Smith Rock is considered by many the birthplace of modern sport climbing in the United States.
And today, rock climbing makes its debut in the Olympics.
Components of the climbing walls now in use in Tokyo were designed and built in Bend, furthering local pride and excitement about the event.
From August 3rd through 6th, 40 sport climbing athletes will compete in a combined event featuring all three disciplines: Bouldering, Lead Climbing, and Speed Climbing.
“It’s exciting. It’s been a long time coming, the whole process,” said Sander Cullliton, CEO of EP USA. “We designed the wall internationally with a group of designers from all over the world. I can specifically see elements from our design team here in the U.S., here in Bend Oregon, contributed to that final design that’s now in use in Tokyo.”
Entreprise, the climbing wall company that started in Bend and was recently acquired by an international group, has been working for 20 years on getting this level of exposure for climbing.
And it’s working.
The international Olympic Committee has already decided to expand sports climbing for the next games in Paris in 2024.
“Even to me, as someone who climbs, watching what they are holding on to…these little tiny holds. It’s just incredible,” said Connor Touhey, who works at Circuit Bouldering Gym in Bend. “It fills me with this passion to climb harder, get outside and try harder stuff. I don’t know. It’s really awe-inspiring.”
“It looks super easy like they just climb up a wall, right. But the cool thing about the Olympics is they shoot from all different angles. You see the hard stuff. You see when they are leaning back. You see when they are struggling when the sweat is coming down their face,” said Anika Bonn, Bend. “I think people are going to see a sport where people are putting their heart and soul into what they are doing.”
Olympic sport climbing athletes will be ranked in each of the three disciplines.
Their scores will be multiplied and the male and female athletes with the lowest scores will win gold, silver or bronze medals in the Olympic debut of sport climbing.