This year’s Olympics in Tokyo are set to feature the most events ever staged at an edition of the Games with a record-breaking 339. While a couple of sports are returning after a short period of absence, the increase is largely because several sports and specific events will be making their Olympic debut. So what are the new events at the Olympics and how do they work? Read on to find out.
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New sport: Karate
There will be eight karate gold medals up for grabs at this year’s Olympics, comprised of four each for men and women across two disciplines. A total of 80 athletes will compete in them at the Nippon Budokan.
Kata karate events test performers' technical prowess and athletic ability.
Kumite, the traditional sparring discipline for karate, will have three male and three female events in different weight classes, while Kata, the solo performance discipline, will have one event each for men and women.
In Kumite events, two competitors face each other on a matted area of eight metres in length and width. Each contest lasts for three minutes or until one fighter establishes an eight-point lead. In the event of a tie, the victory is awarded to whoever scored the first point and if the bout is scoreless, the winner is decided via a panel of judges.
There are three primary methods to score points. A Yuko, or clean punch to the opponent’s chest, awards one point, a Waza-ari, or clean kick to the opponent’s back or mid-level, awards two points, and an Ippon, or clean kick to the opponent’s face or any attack performed on a fallen or thrown opponent, awards three points.
In Kata events, athletes perform a solo choreographed routine of karate movements. Performances are rated by a panel of seven judges, who award point scores from five to 10 based on technical prowess (70% of the final score) and athletic ability (30%).
Technical components on which performances are judged include stance, technique, and timing, while athletic ability is determined by strength, speed, and balance. Final scores are calculated by removing the two highest and two lowest ratings awarded and adding up the other three.
New sport: Skateboarding
The Ariake Urban Sports Park will witness 80 skateboarders compete across four events, comprised of two each for men and women in two skating disciplines: park and street. All four events will consist of a preliminary round followed by a final.
The park skateboarding events will take place in a setting that emulates a purpose-built skate park. It will therefore feature components including halfpipes and quarterpipes, obstacles such as rails, ramps, and slopes, and other landmarks designed to be jumped over or have tricks performed upon.
Each skater will perform three 45-second runs, which are rated by five judges on a zero to 100-point scale. To calculate each run score, the highest and lowest ratings awarded for the run are dismissed and the remaining three are averaged. The highest score achieved among the three runs is then submitted as their final score.
Meanwhile, the street skateboarding events will take place in an urban environment setting, complete with obstacles including stairs, handrails, benches, and other street furniture designed for the skaters to perform tricks around, on, or over.
For these events, skaters will perform two 45-second runs and five tricks, which are rated by five judges on a zero to 10-point scale. To calculate a run or trick score, the highest and lowest ratings awarded are dismissed and the remaining three are averaged. The four highest individual run or trick scores the skater receives are then added together to determine their final score.
New sport: Sport climbing
Sport climbing will stage one event each for men and women, at which 40 athletes will compete at the Aomi Urban Sports Park. Across a qualification round and then a final, the events will be comprised of three disciplines; lead climbing, bouldering, and speed climbing.
Sport climbing has been added to the programme after featuring at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics.
In the lead climbing stage, competitors will attempt to climb as high as possible on a wall measuring over 15 metres in height within a set time limit, while in the bouldering component, they will have to scale a number of fixed bouldering routes on a 4.5-metre wall in a specified period of time. The speed climbing element pits athletes in pairs, who will then compete against each other to climb a 15-metre high wall in the fastest time.
Athletes will receive a score for each discipline, with a lower score signifying a better performance. The competitor with the lowest combined score across the three disciplines will be declared the winner.
New sport: Surfing
There will be one surfing event each for men and women, in which a total of 40 athletes will compete at Shidashita Beach in Chiba. For Tokyo, the surfers will be using the shortboard, which is approximately 1.8 metres in length and features a pointed tip designed to aid turning and quicken manoeuvres.
Both events will have a format in which an initial heats round taking place across three days is used to establish eight quarter-finalists, who will then compete in head-to-head contests for the remainder of the tournament. Each heat will last for 20 to 25 minutes and allows a surfer to ride a maximum of 25 waves during it.
Surfers are rated by a panel of five judges, who score their performance on each wave from one to 10. Scores are awarded according to a combination of the speed, power, and difficulty of the wave, and the innovation, complexity, and variety of the manoeuvres exhibited by the surfer as they ride it. The surfers’ final scores for each heat are determined by combining their two highest individual wave scores.
Returning sports and new events
There is a solitary gold medal up for grabs in baseball, which as previously mentioned is back on the programme after a 13-year absence and will include six teams playing at the Yokohama Stadium and Fukushima Azuma Stadium in a nine-inning format. The teams will initially compete in a two-group round-robin opener, before competing in a modified double-elimination knockout bracket to determine the winner.
Making a simultaneous comeback is softball, a sport largely similar to baseball with the major exceptions being that there is a smaller playing area, the bats can be no longer than 86cm as opposed to 106cm, and pitches are thrown underhand. The six teams will contest a round-robin group stage, with the top two progressing to the gold medal match and the third and fourth-placed teams facing off for the bronze medal.
As its name suggests, 3x3 basketball is a variant in which two teams of three players face off on a half-court that has a lone net. Matches last for a single period of 10 minutes or until one team scores 21 points, with a successful shot from inside the arc earning one point and from outside the arc earning two. Teams are permitted a single substitute and a coin toss is used to start the match as opposed to a jump ball.
The two freestyle BMX events will see the nine male and female riders apiece given two 60-second runs on the setting at the Ariake Urban Sports Park. During each run, the riders will attempt to execute acrobatic tricks on obstacles such as walls, box jumps, and spines. The competition will commence with an initial seeding round before the final.
Performances are awarded scores judged on multiple aspects, including the difficulty, originality, execution, height, and creativity of the manoeuvres they pull off. The riders’ higher score from their two runs is submitted as their final score, meaning it is common to see riders test the waters with an initial conservative run before pulling out all the stops on their second outing.
The two Madison cycling events at the Izu Velodrome involve two 50km endurance relays for men and women, in which teams of two cyclists take turns to race, swapping over throughout. As a consequence, it is one of the more intriguing and tactical cycling events and features a palpable reliance on strong communication and teamwork.
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