Basketball 3×3, sports climbing and other new sports to watch at the Tokyo Olympics

Photo of Cal Baseball
Josh Kahen/File
Update 7/24/21: This story has been updated to remove a source who is no longer affiliated with Skateboarding at Berkeley.

The Tokyo Summer Olympic Games is one of the most highly anticipated events of the year, especially because of its delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Athletes are not the only ones making their much-anticipated Olympic debuts at Tokyo; numerous sporting events will be held at the Games for the very first time.

Namely, basketball 3×3, mixed team events, surfing, freestyle BMX and karate are new sports for the Olympic Games this year.

Basketball 3×3 is a unique sport where the competitions are played on a half court, scoring is comprised of 1-pointers and 2-pointers and each team is made up of four players. The games are also much shorter than traditional basketball games.

Additionally, mixed team events will be introduced at the Games to focus on gender equality at this summer’s Olympics. Specifically, mixed team events for swimming, track and field, archery, judo, shooting, table tennis and triathlon will be sporting events at Tokyo, featuring both men and women competing on the same teams.

Some sports will be debuting at the Olympic Games this summer because they are important to Japanese culture. Namely, karate, created in Okinawa, Japan in 1868, will be held at the Olympics for the first time this summer.

Also, while softball and baseball had a brief stint in the Olympics, they were both removed in 2008. However, these sports will be coming back to the Olympics this summer due to baseball’s importance in Japan.

Sports climbing and skateboarding will also make their way into the Olympic Games in Tokyo for the very first time.

When asked about sports climbing’s first Olympic appearance, Zeke Lam, co-president of Cal Climbing, noted that the competition will become a popular Olympic sport to watch because it is dynamic and easy to understand.

While individual formats of sports climbing have their own unique rules for scoring, Lam explained that the goal is to get to the top of the course in all formats.

“Speed climbing is surprisingly fun to watch because even though climbers climb the same route every time, it’s a very quick and exciting race to the top,” Lam said in an email.

According to Lam, competition bouldering has evolved over time into a sport that is “almost reminiscent of parkour,” as it has many large “jumps and swings.”

Lam also added that Olympic sports climbers he will be watching closely at the Games are Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret, Adam Ondra of Czechia, the United States’ Brooke Raboutou and Japan’s Akiyo Noguchi and Tomoa Narasaki.

Ondra, according to Lam, is largely considered to be “the best climber in the world” and is expected to win any bouldering and lead World Cup competitions, but speed climbing will likely hold him back at the Games, as it is an event that Ondra “has historically struggled in and openly dislikes.”

When co-founder and co-president of Skateboarding at Berkeley, Jonathan Napoles found out that skateboarding was added as one of the newest Olympic sports, he was “confused” due to the “anti-authoritative” nature of skateboarding culture.

“Skateboarders are criminalized and often looked down upon in society, just take a look at what happened in Love Park located in Philadelphia,” Napoles said in an email. “The city banned skateboarding in the park, so a big group of cops would show up and chase, arrest, charge fines, and confiscate everyone’s boards in the late 90s.”

Napoles also added that skaters view skateboarding more as a form of expression rather than a sport.

Additionally, Skateboarding at Berkeley co-founder and co-president Jesus Cubilla mentioned that Yuto Horigome is a skateboarder to watch at the upcoming Games.

Olympic skateboarding also features many young athletes, such as Rayssa Leal, who has been described by Napoles as a skateboarder to watch.

Napoles noted that Leal is “br[eaking] down barriers” for women in skateboarding, and will be “unstoppable” in future Olympics, even if she does not win at Tokyo.

Cubilla, whose brother modeled the Brazilian Olympic Skateboarding Team’s uniforms, also explained that there is a connection between skateboarding and fashion.

“I’m sure it’s going to attract many viewers as skateboarding is already so big. I mean look at the fashion industry skateboarding has had such a big influence towards it,” concluded Cubilla in an email.

Contact Rina Rossi at [email protected].