August 5, 2021
By Rozanna Latiff and Sam Nussey
TOKYO (Reuters) – Spanish teenager Alberto Gines Lopez clinched the first-ever gold medal in climbing on Thursday, in a gripping men’s final that went down to the wire, as the sport made its Olympic debut this week.
Nathaniel Coleman of the United States took home the silver medal, while Austria’s Jakob Schubert overcame a huge deficit in the standings to emerge top in the competition’s deciding event and bag the bronze.
Making its first appearance in Tokyo, the Olympic climbing competition requires athletes to compete in three events with scores combined to find an overall winner.
The opening event is speed, a head-to-head race up a 15m wall, followed by bouldering, which involves using problem-solving skills to overcome obstacles set along a low wall. Lead, the last event, is a timed climb that tests athletes’ endurance.
With eight finalists, Thursday’s competition came down to a close contest after three climbers – the American Coleman, Mickael Mawem of France and, Japan’s Tomoa Narasaki – emerged tied on six points after the first two events.
Spain’s Gines Lopez was in first place in the speed opener but fell to fourth in the standings after a poor showing in bouldering.
The 18-year-old, however, put on a solid performance in the lead event, finishing fourth, enough to propel him to the top of the overall rankings and claim the sport’s inaugural gold.
The Czech Republic’s Adam Ondra, who was widely considered a favourite for gold before the Games, had looked set to medal behind the Spaniard despite subpar performances in the speed and bouldering, out-climbing his rivals to reach the 40th hold in lead.
But Austrian Schubert, the last climber of the night and who had been in seventh place going into the lead event, dug deep to surpass Ondra’s mark and reach the top of the lead wall, the only finalist to do so.
The 30-year-old’s effort was enough to bring his score up to third and bump Coleman up to second, while shutting out Ondra and other contenders such as home favourite Narasaki and France’s Mawem, who had topped Tuesday’s qualifiers.
Bassa Mawem, Mickael’s brother, withdrew from the final after rupturing a muscle during the men’s qualifiers on Tuesday. He placed eighth overall.
The unusual combined format https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/sport-climbing-athletes-forced-out-comfort-zone-new-combined-event-2021-06-28 has forced competitors out of their comfort zones, with the ranking system creating plenty of potential for upsets, while humid conditions in Tokyo have made for slippery holds, testing the climbers’ strength.
While the format favours all-rounders in Tokyo, climbing will be split into speed and a combined bouldering and lead event at the Paris Games in 2024.
(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Ken Ferris and Hugh Lawson)