Kiteboarding: can the sport make it to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games? | Photo: IKA

Kiteboarding hopes to earn a place on the Olympic stage at the Tokyo 2020 Games after World Sailing proposed it as one of two "showcase disciplines" to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

In a late February, World Sailing Council meeting delegates decided that male and female kiteboarding events should debut in the 2020 Summer Olympics, along with keelboat racing, in addition to sailing's existing ten medal disciplines.

The IOC will consider the proposal in the coming months, but any final move on the showcase events would come after the decision about the Olympic medal events in July.

However, many uncertainties still remain. While the format and equipment are yet to be selected, the kiteboarding events will almost certainly be some form of short-track hydrofoil racing, with proposed 20 men and 20 women competing in separate events.

Although it is not entirely clear what showcase events would actually entail, or how much prominence and attention they will be afforded compared to full medal events, they are hopeful to become full-medal events at future Olympic Games.

Gaining showcase status for both men's and women's events offers certain upsides compared to full-medal status, particularly in terms of greater flexibility over competition format and equipment.

Coming on the back of kiteboarding's debut at the Youth Olympic Games with twin-tip slalom racing in Argentina next year, kite hydrofoil racing holds out the promise of electrifying the sailing world with the closest, fastest competition even in the lightest conditions.

With time running short for World Sailing's Member National Authorities (MNAs) to make preparations for kiteboarders to compete for the available slots, riders hope that equipment rules will likely follow the foiling Formula Kite model, that is, registered production high-performance foils and kites.

"If you do showcase events with everything more relaxed, it is likely that there will be fewer restrictions on equipment, format and qualification process," notes Markus Schwendtner, CEO of the International Kiteboarding Association.

For kiteboarding, it is envisaged that the ten top-ranked men and women could qualify directly, with a further ten men and ten women - two from each continent - joining them.

Such qualification model would ensure both high-level competition amongst the world's best riders and demonstrate the universal spread of the discipline.

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