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Two climbers during competition
A climbing competition, sometimes shortened to comp, is usually held indoors on purpose built climbing walls. There are three main types of climbing competition: lead, speed, and bouldering. In lead climbing, the competitors start at the bottom of a route and must climb within a certain time frame, making sure to clip into pre-placed quickdraws along the route. Speed climbing can either be an individual or team event. The person or team that can climb a route the fastest is the winner. Bouldering competitions consist of climbing short problems with the emphasis on number of problems completed. In the United States, the American Bouldering Series organizes regional and national events. Sport climbing will be in the Olympic Games for the first time in 2020.
Lead is the most common type of sport climbing. Competitors climb a long, difficult route designed and set by the route setter and attempt to reach the top. The climber's performance is determined by the highest hold reached and whether or not that hold was "controlled", meaning the climber achieved a stable position on that hold, or "used", meaning the climber used the hold to make a controlled climbing movement in the interest of progressing along the route. All standard Lead competitions consist of three rounds: qualifications, semifinals, and finals. In the qualification round competitors climb 2 similar routes 'flash', meaning there is no isolation and they can watch other competitors climb before their own attempt. Their rank will then be calculated as the square root of their rank on either route multiplied by each other. In the Semifinals and Finals athletes climb a route "on-sight", meaning they enter isolation before the round begins, then they go for 'observation', a 6-minute period in which the athletes are allowed to see the route for the first time and visualize moves. After that, they go back to isolation and come back for their attempt one by one ordered by the reverse of the ranking order of the previous round, i.e. the better the athlete's performance, the later they start their attempt for the next round. In the case of ties, the athlete's rank from the previous round is taken into account (the "countback" process). In the Finals, and if the tie is not broken using the countback process, the climbing time will be considered. (lower times are better) In lead, climbers are belayed from below, and are required to clip quickdraws along the route. The route must be climbed within a certain time limit, usually 6 minutes, but can be extended to 7 or 8 minutes according to the route setter's opinion. 26 athletes qualify for the Semifinal, 8 proceed to the Final.
Speed is the only factor that counts in the Speed Climbing event. Competitors climb a slightly overhanging IFSC certified vertical piste with belaying from the top. Since 2007 the IFSC has created a standard wall for the world record. The climbing time is determined by mechanical-electric timing (the competitor strikes a switch at the top of the route) but manual timing is also possible. When mechanical-electric timing is used, the climbing time shall be measured with an accuracy of 0.01 second. As of 12.09.2014, Ukrainian climber Danyl Boldyrev holds the men's 15 meter speed world record; 5.60 seconds. Iuliia Kaplina from Russia holds the women's 15-meter speed record at 7.53 seconds.
The new Team Speed discipline was introduced as a medal showcase for the 2011 World Championship. It is a relay competition with teams of three. The teams are made up of 3 athletes of the same sex. Before the 2012 set of rules was introduced, the teams had to be mixed sexes. The race is held on the world record wall split into four lanes, two for each team. The first athlete races to hit the button at the top of the wall, at which point the second athlete climbs the second leg to release the third and final athlete whose final button marks the total time.
The bouldering competition consists of climbing without belay ropes on short walls. Falls are stopped by specifically engineered mattresses. This discipline is marked by high difficulty concentrated into a short route, limited competition time, and close proximity to the spectators. It differs especially from Lead in the respect that the climber can attempt a route more than once. The competitor's score is determined by the overall number of routes sent by him/her and the number of attempts needed. If athletes do not reach the finishing hold they may be awarded a bonus point for having reached a particular hold, the Bonus hold, which is marked by the route setter. In bouldering 20 athletes qualify for the Semifinal, and 6 proceed to the Final.
Bouldering competitions at higher levels usually use Isolation like the roped competitions.
In the USA, ABS (American Bouldering Series) organizes regional, divisional, and national comps.
Duel is not yet an official medal competition, but it is part of Rock Master competition finals. Duel is a combination of lead and speed. The two athletes compete on two identical, parallel routes, and they are belayed from below. Whoever gets to the top first, wins.
Sometimes climbers must climb the route on sight. This means that they are not allowed to see other climbers on the route, or receive any form of advice (beta) from other climbers, and have only a limited amount of time to visually inspect the route from ground level. (Otherwise later climbers would be able to learn from previous competitors' mistakes, giving them a considerable advantage.)
There can be open competitive climbing or youth climbing. Youth climbing is competitions for children under 18 years of age. These competitions are separated into categories such as 11 and under, 12-13, 14-15, etc. Competitions can be held anywhere across the country, for that reason, competitions are divided into divisions. There are eight divisions. In the end, there is a national competition that invites the top 6 climbers in each age and gender category from each division to compete. There are about 30 girls and 30 boys invited from each division to compete in national competitions. There are two sections to these competitions, the semifinals and the finals. Only the top ten people competing can make it into finals. At the end of the final round, the top four winners of every age category would be invited to compete in international competitions. In the United States, Youth Climbing is organized by USAC (USA climbing). The World Championship as well as the World Cup and the European Championship competition is administered by the International Federation of Sport Climbing.
In August 2016 it was announced that climbing would become an Olympic sport in 2020. Competitors will take part in three disciplines (Lead, Speed and Bouldering), to decide the overall winner.