Whether watching on TV, in a gym, or anywhere, rope climbing is so much fun. The way participants compete to get to the top is satisfying. To an onlooker, professional rope climbers can make it look so easy. The truth is it requires passion and literal sweat to excel at it.

Rope climbing demands core energy, intelligent coordination, and unwavering focus, and most people have cracked that over time. But where did the sport come from? What are its rules? Who are rope climbing greats? If such questions bother you, this piece attempts to answer them by detailing rope climbing facts.

1. Rope Climbing Originated in Greece

It is hard to tell when certain things started because of inadequate documentation. However, there is evidence that the Greeks engaged in rope-climbing activities before the rise of the Roman Empire. This dates as far back as 776 BC.

In 1554, a German primer introduced rope climbing in gymnastic activities to help kids and adults better exercise. However, it was not until the 1859 Hellenic Games that people competed in the sport for the first time.

2. Rope Climbing Was Introduced To the Olympics in 1896

Held after every 4 years, every top athlete, in whatever field, always looks up to the Olympic Games. For a sport to feature in this event, it must have met specific standards. With that in mind, rope climbing first featured as an Olympic sport in 1896.

The rules required participants to climb about a 15-meter-high rope starting from a sitting position. Competitors were not allowed to use their legs for support. Instead, they would use only their hands and core strength to pull themselves up the rope, maintaining an L shape.

With the hindsight that we now have, those rules were strict. It’s no wonder some reports suggest only two people managed to climb the rope, while others claim only one did. Either way, what’s not in doubt is that Nikolaos Andriakopoulos was the first winner of the first Olympic rope climbing event.

3. Rope Climbing Rules Were Changed for the Second Olympics Edition

After the events of the first rope climbing event in the 1896 Olympic Games, the organizers agreed on tweaking some aspects to make it more favorable. For instance, they replaced the almost 15-meter rope with an 8-meter one.

Also, participants didn’t have to climb to the top; they only had to reach the highest point quickly. After the games, an interim event was held two years later in 1906, further boosting rope climbing’s popularity.

4. George Eyser Won a Rope Climbing Competition with a Wooden Leg

After Nikolaos Andriakopoulos won the first edition of Olympics rope climbing in 1896, George Eyser won the second in 1904. Even though the rope was relatively shorter, George won the competition in 8 seconds, which was commendable. However, there was a twist; George had a wooden leg.

Yes, you read that right! George Eyser competed with a wooden leg and beat competitors with both limbs. If you thought South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius was the first to achieve this feat, now you know, there were others before him.

By the way, George was so good that he won gold in rope climbing and the other 5 Olympic medals on the same day.

5. It Was Discontinued from the Olympics in 1932

If you are wondering why rope climbing is no longer a part of the Olympic Games today, it was discontinued in 1932. Interestingly, the event’s organizers thought the sport was “inappropriate” since competitors had to compete with their legs spread almost apart.

This, coupled with the risk it posed, contributed to the discontinuation of the sport from the Olympics. Competitive rope climbing continued outside the Olympics, though. It survived long enough to produce other greats like Robert Manning, Garvin Smith, and Donald Perry.

6. Several Rope Climbing Techniques Are Available

Today, most people practice rope climbing for leisure and its overall health benefits. It’s considered an excellent full-body workout and is notorious in various military training camps. It also goes without saying that the Olympics’ “no leg” rule was abolished over time.

If anything, the two best rope climbing techniques used today (J-Hook and Spanish wrap) primarily involve the legs.

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Last Update: August 7, 2023