sports being popular. One of the Winter Olympics’ most popular sports is curling, and if people will watch someone push a rock, they surely can watch someone climb one.

6. 3 on 3 Basketball

While it began on the courts of playgrounds and neighborhoods, 3 on 3 basketball has made its way into the Olympics. The rules are a cleaned-up version of those same pick-up games everyone has played. Two teams of three will play on a half-court with a ball slightly smaller than the standard basketball. Every point scored within what is normally the three-point line, is worth one point while any basket achieved outside the line is worth two. However, instead of arguing or shooting for who gets first possession, it is up to a coin toss, and there is a 12 second shot clock to keep the pace of play quick. The games are either 10 minutes or to 21 and no, players cannot score off their own rebounds.

Although the event is fast paced and exciting, its lack of participation is an issue. While this could be attributed to the newness of the discipline on this big of a stage, the event only features eight countries competing in both the men’s and women’s divisions. None of the men’s nor women’s teams feature high profile names. It also plays in the shadow in the 5 on 5 basketball event, one of the most popular of the Olympics that features stars from across the NBA and WNBA. Regardless of who’s playing, it still has the pick up feel to it that is always fun to watch.

5. Surfing

Another sport making its Olympic debut in 2021 is Surfing. While everyone is familiar with it, many might not be familiar with the competitive aspect of it. Twenty men and women will compete in their respective heats in 30-minute rounds. Each surfer can surf as many waves as they want, and each wave is judged by five judges. The highest and lowest scores aren’t used, and the remaining scores are averaged out and that is their score on that wave. Scoring is based on difficulty of the wave, innovation of maneuvers, variety of maneuvers, combination of major maneuvers, and the speed, power, and flow.  

Surfing is a particularly interesting watch for a few reasons. While the tricks and maneuvers the athletes perform are impressive, the culture that follows the sport is something to appreciate in itself. The surfer-dude lifestyle that many of these athletes live surely will lead to interesting interviews and athlete profiles. The surfers representing the USA , John John Florence and Kolohe Andino both embody this lifestyle heavily. While they are fiercely competing for gold, they are also having a good time. The vibes they give off surely will reach living rooms across the world as people and watch them rip through waves. So, from July 25th-28th kick back, turn on some Jack Johnson and enjoy the chilliest of all the Olympics events. 

4. BMX Freestyle

BMX is not new in the Olympics. BMX racing made its way into the 2008 games in Beijing. The freestyle event differs from racing in that it is based on tricks. Riders will compete in five disciplines: Park, Vert, Flat, Street, and Dirt. 

The Park is a set course filled with obstacles, walls, and places for riders to perform as many tricks as possible. Vert, short for vertical, finds riders performing tricks in a U-shaped ramp. Flat is a flat ground where athletes perform tricks. The Street event takes place on, well, a street. Obstacles are placed throughout the road for participants to perform tricks on. Dirt is similar to the Street and Park events except mounds of dirt replace solid obstacles for tricks.

The draw to BMX freestyle is its ‘cool factor’. The tricks performed at these events are flat out cool to watch. These athletes are performing risky high risk, high reward tricks that keep viewers at the edge of their seat. With each jump or trick these men and women are putting their career on the line. The risk of failure is enough to get not only the athletes adrenaline pumping, but for everyone watching as well. 

Hannah Roberts will be sure to contribute to the excitement. The 19-year-old is a two-time world champion and will represent the USA as a favorite for the gold in the women’s competition. She is in pursuit of becoming the youngest US gold medalist in a cycling competition since 1912.  Her pursuit of history will be one to watch in the coming weeks.

With exciting tricks, and history on the line, the BMX Freestyle competition will surely make viewer want to go hop on a bike and hurt themselves.

3. Skateboarding

The X-Games favorite, skateboarding, is making its debut in the 2021 games and surely will draw many eyes. It is similar to the BMX Freestyle event in that it is tricks based, and athletes perform in a Park event and a Street event.

What sets them apart is the aura that surrounds skateboarding. Thanks to figures like Tony Hawk, skateboarding has become an international phenomenon. It has become the first sport people think of when they hear extreme sports.

The culture behind skateboarding only amplifies the excitement of the event as millions of skaters can see themselves grinding rails just like the Olympians on TV. However, the tricks the average skater can’t do, is a larger draw in itself. The gravity defying tricks these athletes pull off feel out of a video game and demands the eyes of those looking for action. 

It was long overdue for skateboarding to have its moment on the world’s biggest stage. It has been one of the most popular X-Game events, and it is time for it to be one of the Olympics.

2. Baseball and Softball

Baseball and Softball are making their long overdue return to the Olympics in 2021. Baseball and Softball debuted in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, and most recently appeared in the 2008 games. However, with their return to the world stage comes lots of excitement from fans of the sports across the world. Outside of events like the World Baseball Classic, baseball fans rarely get the opportunity to cheer for their country on the diamond. Softball fans have had even less opportunities to watch their nation play.

Softball is already a massively popular and established sport with millions of players around the world. It is a faster game than its male counterpart and just as exciting. In the past, Olympic Softball has been dominated by the US women’s team. They not only won the first ever Softball gold medal in 1996 but went on to win the gold in 2000 and 2004. They went on to lose the gold medal match to Japan in 2008. They will be looking to get back to their dominant form in Tokyo.

This isn’t the case with baseball. Countries like Japan, The Dominican Republic, South Korea, Cuba and Australia have all had success in international play. Although there is a lack of star MLB players participating due to the season, there still are recognizable names in the tournament.  Names like Todd Frazier, Masahiro Tanaka, Ian Kinsler, and Jose Bautista will all face off representing different countries. For many teams, there is a lot of up-and-coming talent on the rosters. Team USA specifically features three players on the roster that are on the MLB Pipelines Top 100 Prospects. Many other countries also have players within MLB teams farm systems on their rosters.

Baseball coming back to the Olympics is something fans have been clamoring for. With the talent on the field for every qualifying team, it’s anyone’s game. Expect the game to be played at one the highest of levels for the world to see. It is a time to rejoice for baseball fans. It is good to be back.

1. Karate

The traditional Japanese martial art of Karate will be making its debut fittingly in its birth country. Popularized after World War Two, Karate has grown across the world through its mass practice, as well as a great movie from 1984 and three not so good sequels. 

Karate will be divided up into two separate events: Kata, and Kumite. 

Kata is a choreographed form that athletes must perform while being judged. Their technique and performance will be the focus of the judging.

To be clear, Kumite is not at all the fight to the death as depicted in the 1988 film Bloodsport. Instead, it is a point-based combat match between two athletes. One point is awarded for a punch to the head, two are awarded for a kick to the body, and three are given for a kick to the head or if a punch lands after a sweep or takedown. These matches are three minutes of excitement as the competitors literally fight for the gold. Punches, kicks, and takedowns make for an action-packed event.

Combat is always exciting to watch. While competing in a race to see who’s the best is one thing, fighting for superiority is another story. These competitors represent their country in a different way as a runner or swimmer might. Combat sport competitors like those in Karate become the fighting embodiment of their country. It is for the medal as well as bragging rights. My guy beat your guy in combat. This can’t happen in any other sport. The addition of Karate to the games will fit in nicely with Taekwondo, Wrestling, Boxing, and Judo as one of the must-see events in the 2021 games.

The cultural impact is not to be ignored either. Much like how the traditional Korean martial art of Taekwondo made its debut in the 1988 Seoul Olympic games, Karate will also be making its debut in its home country. Karate is a massive part of Japanese culture, to watch the sport be featured in the games is a gift to watch for anyone that has an appreciation for competition. It is like watching a NASCAR race on Daytona beach, or a basketball game played in Springfield, Massachusetts, only hundreds of years older. Karate is one of the prides of Japan, and thankfully, the world will get to see why.

The Olympics are a unifying celebration of sport. It is always exciting when more events are added to their long roster of competition because it not only grows those individual sports, but it expands opportunities for young athletes to strive to be like the ones they’re watching on TV. It’s inspiring to see the best in the world perform at the highest of levels and inspiring the next generation of athletes is what the Olympics is all about. After a year of seeing the world seemingly fall apart, it’s time to watch it come together in one of the best ways it knows how to. 

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