With the 2020 Summer Games now just a year away, athletes in three new sports will be added to the roster: skateboarding, surfing, and rock-climbing. And, in 2024, the urban phenomenon breakdancing becomes an Olympic discipline. This is not the first time the list has changed: In the century and a quarter since the Olympics were revived in 1896, inevitably disciplines have been added and removed with the tastes and customs of the time. Tug-of-war, for instance, was featured both in Ancient Greece and in modern games from 1900 to 1920, while figure skating didn’t make its Olympic debut until 1976.
Austria is well-known for its top performances in the Winter Games, with 114 medals in alpine skiing alone. But when it comes to the Summer Games, the country has won only 87 medals across all disciplines, and taken home only one gold – for sailing – in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro games. Could these new sports give Austria a fresh chance to excel? Skateboarding. Austria has one of the top 100 skaters in the word in Julia Brueckler. Ranked 20th overall in women’s skating, according to global rankings on theboardr.com, the Vienna native is the only person listed by the Austrian Olympic Committee as competing in the upcoming qualifiers for both park and street events.
Surfing. Austria faces a challenge when it comes to riding the waves. As a land-locked country, there are no salt-water swells for would-be competitors to practice on: Surfing is thus relegated to a holiday activity for locals. Vienna does host the CityWave Pro Austria open every year in a wave pool, dominated by Salzburg’s Lukas Haigermoser and Paul Steindl – but so-called indoor river surfing hasn’t yet made the Olympic Committee cut, at least not for now.
Sport Climbing. With nearly two-thirds of the country in the Alps, here Austria is in a strong position. Local talent holds the top-ten spots across various climbing disciplines according to the International Federation of Sports Climbing. Tragically, top climbers David Lama and Hansjörg Auer perished in April in an avalanche in Alberta, Canada. Despite the shadow of their loss, however, leading competitors like Jessica Pilz, Jakob Schubert and Georg Parma are listed as training for qualification in bouldering and speed-climbing – potentially in time for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Breakdancing. This won’t become an Olympic sport until 2024, so Austria – currently ranked 51st in the world according to bboyrankingz.com – has time to up its game. This athletic street style, emerging as part of hip-hop culture in New York City in the 1970s and 1980s, is not unknown here, but also not widespread.
So while Austria is unlikely to lead in either breakdancing or surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing might offer chances to bring home a gold in 2020 and at Summer Games to come.