10 Things to Watch for at the Olympics

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This article is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2020 Olympic Games. For more news as it happens, and for unlimited online access plus a print subscription to Climbing, join us with an Outside+ membership. 

The Tokyo Olympics have been a long time coming—even longer when factoring in the pandemic postponement. But they’re finally here, with the Opening Ceremonies set to kick off later this week. The Olympic climbing roster is set and features four Americans: Brooke Raboutou, Kyra Condie, Colin Duffy, and Nathaniel Coleman. The climbing walls are ready too, and fans around the world are stoked to tune in for the Olympics’ funky Combined discipline. If you have no idea what we’re talking about, check out our Idiot’s Guide to Olympic Climbing for a primer. But if you already know your stuff and want to talk about storylines, here are 10 aspects that will have us glued to our screens as climbing makes its historic Olympic debut.

1. Janja Garnbret’s Greatness

If there is an athlete who could steal the show at the Olympics, it’s Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret. Not only is she widely considered the favorite heading into the Games, but she also possesses the most impressive resume that competition climbing has ever seen. She has gone undefeated in a Bouldering World Cup season; she has won the overall title in World Cup seasons; she has won World Championships in both bouldering and lead climbing; she has won back-to-back World Championships in the aforementioned Combined discipline…you get the idea. She is already a legend, and is frequently labeled the Greatest of All Time, and she is in her prime as she heads into these Olympics. Need we say more?

2. Brooke! Brooke! Brooke!

We always knew Team USA’s Brooke Raboutou was someone special—after all, she is the offspring of decorated competition climbers Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou and Didier Raboutou. But this World Cup season, as something of a preparatory precursor to the Olympics, Brooke has had by far her best run ever on the adult circuit. She made the podium at both Salt Lake City World Cups and made the podium again at the Innsbruck World Cup. For lack of a better phrase, it seems like Brooke Raboutou’s performance is peaking at just the right time. This puts her in a whole new light as the Olympics kick off…heck, she could steal the show too, and we’re loving it. 

3. Speed Battles

There are a number of athletes on the Olympic roster who are thought to be speed climbing specialists: Aleksandra Mirosław, Anouck Jaubert, YiLing Song, and world record-holder Iuliia Kaplina in the women’s division; Rishat Khaibullin, Ludovico Fossali, and Bassa Mawem in the men’s division. But, speed climbing being contested the way it is—in a knock-out bracket-style format—means that there can be only one winner in the speed climbing portion for each division at the Olympics. Whoever does not win will find himself/herself in an unenviable hole in the scores heading into the other disciplines that are not an area of specialty. As a discipline, speed climbing already offers arguably the most edge-of-your-seat excitement, but this bottleneck of specialists adds another layer of intrigue to the Olympics.

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