Climbing goes under the spotlight at Tokyo Olympics


TOKYO — HIGHLIGHTS FROM RIO: None. Sport climbing will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo in a format that has rankled many climbers. Lead and bouldering are disciplines most climbers are familiar with because both are similar to what they experience in the outdoors. Because the IOC is only awarding two medals — one for men, one for women — it decided to include speed climbing in the combined competition. Speed climbing is a more specialized event, climbers scaling a 15-meter wall with standardized holds as fast as they can. Lead and bouldering athletes have had to play catch up on speed, but may only have to have an average finish if they do well in lead and bouldering.

TOKYO EXPECTATIONS: Climbing has been touted as the embodiment of the Olympic motto: “Citius, Altius, Fortius (faster, higher, stronger). Speed offers the fast element, with the quickest men racing up the wall in less than 6 seconds and the women in the low 7s. Lead hits the higher mark, points awarded to who can climb the highest on the 15-meter wall in six minutes. Bouldering requires strength as climbers try to work their way up four ”problems” that include overhangs and fingertip-width holds. Some problems require climbers to hang upside to make their way up the 4.5-meter wall. The Tokyo Games will show the world climbing is much more difficult than it appears.

ATHLETES TO WATCH: Czech climber Adam Ondra has been hailed as the best climber in the world, tackling outdoor routes that seem impossible. He’s a threat to win bouldering and lead, which could be enough with relatively slow times in speed. Austria’s Jakob Schubert will likely contend for a medal and the Japanese duo of Kai Harada and Tomoa Narasaki should give the host country a shot at adding to its medal total. American Nathaniel Coleman is one of the world’s best in bouldering and is rounded into a strong all-around climber. Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret, like Ondra, has tackled difficult routes other climbers wouldn’t even consider attempting. She’s won six world championships and is the only climber to finish a World Cup season undefeated (2019). Like their male teammates, Japan’s Akiyo Noguchi and Miho Nonaka will likely be in the mix to medal. Brooke Raboutou may be the US team’s best shot to medal.

GOLD MEDAL MOMENT: Finals in all three disciplines will be Aug. 6 at Aomi Urban Sports Park.

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