It’s been an exhilarating three days watching Sport Climbing’s debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and the fourth and final day was not one to disappoint either. Here's our report of the Women's Sport Climbing Final.
Conditions were still equally hot and humid as the previous three days as the athletes stepped up to the plate to race in the Speed round. This time, the competitors would now be going head-to-head to see who would be crowned the fastest, instead of just racing to post their quickest times like in the qualification round.
GB Climbing’s Shauna Coxsey had come in 10th place and so would not be making an appearance in the final, however, after the qualification round Shauna posted on Instagram that she’d competed just days after tearing her meniscus during training and that she had been battling constant back pain since surgery last year. Considering the circumstances, we think 10th place is pretty amazing!
Despite the lack of Shauna, we were still looking forward to seeing these women give it their all in the finals.
The Speed qualification round started with both Japanese teammates Miho Nonaka and Akiyo Noguchi winning their heats as well as the two speed specialists Aleksandra Miroslaw of Poland and Anouck Jaubert of France. The speed specialists advanced again to race head to head for the top spot, in an intense run where Anouck took the early edge but Aleksandra accelerated to reach the top first in 6.84 seconds – a new World Record!
Third and fourth place was hotly contested by Miho and Akiyo in a close race that saw Miho just pip Akiyo by half a second.
Aleksandra Miroslaw of Poland sets a new World Record in the final. Photo: IFSC
Another set of hard boulders saw few tops but did the job of splitting the field without having to countback to the qualification round. In fact, while Brooke Raboutou of USA did come heartbreakingly close to topping both B1 and B2, the only tops were to be had by Janja Garnbret of Slovenia.
The zone of the first boulder was unlocked by either a high step or a showy jump to gaston and foot plant on a slippery volume, which many couldn’t quite achieve. Anouck Jaubert and Jessy Pilz of Austria opted for the unobvious high step earning them the zone. The second half featured another jump to a volume which even Janja couldn’t flash, both Brook and Janja reached the top hold but a shock foot slip cost Brooke heavily as she fell while matching the top.
Boulder two the intended beta was to bridge and palm between volumes while facing out to the crowd, which only one competitor figured out. The harder sequence of bridging while facing in proved most popular and allowed the boulder specialists to reach the zone, but not too much further, except again for Brooke and Janja. Brooke started the final sequence with seconds to spare and was forced to lunge for the top before time ran out, if she’d had longer she would surely have secured the top hold. Meanwhile Janja reached the final moves on her first go and opted for a huge dyno to clasp the top hold with both hands, earning her the flash.
The third boulder proved powerful straight out the gates, jumping from a toe hook to catch a double gaston and a tricky sequence without obvious feet proved too much for most to gain the zone. Again, Janja and Brooke were the most successful but fell on the same move and no top was achieved on B3.
With the medals on the line at the third and final event, the climax of climbing at the Olympics, energy was high and nerves were frayed as the climbers took in the imposing route on the steep lead wall. Fairly steady in the initial section led to a series of big moves between huge spherical volumes to gain the bottom of the lightning bolt down the centre of the wall. From here, a few tricky long reaches on pockets tested the abilities of several climbers, before demanding compression moves on large slopey volumes continued higher which many couldn’t overcome. The final section of the route we didn’t get to see as there were no tops today.
The first significant high point was set by Akiyo Noguchi when she powered up the route to reach hold 29+. Next out was Janja Garnbret and with her smooth, calm and collected style, using up nearly all the six minutes of climbing allotted to her, slowly forged every higher to hit an impressive high point of 37+. Once Janja had set the bar, only Miho Nonaka could take the gold medal off Janja if she managed to set a new high point. Miho was up next and steadily reached the bouldery section and looked likely to keep going but suddenly fell on the pocket moves, meaning Janja was the new Sport Climbing Olympic Champion!
Due to the calculations of the scores, it took a few minutes for Janja to realise she’d secured the gold medal. But once the news struck, she was overcome with emotion in happiness.
The rest of the competition proved to be a battle for silver and bronze, with the rankings flip flopping up and down due to the multiplication tallying of the scores. Jessy Pilz of Austria needed to win lead to secure an overall silver, but she fell at hold 34+ to put her in second place in the lead round and unfortunately wouldn’t be enough for a medal. Finally Chaehyun Seo of South Korea took to the wall – her previous results meant that she was in with a shot at winning the bronze medal if she surpassed Janja’s high point. Unfortunately, Chaehyun came incredibly close and only just climbed past Jessy Pilz’s high point meaning the bronze medal went to Akiyo Noguchi and the silver to Miho Nonaka.
There was a brief wait while an appeal was made but the scorings remained standing as they were and the results were then official, the gold deservingly went to Janja Garnbret of Slovenia while the Japanese teammates, Miho Nonaka and Akiyo Noguchi, took silver and bronze, respectively.
Suddenly, it was all over and Sport Climbing had made its successful debut at the Olympic Games. It was amazing to see everyone congratulate each other with hugs all round and a few tears being shed too. The routesetters had worked into the early hours of every morning to ensure the amazing boulders and lead route were on the wall primed to test each athlete to their full potential, and it was simply wonderful to watch the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games go ahead in the midst of the difficulties of the pandemic. Hats off to everyone involved, we certainly enjoyed watching from here in the UK.
We can’t wait for Paris 2024!
RESULTS: Women's Final Sport Climbing Tokyo 2020
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