The Tokyo Summer Olympics are a year off, and there are plenty of new sports and events to become acclimated with before the cauldron is lit on July 24, 2020.
While baseball and softball are returning after a 12-year hiatus and numerous other sports see tweaks and adjustments — be it basketball, cycling or archery — the Games will be the debut for karate, skateboarding, surfing and sport climbing on the world’s biggest stage
Here’s a look at 10 things to know from the new sports and events making a debut next summer:
Catching waves: With a subjective scoring structure, there was some debate over whether surfing events should take place in a wave pool, ensuring the same conditions and wave height for each competitor. Instead, Olympic organizers announced the competition will be held at Shidashita Beach, which is about 40 miles away from Tokyo. At the start of last week’s test event, small waves and heavy fog presented a challenge, but Robert Fasulo, executive director of the International Surfing Association called the conditions “absolutely adequate.”
Because officials won’t know too far in advance when the waves are at their best, there will be a 16-day window for the men’s and women’s events to take place. Once conditions are ideal, the contest will take two days to complete, with groups of four competing at once.
Surf qualifications: The 2019 World Surf League season will help decide who qualifies for the 2020 Games. The top 10 men and top eight women in the league will earn qualification, while the other 22 seeds — making up a 40-person field — will be distributed to competitors in the ISA World Surfing Games and Pan-American Games. Two slots will also be reserved for the host nation, and a maximum of four positions (two men, two women) will be available per country.
As for Team USA, 17-year-old Caroline Marks is high in the WSL rankings, but will have a challenge to qualify with a slew of other American women surfers near the top, too. And Kelly Slater — the 47-year-old 11-time world surfing champion — has contemplated retirement from full-time competition, but he hasn’t ruled out a go in the 2020 Olympics if he qualifies.
Also, in the WSL, Hawaii is listed as its own country. In the Olympics, though, Hawaiian-born John John Florence and Carissa Moore — two of the top surfers in the world — will be eligible for the United States.
Sport climbing events: There are different ways to climb, and that will be represented in the Olympics: bouldering, lead climbing and speed climbing. Bouldering challenges climbers with a course to navigate in a fixed amount time. In lead climbing, Olympians will attempt to climb as high as they can up a 15-meter wall within six minutes. And in speed climbing, two competitors will race up a 15-meter wall.
Well-rounded is best for climbing: Climbing will feature an interesting scoring sequence, forcing competitors to excel in all three events rather than just one. To calculate a climber’s final score, their final position in each event will be multiplied together, with the lowest total winning. So, if a climber is well-rounded and finishes third in each event — totaling 27, if multiplied together — that will score better than winning one event and placing poorly in the others.
Karate forms and scoring: Eight gold medals will be up for grab during the karate events: six for kumite (sparring) and two for kata (forms). The kumite events will be broken into three weight classes per gender, while kata has just one weight class.
Kicking, striking and punching are the accepted attacks during kumite, with points delivered (one to three) depending on the place of contact. The competition ends when one competitor leads by eight points. If the time limit runs out (three minutes for men, two for women) without either combatant leading by eight, whoever has the lead wins.
Karate makes a fitting debut: Martial arts events will take place inside the Nippon Budokan, a venue built for the judo competition held during Tokyo’s 1964 Olympics. Apart from all the famous concerts at the arena (The Beatles, Bob Dylan), the venue is the historic home to martial art events in the massive city.
Judo was first introduced in the 1964 Games, and karate will be included in its native Japan when the Olympics return next year.
Park and street skateboarding: Skateboarding events have been introduced for the 2020 Olympics, with two events: park and street. Much like BMX cycling, the park event will feature what resembles an empty swimming pool. Competitors will have three timed runs for tricks. And on street, there will be ramps and rails for routines and tricks.
There will be a total of 80 total spots, with 20 in each event. Each country can enter a maximum of three athletes in each event.
The U.S. skateboarding team: The inaugural U.S. national skateboarding team was announced in March, with 16 skaters included. But that team is different from the group that will head to Tokyo in 2020. The Olympic team will be decided through qualifiers.
And while the first USA Skateboarding team features stars such as Nyjah Huston and Tom Schaar, there are plenty of others looking to qualify for the Olympics who aren’t on the team — namely, Shaun White. White’s best event, known as “vert,” is not one of the events included in the Olympics. White announced Tuesday he’ll compete at the world championships in September to “test the waters and see what happens.”
3-on-3 basketball: Basketball has been a permanent fixture for men at the Olympics since 1936 — it wasn’t added for women until 1976 — but the Tokyo Games will have a new event, and it looks much like the pickup games players run at their local court. Only this time, it’s on the world’s stage.
In addition to the traditional 5-on-5 games, the Olympics will feature 3-on-3 basketball. Baskets scored inside the three-point arc will count as one point while shots from deep will be two points, and the first team to 21 points (or whichever team is leading after 10 minutes of play) wins.
Team USA has been a world powerhouse in basketball since the sport was introduced at the Olympics. The women’s team has won gold in all but one tournament since 1984, and the men have won 15 gold medals since 1936.
Baseball and softball return: The Americans will like their chances for a medal in baseball and softball, too, which returns to the Olympics after a 12-year absence. The USA won gold in softball three times before Japan edged the U.S. in 2008 in Beijing, the last time the sport was included at the Olympics. And in baseball — which has been included off and on since 1904 — the U.S. is coming off a win at the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
Cuba holds three Olympic golds, the most of any federation since baseball became official from 1992 to 2008. The U.S. captured gold in 2000 and will have another go at it two decades later.