Spain’s Alberto Gines Lopez won the first Olympic sport climbing competition with a stellar run in the speed discipline and a good finish in lead carrying him to the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday.
“It’s a dream come true,” Lopez said. “I didn’t expect it at all. I didn’t expect to get into the final. A dream come true.”
Lopez, 18, is the youngest Spanish man to win an Olympic gold medal.
“I didn’t even know,” Lopez said. “I just found out. So I’m happy. It’s an honor to be the youngest. Maybe in three or four years someone else will be the youngest.”
Sport climbing made its Olympic debut this year. It was staged as a combined competition featuring the speed, bouldering and lead disciplines. The athletes’ placement in the three events were multiplied together and the climber with the lowest score was crowned the winner.
“I think this is an amazing sport and I hope some kids from Austria, from the U.S., Spain are finding this sport,” Austria’s Jakob Schubert, the bronze medalist, said.
Lopez was the fastest up the wall in speed and finished fourth in lead. He was seventh — last among the climbers who competed — in bouldering, but a combined score of 28 was good enough for gold. Nathaniel Coleman of the United States earned silver with 30 points and Schubert, the last climber of the night, made a late move into bronze with a dramatic climb to the top of the lead wall. Schubert ended up with 35 points, one more than Tomoa Narasaki.
France’s Mickael Mawem, Narasaki and Coleman went into the final round of the competition, lead, tied with six points each.
Narasaki had placed second in speed, falling to Lopez in their final sprint up the 15-meter wall. Lopez finished in 6.42 seconds to Narasaki’s 7.42. Mawem was third in the speed event and Coleman was sixth.
Lopez said that out of the three events, he was at his best in speed.
“We had worked a lot on this, and I think that although I was a bit lucky, that’s where I did my best performance,” he said.
Coleman made a big move up the standings in bouldering.
While six of the seven climbers cleared the first problem, the second and third boulders represented a major leap in difficulty.
The second featured two holds that were 3.71 meters apart and required the climbers to run across two of the plastic pieces jutting out from the front of the wall and leap to the other side to reach up to grab the hold. A few made it to the top, but were unable to establish a hold there.
The third boulder resembled a flower with gray triangular pieces arranged in a circular pattern around a yellow center 13 cm in diameter. The problem was situated on a section of the wall with a 35-degree overhang.
Coleman was the only climber to clear the second boulder, while none reached the goal on the third. Mawem and Narasaki each reached the zone position on all three boulders. Mawem needed fewer attempts and placed second while Narasaki was third.
Coleman reached 34 holds on the lead wall and Narasaki made it through 33, but they were soon pushed down the leaderboard. Mawem was out of contention early, falling after 23 holds.
“It was a complete failure,” Narasaki said. “I wasn’t strong enough to win in terms of feeling.
“After the speed event I was in second place. But not being able to climb the second wall in bouldering made it difficult to win.”
Sport climbing great Adam Ondra made it past 42 holds and Lopez surged into first place overall by getting to 38.
Schubert made it all the way up and then celebrated all the way down as he won the lead event and jumped into third place.
“Obviously the goal is always to reach the top and to be honest, I still felt quite good up there and felt like I could even go a few more meters,” he said. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I just feel so good.”
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