July 29, 2021

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Here are all the new and returning sports at the Tokyo Olympics

There are four brand new sports making their Olympic debuts in Tokyo, with two modified versions of established events and a couple of returning faces also added to the program.

Check out what’s new, what’s different and what’s coming back.

3×3 basketball

Like basketball but with four fewer players on the court at any one time.

Belgium and Turkey play a three-on-three basketball matchBelgium and Turkey play a three-on-three basketball match
The Chinese women are the current 3×3 world champions, while the US won the last men’s World Cup, but didn’t qualify for Tokyo.(

Reuters: Kai Pfaffenbach, file photo

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The sport’s profile was elevated by Ice Cube’s Big 3 tournament back in 2017, which featured a bevy of ex-NBA stars.

With obvious roots in pick-up basketball, 3×3 ball is played on a half-court and the winner is the first team to 21 or the team leading after 10 minutes.

The scoring system is also similar to casual basketball, with the traditional three-point line serving as a two-point line and every bucket scored from inside the line worth just one point.

When is it? 3×3 basketball will be the first of all the brand new sports to show out at this year’s Olympics, with the pool rounds starting on Saturday, July 24. The medal games are on Wednesday, July 28.

Australians competing: Australia doesn’t have a men’s or women’s team in Tokyo.

Skateboarding

One of a couple of ‘How do you do, fellow kids?’ events being added to the Olympic slate.

IOC president Thomas Bach explicitly said this sport was included because “we cannot expect any more that [young people] will come automatically to us; we have to go to them”.

A girl stands smiling with a ticketA girl stands smiling with a ticket
Hayley Wilson, who won an X Games silver medal in 2019, is one of five Australians competing in the skateboarding.(

Supplied

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Olympic skateboarding is contested in street and park formats.

  • Street: Competitors ride along a path with rails, boxes, stairs and smaller ramps, performing flip tricks, grinds and slides on a course that resembles the sorts of things you might see on, well, a street.
  • Park: Skaters are in a bowl-like course with steeper ramps and walls, allowing for more aerial tricks. Think of it like a gymnast’s floor routine with an extra sprinkling of radical.

When is it? Men’s street starts and ends on July 25, with the women carving up the course the next day, with the women’s park competition on Wednesday, August 4 and the men wrapping things up the next day.

Australians competing: Hayley Wilson (women’s street) and Shane O’Neill (men’s street). Keegan Palmer (men’s park), Kieran Woolley (men’s park) and Poppy Olsen (women’s park).

Surfing

Woman holding a surf board pumps her fist in the air and is cheered on by people around her.Woman holding a surf board pumps her fist in the air and is cheered on by people around her.
Australia is sending Sally Fitzgibbons (pictured) along with Steph GIlmore, Owen Wright and Julian Wilson.(

Instagram: Sally Fitzgibbons

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Australia will have a great shot at a medal when Tsurigasaki Beach hosts history’s first Olympic surfing competition, as one of the world’s top surfing nations, along with Brazil and the US.

Seventeen of the past 22 women’s world championships have been won by Australians, including Tokyo 2020 competitor Steph Gilmore’s seven titles, and we’ve won four men’s world titles since 2007, although none since 2013.

Surfing will head to more famous waves in 2024, with Paris organisers sending competitors to the Teahupo’o break in Tahiti.

When is it? The event is supposed to start on Sunday, July 25 and end with gold- and bronze-medal contests on Wednesday, July 28, but there are four reserve days set aside (July 29-August 1) in case the waves don’t want to play ball.

Australians competing: Sally Fitzgibbons and Steph Gilmore (women’s), and Julian Wilson and Owen Wright (men’s).

BMX freestyle

BMX was the IOC’s last apparent attempt to appeal to the X Games crowd when it was introduced for Beijing in 2008.

BMX racing has been a fixture since then, but Tokyo will see the introduction of BMX freestyle.

An empty BMX Freestyle course at Ariake Urban Sports Park at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics site.An empty BMX Freestyle course at Ariake Urban Sports Park at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics site.
This is what the BMX freestyle course in Tokyo looks like.(

Getty Images: Ezra Shaw

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Riders will have 60 seconds to do as many impressive tricks as possible on a course like the arena used for the skateboarding park competition, and judges will give scores based on the difficulty and execution of those tricks.

When is it? The seeding rounds are on Saturday, July 31, with the finals the next day.

Australians competing: Logan Martin (men’s) and Natalya Diehm (women’s).

Sport climbing

Slovenian climber Janja Garnbret splays her arms and leg wide while on the bouldering wall at the IFSC Climbing World Cup.Slovenian climber Janja Garnbret splays her arms and leg wide while on the bouldering wall at the IFSC Climbing World Cup.
Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret is a heavy favourite for gold.(

Reuters: Jeffrey Swinger/USA TODAY Sports

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With indoor and outdoor climbing growing in popularity around the world, the International Olympic Committee has jumped on board by adding sport climbing to the program for the Tokyo Olympics.

It’s a combined event, with athletes competing in speed, lead and bouldering and the person with the best overall outing wins gold.

  • Speed climbing: Pits competitors against each other on a standardised 15-metre wall that’s used all around the world. Whoever gets to the top and stops the clock fastest gets the points.
  • Lead climbing: Done on a 15-metre wall where climbers are roped in and have to clip their rope into every carabiner as they go up. They’re measured by how high they get. If two climbers are tied, whoever got their fastest wins.
  • Bouldering: Done on 4.5-metre walls without a rope (don’t worry, the landing area is padded). The moves are often quick, powerful and technical, although there will likely be some delicate problems with very small or non-existent footholds. The aim is to complete each boulder “problem” in as few attempts as possible in the four minutes allotted. There are also “zone” holds in each climb for bonus points.

When is it? It starts on Tuesday, August 3 and runs until Friday, August 6.

Australians competing: Tom O’Halloran (men’s) and Oceana Mackenzie (women’s).

Karate

Man wearing a karate uniform doing a side kick in a dojo Man wearing a karate uniform doing a side kick in a dojo
In the kata discipline of karate, athletes simply show off their form.(

ABC RN: Mike Williams

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According to the Tokyo 2020 website, karate has been trying to get into the Olympics since the 1970s but it wasn’t approved until 2015, when the IOC gave it the go-ahead for the Tokyo Games.

The Japanese martial art has two competitions contested by men and women: kumite and kata.

  • Kumite: Your Karate Kid-style competition, where two karatekas try to beat each other in a bout.
  • Kata: Demonstrating offensive and defensive karate moves, targeting a virtual opponent.

The IOC and Paris 2024 organisers have not committed to having this at the Olympics going forward.

When is it? The karate starts on August 5 and all six weight classes (-67kg, -75kg and +75kg for men; -55kg, -61kg and +61kg for women) are wrapped over three days.

Australians competing: Tsuneari Yahiro (men’s -75kg).

Baseball and softball

an Australian softball pitcher winds up before delivering a pitchan Australian softball pitcher winds up before delivering a pitch
Perhaps the biggest difference between softball and baseball is the under-arm pitching in the former.(

Supplied

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No, you’re not losing it, you may well have seen these sports at the Olympics before. They’re not strictly speaking new, but they’re coming back.

Both were omitted from the London 2012 and Rio 2016 programs.

Baseball is only contested by men, while softball is strictly a women’s event.

When is it? Softball started two days before the opening ceremony, on Wednesday, July 21, with Australia losing to Japan. The medal matches are on Tuesday, July 27. The baseball starts the next day and runs until Saturday, August 7.

Australians competing: We have a softball team, but no baseball team.

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