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An Olympic First, Sport Climbing Wraps Up Its Debut In The 2020 Tokyo Olympics

USA climber Brooke Raboutou struggles to make a transition while competing in the Bouldering Final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Women's Combined Sport Climbing Final at Aomi Urban Sports Park in Tokyo on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

By Sam Tucker

The morning of Aug. 6, marked the finish of sport climbing’s debut in the Tokyo Olympics, with the women’s finals wrapping up that morning and men’s on Aug. 5. This year’s Olympics mark the first time sport climbers could bring home a medal for their country.

The women’s podium saw some familiar faces with Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret taking gold, and Japan’s Miho Nonaka and Akiyo Noguchi, taking silver and bronze medals respectively. Garnbret took gold after her first place finish in boulder and lead, along with her middle-of-the-pack placement in speed with fifth place, giving her the lowest score of five points, and the gold medal.

On Aug. 5, Austria’s Jakob Schubert brought the men’s finals to a close after being the first to top out on the lead route, the last of the three disciplines athletes were tested on. Schubert’s display of skill and finesse brought the crowd to its feet after they saw the previous six competitors fall before the finish. Although Schubert won lead, it was Spain’s Alberto Gines Lopez that displayed his skills well in all three disciplines, earning him the gold with a final score of 28 after his placements of first in speed, seventh in boulder, and fourth in lead.

With speed climbing being a weak spot for many of the stronger boulderers and lead climbers, such as Schubert, who took first in lead, but last in speed, it proved to be an essential key to standing the tallest on the podium. And Lopez, the 18-year-old speed and lead specialist, did exactly that.

Schubert’s combined score of 35 gave him a bronze medal, and the American Nathaniel Coleman took silver, with his final score of 30. Coleman’s outdoor bouldering skills on real rock proved handy as he pushed himself to the number two spot with his first place finish in bouldering, along with his placing of sixth in speed, and fifth in lead.

Having only two medals to his name in the Climbing World Cup circuits, Lopez took the Olympic gold medal to the surprise of many, especially with renown names like Narasaki, Ondra, Coleman, and Schubert filling up the finals round.

The International Federation of Sport Climbing spent a decade working toward adding the sport to the Olympic platform, after four days of Olympic competition, six medals, and a lot of climbing, the vision has finally been realized, and climbers have the hardware to prove it.

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