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Skateboard & sport climbing hopefuls have 2020 fever

24 July 2018

TOKYO 2020: As we celebrate two years to Tokyo 2020, three up and coming Aussie athletes have revelled in the idea they might get their first shot at Olympic glory in two years time, along with the honour of being the first Australians to compete in their chosen disciplines at an Olympic Games.

Skateboarder Amar Hadid, along with sport climbers Ben Abel and Angie Scarth-Johnson hope to first appear on the Olympic stage in their debuting sports at Tokyo 2020.

The announcement of skateboarding on the Olympic programme may have come as a surprise to many back in 2016, but not for 19-year-old Hadid.

“I was so excited when I found out skateboarding was being included in the Olympics, but I wasn’t surprised,” Hadid said.

“I knew that skateboarding was a professional sport that deserved to be in the Olympics, so it was only a matter of time before we saw it added to the list of Olympic sports.”

The announcement of skateboarding debuting at Tokyo 2020 has also provided educational opportunities for Hadid, who landed the first Australian Elite Athlete Scholarship in skateboarding through the University of Sydney.

“Having skateboarding as an Olympic sport gives athletes like me a pathway to pursue our passion professionally and be recognised for the hard work we put in, the same way athletes from other sports do.”

If you’d never heard of sport climbing, you wouldn’t be alone. This new discipline is similar to rock climbing, although sport climbing relies on permanent anchors to inside walls rather than the climber scaling rocks and cliffs in nature.

19-year-old Ben Abel has battled through a multitude of injuries since he started sport climbing seven years ago. He won the national Youth A title in 2016 with a  broken back, and has had various finger, shoulder and ankle injuries along the way.

But for Abel, the pain is definitely worth the gain, especially now that he has the potential to represent his country at the Olympics.

“Climbing is something I love because it challenges me physically and mentally. I look at each climb like a problem or a puzzle that needs to be solved and am always amazed at the mechanics of the human body and what our bodies can actually do,” Abel said.

As for what he thinks will be the main draw card in getting the audience interested in watching sport climbing at Tokyo, Abel said,

“I think the complexity will draw people in, and also seeing what the human body is actually capable of when put on a wall.”

Angie SJ

At just 14 years-old, Angie Scarth-Johnson holds the world record for being the youngest climber to complete a grade 31 difficulty climb. Grade 31 falls into the category of “expert” in the sport climbing grading system, and did this at just nine years old, then progressed to grade 32 and 33 at 10 and 11 years old and wants to be the first Australian female to climb a grade 35.

Now, the young record holder is vying for a place at Tokyo 2020.

“When I first started climbing as a seven-year-old, not many people were involved and the sport was very small, but now there are so many climbing gyms opening up in Sydney, it’s great to see it becoming more mainstream.”

If she qualifies, Scarth-Johnson will be one of the youngest Olympians at Tokyo, so her training regime in preparation for the Games will differ to that of older climbers.

“To prepare for a spot at Tokyo 2020, I’m planning to go to as many Youth World Cups as I can," she said. “I will be the youngest climber to go to the Olympics if I qualify, which means I will have the disadvantage of not being able to compete in the open World Cups, so getting as much experience as I can is my main goal before Tokyo 2020.”

With two years to go, there are 731 days these determined young athletes have to work towards making their Olympic dream a reality.

Liana Buratti

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