Five new sports will be making their debuts at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The Games will feature a record 33 sports with 339 medals up for grabs. Team GB’s Sky Brown will look for glory in skateboarding while Shauna Coxsey will have high hopes in climbing.
Sportsmail’s Riath Al-Samarrai takes you through the five new sports on show in Japan.
Five new sports will be making their debuts at the Olympic Games in Tokyo including surfing
The introduction of skateboarding for these Games and those of 2024 is part of the International Olympic Committee’s drive for that ever-elusive younger audience. New friends are all well and good, but it will stick in the craw somewhat with the more curmudgeonly and traditional.
In Tokyo the sport will be split into two disciplines — park and street. Park takes place in a dome-shaped bowl with an onus on maintaining flow through the course while performing tricks. Street is a course comprised of rails and stairs. Each discipline is scored by a group of judges.
British interest in the skateboarding will predominantly centre on Sky Brown and Bombette Martin. Brown will become Britain’s youngest summer Olympian when she competes at the age of 13 years and 11 days, while Martin herself is only 14. There has been a degree of unease around the marketing of Brown, who is sponsored by Nike among others, following her team’s decision to release a video last year in the wake of a serious fall. Brown will be a medal contender in park.
British interest in the skateboarding will predominantly centre on Sky Brown, who will become Britain’s youngest summer Olympian when she competes at the age of 13 years and 11 days
This has the potential to be an eye-catching new addition to the programme and one in which Britain has a strong medal hope in Shauna Coxsey.
As with the other Olympic newcomers, the IOC has been lured in by strong numbers — an estimated 25 million people across the world climb regularly.
The sport has three elements: bouldering is an exercise in problem solving on a difficult 4metre climb without a rope; Speed is a race up a 15m wall against an opponent; and lead climbing gives a roped climber a fixed time to get as high as possible. Each is normally its own discipline with its own competitions and specialists, but controversially they have been combined for one medal event in Tokyo.
‘To be honest I didn’t feel very positive towards it at first,’ Coxsey, a bouldering specialist, told Sportsmail in 2019.
‘It wasn’t actually an easy decision as to whether I even wanted to try for the Games but after studying the decision, and seeing it was a case that climbing was being given one medal, I got it.’
Climbing could be an eye-catching addition and Team GB have a strong medal hope in Shauna Coxsey
Karate is coming home. The sport campaigned long and hard to get a seat at this table and will finally have its chance in the country of its origin. It will be a short stay, however, as it is not on the list to appear in Paris in 2024.
There will be two disciplines in Tokyo — kata and kumite. Kata is a demonstration art in which the fighters are judged on their techniques, while kumite pits them against each other in a bout.
There will be three weight classes each for men and women in kumite, with staging given to the Nippon Budokan, which hosted the first ever World Karate Championships in 1970.
Jordan Thomas, who won the -67kg kumite world title in 2016, had been tipped as a potential contender but failed to qualify, meaning Britain will have no representatives in the sport.
Spain’s Sandra Sanchez is the heavy favourite to take home the gold medal in karate
BASEBALL AND SOFTBALL
Baseball and softball are back on the programme after being canned in 2008, and neither is currently slated for the Games in 2024. Doubtless it is down to the immense popularity of those sports in Japan, where the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league is generally regarded as second only to Major League Baseball in quality.
Only six nations will contest the baseball in Tokyo — Japan, the United States, Israel, Mexico, South Korea and the Dominican Republic.
The same number of countries will field female teams for the softball — Japan, the United States, Mexico, Italy, Australia and Canada. Both will feature a pool stage followed by knockout rounds, with Japan clear favourites to win gold in the baseball and considered equal to the US in the softball.
While the United States is synonymous with baseball, no active-roster Major League players will play for Team USA.
They will have a number of past MLB stars, as well as infielder Eddy Alvarez, who as an interesting sideline won a silver medal in the 2014 Winter Olympics in short track speed skating.
Pictured: Italy take on Australia in softball, which is back in the Games alongside baseball
Another strand of the IOC’s hearts-and-minds mission.
As with skateboarding, it makes its debut in Tokyo and has provisionally been included in for Paris 2024, albeit in the slightly jarring location of Tahiti (approximately 10,000 miles from France).
The surfing in Tokyo will take place at Tsurigasaki Beach in Ichinomiya and will involve male and female categories.
There will be preliminary heats, each of which lasting 20 to 25 minutes, assuming the waves are sufficient, and only one rider of four per heat can surf a wave at any one time. Judging is based on the difficulty, speed and flow of the manoeuvres rather than numbers of waves.
Despite initially hoping to qualify a surfer for Tokyo, Britain will not be represented on the waves this time.
The surfing in Tokyo will take place at Tsurigasaki Beach in Ichinomiya and will involve male and female categories