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www.sportseventsmagazine.com February 2017 29 t SPORT Report The sport of climbing recently achieved a long-awaited milestone when the an- nouncement was made in August 2016 that climbers will compete in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Part of an approved new event package that includes baseball/softball, karate, skate- boarding and surfing, the climbing event will feature three disciplines: sport, boulder- ing and speed. Athletes will compete in all three events and the combined results of the three disciplines will determine the medalists. The announcement was quite a few years in the making. While the International Federation of Sport Climbing has pushed for climbing to become an Olympic sport for some time, it was passed over in 2013. Thanks to a new program allowing host countries to propose sports with broad local and international appeal, climbing got a second chance for the 2020 Games. Krista Henehan, director of operations for USA Climbing, believes this announce- ment is good news for future participation numbers. "The sport of competition climbing continues to grow significantly and we anticipate seeing another big spark with the announcement of competition climbing on the ticket for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics," Henehan said, adding that the national gov- erning body is already experiencing notable growth this year of more than 25 percent. While that figure will not be finalized until the end of August, this trend follows several years of growth more than 15 percent per year. Broad Appeal Unlike many traditional sports in which participation is weighted heavily toward one gender, USA Climbing's membership is 43 percent female and 57 percent male. Much of the recent growth experienced in the sport of climbing is attributed to the evolution of indoor competitions and gyms. Climbing Business Journal reports that the number of indoor gyms across the U.S. reached 414 in 2016, up from 282 in 2012. Today's climbing competitions are gen- erally held indoors on walls that allow route setters — the professionals who design rock-climbing constructs — to set boulders or routes using artificial climbing holds. USA Climbing owns two bouldering walls that can be transported and set up in venues, allowing competitions to be moved from place to place. Henehan said that growth of indoor gyms increasingly exposes American youth to the sport's appeal, resulting in notable organic growth. In fact, USA Climbing has realized significant growth at its youth champion- ship-level events as well as in its collegiate membership, which increased 28 percent last year. Participation in the organization's Boul- dering and Sport & Speed Youth Regional Championships is also on the rise. Year- over-year growth from 2014-15 to 2015-16 was 20 percent, and the 2016-17 season realized 23 percent growth. Henehan point- ed out that youth divisional and national championship events are by invitation only, allowing for only limited growth, although the number of unaccepted invitations con- tinues to decrease each year. Primary Events USA Climbing has focused its efforts in recent years on expanding appeal through climbing competitions across the country and improving user experience through ► GROWTH TRENDS USA Climbing's membership numbers continue to grow each year. The organi- zation's fiscal year and climbing season runs from September 1 through August 31 annually. Membership numbers have realized the following growth trends since 2011: 2012 - 2013 19.24% 2013 - 2014 16.31% 2014 - 2015 15.59% 2015 - 2016 18.77%