The atmosphere was hotting up to match the heat levels of this sweltering Tokyo summer as the seven Sport Climbing men’s finalists gathered to climb as fast, as strong and as high as possible for the first ever gold, silver and bronze Olympic medals. Anything could happen and this competition was anybody’s to win – as we were about to find out.
While eight men qualified for the final, only seven were able to compete as Basa Mawem of France sustained a full bicep tendon rupture during the lead qualification. And while it was at first expected that Alex Megos of Germany would move up from 9th place to take part in the final, the official rules state that: “The eight highest ranked athletes from the qualification round are eligible to participate in the final. Athlete substitution is possible only when an athlete is either disqualified or otherwise not ranked in the previous round.”
So with Basa Mawem out of the final, and with Basa lined up to race against Adam Ondra of the Czech Republic in their first Speed head-to-head, Adam automatically wins and moves into the next round of the Speed final meaning he could place no lower than 4th in the Speed event. In the following races Ondra lost against Alberto Gines Lopez of Spain and then Mickael Mawem of France, meaning his final Speed ranking was 4th.
First place in Speed came down to a head-to-head of Alberto vs Tomoa Narasaki of Japan, with many expecting Tomoa to take the top spot. Unfortunately, he slipped early on in the final race and Alberto kept his cool to hit the top in a fast 6.42 seconds, and Tomoa settled for 2nd place. Mickael took 3rd place and Ondra 4th.
The boulders from B1 to B3 ramped up in difficulty quickly, with B1 receiving a majority of flashes, only one top on B2 and no tops on B3. Fortunately, the field was well split due to the number of attempts for zones.
A slabby B1 with delicate moves across volumes to a tenuous high step and dynamic finish proved easy for most of the competitors as we saw five flashes, Adam Ondra topped on his second attempt and only Alberto Gines Lopez failed to reach the last hold.
The crowd pleaser boulder was definitely B2 with a run and jump to catch a flattie with two hands and then use the back swing to pull up into an extremely shouldery gaston and hang on for dear life. After this joint-popping move the work was far from over as athletes had to set up with wide feet and a small hold to spring for a crimp on the top hold and catch a right toe hook to hold the swing for another flashy finish. It took many athletes several attempts to reach the zone, only Mickael Mawem flashed the run and jump move, and then it took many a while to figure out the toe hook catch. In the end, while a number of the competitors came agonisingly close to topping it, only Nathaniel Coleman of USA put it all together to earn another top.
The spiral of B3 consisted of a kaleidoscope of volumes to puzzle through dotted with various small crimps, slopers and pinches. The first few moves proved easy enough as all competitors reached the zone on their first try, but the next section was either too tricky to puzzle out, or too hard to stick these minimal holds in the hot and humid conditions. No athlete got much further than the zone and B3 saw no tops and nobody even getting close to the top.
Nathaniel Coleman earned 1st in the Bouldering event with his two tops, while Mickael Mawem came second with his three zones in three attempts and Tomoa Narasaki came 3rd.
Coming into the lead final, there was still all to play for and all to lose. Anybody could still take home the gold medal and we still had no clue who would win by the time the last climber, Jakob Schubert, pulled onto the wall.
The route itself was fun to watch with the initial section featuring several big showy moves jumping to catch a volume and either cutting loose and matching or inverting to a double toe hook to match, and a small swing and jump slightly down to land feet onto another volume. The middle section looked difficult with a mix of crimps and big holds up the steep wall which, once overcome, lead to what looked like slightly easier ground. Mickael Mawem fell lowest, while Tomoa Narasaki and Nathaniel Coleman around the same area higher up, with Nathaniel just edging ahead of Tomoa by one hold, putting Tomoa out of the gold medal race.
The lead specialists then came out and left us scrambling to decipher the scores to see who was still in with a chance of winning gold – it turned out nearly everyone was. Adam Ondra put a new high point on the wall, climbing up to 42+, which Alberto Gines Lopez couldn’t quite match as he climbed past Nathaniel Coleman’s high point to hit 38+. Colin Duffy of USA came next for his best discipline and all eyes were on him as he neared the top half of the route, if he climbed past Adam Ondra he’d have a shot at gold, if not Ondra still had a to win. Colin first climbed past Alberto’s highpoint, looking quite smooth and steady, but suddenly faltered, cut loose and nearly saved it, but then fell at hold 40, just below Adam’s high point.
Then out came Jakob Schubert of Austria from isolation and little did he know that his score would be key in deciding who went home with the gold medal. Unfortunately, due to Jakob’s earlier performances, he wouldn’t be able to win gold. But he stepped up and still gave it his all – and his all was phenomenal, as Jakob cruised through the route and powered his way to reach the top, earning him the bronze medal.
Jakob Schubert’s first place in lead bumped Adam Ondra’s overall ranking from 1st place all the way down to 6th, leaving Alberto Gines Lopez in the gold medal spot and Nathaniel Coleman of USA in the silver medal position. Jakob was lowered off to ecstatically receive the news that he’d earned the bronze medal and still minutes later Nathaniel Coleman was still trying to explain to a shell-shocked Alberto that, yes, he’d actually won the first ever gold medal for Sport Climbing in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games!
The camaraderie was as amazing to watch as the spectacular efforts of the finalists and all the athletes during qualification round. Sport Climbing had well and truly arrived at the Olympic Games and was exhilarating and captivating to those watching on livestream as well as the small crowd of spectators allowed in to watch the event live. We can’t wait to see the women’s finals tomorrow.
RESULTS: Men's Final Sport Climbing Tokyo 2020
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