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Tomoa Narasaki climbs to gold at world championships, punches ticket for 2020 Olympics

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Tomoa Narasaki entered the world championships vowing to not only shoot for an Olympic berth but for the gold medal as well.

In the end, he proved to be a man of his word.

Narasaki captured his first men’s combined event gold medal at the IFSC World Championships on Wednesday, also booking a spot on the Japan national team for next year’s Tokyo Olympics on the final day of the global meet at Esforta Arena Hachioji.

“This has been my biggest goal this year, so I’m pleased that I’ve done it,” said Narasaki, who finished fifth in the combined event at last year’s world championships in Innsbruck, Austria.

Narasaki got off to a good start, finishing second in the speed discipline, his weakest among the three disciplines that make up the combined event.

He then took complete control of the competition with a dominant performance in bouldering.

The native of Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, was the only athlete in the eight-man final to complete all three routes, finishing two in his first attempts.

He sealed the deal with another runner-up finish in lead, the final discipline.

Scores were decided by multiplying the athletes’ finishing position in each of the three disciplines, with the climber with the lowest score crowned as the winner (Narasaki finished with 4 points). The same scoring system will be applied at the Olympics.

Austria’s Jakob Schubert (35 points) and Kazakhstan’s Rishat Khaibullin (40 points) earned the silver and bronze medals, respectively. Schubert, who won the combined title at last year’s world championships in Innsbruck, Austria, finished seventh in speed, fifth in bouldering and first in lead. Khaibullin was first, eighth and fifth in the same disciplines.

Three other Japanese climbers competed in the final. Kai Harada, Meichi Narasaki, Tomoa’s younger brother, and Kokoro Fujii were fourth, fifth and sixth in the final standings, respectively.

Asked which part of his game he would need to improve going forward, Narasaki responded with a bitter smile, “That’s a difficult question.”

“I was able to win today, but I was compatible with the routes,” said Narasaki, who also triumphed in the individual bouldering event last Wednesday. “But things will be different depending on the tournament. I guess I’m going to have to raise my entire level.”

Each country can have up to two athletes each in the men’s and women’s competitions next year at the Tokyo Games, where the sport will make its Olympic debut.

On Tuesday, Akiyo Noguchi punched her ticket to the 2020 Summer Olympics by winning a silver medal in the women’s combined.

Japan will select the other male and female climbers based upon outcomes in the Olympic qualifying tournament, Asian Championships and Combined Japan Cup.