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Tears, ties and close calls peaked after four days of competition, three disciplines and 12 rounds, all to reveal the next 12 athletes qualified for the 2020 Olympics. Of those 12 are two Americans, Nathaniel Coleman and Kyra Condie. Both secured their invitations following the qualification rounds, placing seventh and eighth, respectively.
In total, 22 athletes per gender participated, eight moved on to finals and six were given golden tickets. Unfortunately the actual winners of the comp (Kokoro Fujii and Futaba Ito), along with third place for the men and fifth place for the women (Meichi Narasaki and Ai Mori) will not receive Olympic invitations because Japan filled it’s two-per-country quota following the Combined World Championships.
The long weekend was a continuous flow of highs and lows, but here are the highlights:
Adam Ondra (CZE) had a perfect Lead season and finished the Bouldering season ranked second. At the Hachioji Combined World Championships, tragedy struck for the 26-year-old when he got called off the lead route for stepping on a bolt. He had placed last in Speed climbing, a discipline that he has always struggled with, and sixth in Bouldering. His low lead finish dropped his overall score to 18th place, not enough for the coveted Olympic spot.
Ondra has long been a favorite for the Olympics, perhaps even for an Olympic medal. Ondra has been vlogging his thoughts and training for such an achievement in his YouTube series Road to Tokyo, which began in February this year. His disappointing Hachioji finish left everyone in shock, but Ondra pressed on for Toulouse. This weekend, he easily secured his Olympic invitation, despite feeling “really sick.”
During the qualification round, Ondra ran his best career speed time, a 7.464, which smashed his usual 8-plus runs. He kept the momentum going in the Bouldering round to rank second behind YuFei Pan (CHN). In Lead, his favorite discipline, he was one of four competitors to clip the chains, and as expected, he was the fastest to do so. Going into the final round, he was ranked first.
Because all the finalists (except the Japanese) had theoretically already earned their Olympic spot, finals felt more like a formality than contest. Still, Ondra was taking no chances. Even after waking up feeling less than optimal, he came ready to fight.
“In this pre-Olympic period of chaos, no one can be really sure of anything. So in the end I decided to enter the competition…,” Ondra stated in a press release. He did one speed run and skipped the second to save some power. He was third in Bouldering and still managed to take first in Lead. Ondra finished the Toulouse Olympic Qualifying Event in second place.
A Forced Rivalry
A forced rivalry—that’s what you get when you have two teammates and only one Olympic spot. Since fellow Slovenian Janja Garnbret had already qualified for the Olympics, Lucka Rakovec and Mia Krampl went head to head for Slovenia’s last spot in the final round. It was both a heartbreaking and inspirational showdown between two competitors and compatriots.
Rakovec looked poised to win after placing sixth in Speed and third in Bouldering while Krampl was seventh in both disciplines. For Krampl to win the Olympic invitation, she needed to win Lead and Rakovec had to place third or lower. The final lead route, an endurance fest up a series of volumes and crimps, culminated to a difficult move out of the roof and to a volume. The top five lead climbers ultimately fell on the same move, except Krampl, who was the only athlete to stick the hold before falling. Krampl placed first and Rakovec placed third based on time. Krampl was awarded the Olympic invitation with a final score just five points less than Rakovec. For the two teammates, the difference between a fulfilled Olympic dream and a crushed one was one small white crimp. Rakovec posted on Instagram:
“I knew from the beginning that it will be mentally hard competition and this was definitely a battle that I didn’t want to fight in. Competing against ‘one’ person, my teammate, one of my best friends, the person who I most definitely wish only the best for was never a pleasure but it had to be done????????♀️This was a game and I was the unlucky player???? But nevertheless @mia.krampl is most definitely one of the best climbers and I’m excited to see her crush in Tokyo.”
The final discipline of the men’s qualification round was Lead. Boulder specialist Jernej Kruder went out second after placing 17th in Speed and 7th in Bouldering. Kruder was quick to get on the wall and begin the zig-zag slog up crimps and volumes. A third of the way up, Kruder fell abruptly by a volume that he ripped clear off the wall. Luckily Kruder had the instinct to cover his head from the falling feature, which nearly clipped him on its way down.
The embarrassing moment was perhaps a first in IFSC history, as Charlie Boscoe remarked on the livestream. “We’ve seen holds move, we’ve seen holds spinning and climbers complaining that holds are loose, but I can’t think of any times I’ve ever seen one come clean off.”
Following a delay to reset the volume and give Kruder time to recover, he was allowed to give the route a second go. Kruder finished the day in 19th overall.
The scoring worked the same way it did in the Combined Hachioji World Championships—a multiplication of each athlete’s ranking per discipline. This method was initially selected because it allows specialists (rather than combined athletes) a better chance at qualifying (for example, a speed specialist that wins Speed has a good chance of qualifying for the Olympics because the ranking of one will give them a comparatively low score). This means that despite the combined format, Sport Climbing will still involve some of the best athletes from each discipline.
In addition, IFSC implemented a multiplier scoring system because of a requirement of the International Olympic Committee—the overall winner should not be known until after the final round. Because ranking first versus last changes a competitor’s score so much, it makes it difficult to predict overall rankings until following the final Lead round.
People were invariably unhappy with how much the scoring felt more like a “winner take all” scheme. 8a wrote, “The multiplication method is not fair; Bassa Mawem did go to the Olympics beating Alfian Muhammed with 0,03 seconds, who ended #13.” 8a’s editor-in-chief Jens Larssen meant that Bassa Mawem won by a mere margin of 0.03 seconds and Alfian Muhammed got second. While Mawem only beat Muhammed by one spot in both Bouldering and Lead, he was ultimately ranked fourth overall, high enough for an Olympic invitation, while Muhammed finished 13th.
Another example involves lead specialist Stefano Ghisolfi, who was behind in the overall ranking prior to the Lead round. He, along with three other athletes, topped the route and placed second based on time. Ghisolfi finished 12th overall, but had he been first in the Lead round, he would have been fourth overall and walked away from competition with an Olympic invitation.
A final example involves Rakovec and Krampl. Had the scoring been based on addition rather than multiplication, Rakovec would have won.
Ultimately, the scoring system is not ideal, but it held true to its function of making last-minute losers and winners, and therefore an exciting competition.
Five Americans participated in the Toulouse competition: Ashima Shiraishi, Margo Hayes, Kyra Condie, Sean Bailey and Nathaniel Coleman. In the end, Condie and Coleman performed high enough to claim their Olympian status.
Prior to Toulouse, Coleman noted his nerves on Instagram. “I think the last time I’ve cared so much about a competition was in the weeks leading up to my first open national, back in 2014. I’m usually pretty laid back until the actual day of the comp, when I can let my nerves surface and feel them drive me to compete. But not this one, it’s got my number and won’t stop calling…When the time comes, all I can do is try, for no reason other than it’s what I want to do. I’ll see y’all on the other side.”
Despite the enormous pressure, Coleman placed sixth in Speed, fifth in Bouldering and 15th in Lead to finish the round in seventh place. Condie handled the pressure as well and was, according to another post by Coleman, “on fire.” She placed fifth in Speed, right behind the four speed specialists, eighth in Bouldering, and 11th in Lead. Condie finished in eighth place.
“I have no words. I worked so hard for this. ???????? TOKYO 2020!! ????????” shared Condie on Instagram.
The next Olympic qualifying events will begin early next year. The top competitors from each Continental Championship will receive an Olympic invitation. In addition, one “tripartite” spot for will be awarded.
The PanAmerican Championships will take place February 24th through March 1st. Because Brooke Raboutou has already qualified for the Olympics, the Women’s USA quota is now full. Canadian Alannah Yip is the favorite to win the Championships and therefore the Olympic invitation. On the men’s side, the USA still has one remaining spot. Sean Bailey, who finished in ninth just behind Coleman, is looking like the next Pan-American Champion and Olympic invitee.
Here is the complete list of qualified athletes for each gender so far:
- Janja Garnbret (SLO)
- Akiyo Noguchi(JPN)
- Shauna Coxsey (GBR)
- Aleksandra Miroslaw (POL)
- Miho Nonaka (JPN)
- Petra Klinger (SUI)
- Brooke Raboutou (USA)
- Jessica Pilz (AUT)
- Julia Chanourdie (FRA)
- Mia Krampl (SLO)
- Iuliia Kaplina (RUS)
- Kyra Condie (USA)
- Laura Rogora (ITA)
- YiLing Song (CHN)
- Tomoa Narasaki (JPN)
- Jakob Schubert (AUT)
- Rishat Khaibullin (KAZ)
- Kai Harada (JPN)
- Mickael Mawem (FRA)
- Alexander Megos (GER)
- Ludovico Fossali (ITA)
- Sean McColl (CAN)
- Adam Ondra (CZE)
- Bassa Mawem (FRA)
- Jan Hoyer (GER)
- YuFei Pan (CHN)
- Alberto Ginés López (ESP)
- Nathaniel Coleman (USA)
Full results can be found on ifsc-climbing.org.
Feature Image by René Oberkirch/IFSC