Highlights of first day of Sport Climbing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the men's qualification round.
History was made as 20 of the world’s top climbing athletes gathered to take part in the head to heads of the Speed qualification round, followed by Bouldering and then Lead. As well as pressure, nerves, and the difficulties of the climbing, athletes had to battle the heat and humidity of a Tokyo summer as well.
Temperatures started out at a toasty 31°C at 5pm in Tokyo for the Speed qualification round before dropping to a ‘balmy’ 29°C when evening fell and the Lead qualification began. But the athletes battled on regardless.
The first climbers to ever compete at the Olympics came out and suddenly it had begun. Then, in a mere 6.48 seconds, the first round was over. Chris Cosser of the Republic of South Africa stormed up the wall in Lane A to post the time of 6.48 while Jongwon Chon of South Korea in Lane B suffered an early slip and failed to complete his run.
Athletes continued to line up for their vertical sprint and the only slight surprise was how well the Boulder and Lead specialists fared up against those that had qualified for the Olympic Games mainly based on their Speed prowess. Tomoa Narasaki of Japan came second with his only time of 5.94 seconds, just pipping Mickael Mawem of France who managed 5.95 seconds. Not to say that the Speed specialists didn’t impress though, as Basa Mawem of France, Mickael’s brother, was fastest by a huge 0.5 seconds with his time of 5.45 seconds, the new Olympic Record for Speed Climbing, and Rishat Khaibullin of Kazakhstan had the fourth fastest time of 6.19 seconds.
Fortunately the sun had set by the time the Bouldering round started, which may have helped ease temperatures slightly. Although, the amount of sweat running down Sean McColl’s face indicated otherwise.
The four problems of the Bouldering round certainly put the athletes under pressure, as they all proved extremely challenging. The easiest seemed to be B1, the slab, which still spat off some of the favourites to win, including Adam Ondra of the Czech Republic. It consisted of a delicate start on sloping volumes leading to an awkward rockover on a tiny foot smear to a balancey finish. Perhaps the variety of ways to climb it allowed more climbers to reach the top.
The hardest was definitely B2, a tricky route that seemed to have no discernible solution and it seemed that not a single climber would even reach the zone hold. However, that was until Mickael Mawem came out and flashed the impossible climb which elicited a huge roar from the small crowd of spectators.
B3 was definitely the crowd pleaser problem, with a huge paddle dyno leading to a one-hand catch and a massive swing. Once caught, there was still work to do as the finishing hold could be easily reached with one hand but proved very difficult to match. Adam Ondra spent a good minute or two trying to figure it out, but had to admit defeat when he couldn’t discern that it required yet another dynamic move to slap into the flat undercut with both hands to match.
Another tough problem finished off the Boulder qualification round as B4 challenged all the climbers with its inverted, feet first, start with hands on terrible holds. Once right way up, following matching a double toe hook with your hands, a powerful move was required with barely any feet to then find a hand jam in a 4cm crack. Only three climbers managed to reach the top, Adam Ondra, Aleksey Rubtosv of the Russian Olympic Committee and Jakob Schubert of Austria.
Tough boulders saw only Mickael Mawem achieve three tops, putting him well in the lead, closely followed by Tomoa Narasak in second place and Adam Ondra in third.
Lastly, the now tired athletes prepared for the final climb of day in the Lead Qualification Round – unfortunately it would also be the longest climb! The lead route starts off steep and just keeps getting steeper, with the main part of the wall coming in at 36° overhanging while the lightning bolt of volumes that make up the middle of the 15m wall are even steeper at 40° overhanging.
The route begins with what look like fairly easy 3D climbing leading to a dyno that essentially marks the beginning of the difficult climbing. Some off balance moves lead to the start of the lightning bolt in the centre of the wall and a series of large flat holds lead the way with a lot of compression and heel hooking. Then the moves out left, gaining an undercut out wide followed by big pinches with little for your feet, spat off many a climber, especially the non-lead specialists. By this point the climbers are really cooking, and a tough section leads to an even tougher finale traverse having to use a terrible undercut above your head. No climber managed to reach the top and only two got close to even eyeballing the final hold, Jakob Schubert and Colin Duffy of the USA both reached the same high point but Jakob took first place in the Lead round due to reaching the high point faster than Colin, meanwhile Alberto Gines Lopez of Spain took 3rd place in Lead.
After all that, the first day of Olympic Sport Climbing was over. Everyone gave their all but only the top eight would make it through to compete again in the final. Congratulations to all those that qualified and commiserations to those that missed out.
Men's Finalists Sport Climbing Tokyo 2020
UPDATE: In an interview with French media, Bassa Mawem confirmed that he has sustained a complete rupture of his biceps tendon and will be unable to compete in the final on Thursday and that Alex Megos will not take his place.
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