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Olympics

Tomoa Narasaki: The Best of Both Worlds?

The veteran Japanese boulderer is also a standout speed climber, with one of the fastest speed times out of all Olympic competitors.

It’s undoubted that Japanese climber Tomoa Narasaki is one of the world’s strongest competition boulderers. Despite a relatively short competition career (he first entered the IFSC Boulder World Cup in 2014, after competing in Lead the previous year) the 25-year-old has proved a force to be reckoned with across the board. 

Narasaki won the IFSC Bouldering World Championships in both 2016 and 2019, and also won the Combined World Championships the latter year. He held overall World Cup wins in Bouldering in 2016 and 2019, and overall World Cup Combined wins in 2017 and 2019. This all occurred during a mere six-year IFSC bouldering career. 

But Narasaki’s not just a strong boulderer, he’s a lightning-fast speed climber, too.

Speed will arguably represent a weak link for most Olympic climbers in Tokyo. The discipline is entirely different from Sport and Bouldering, and even some of the world’s strongest climbers, like Adam Ondra (CZE), are lackluster at best when it comes to Speed  

Indonesian phenom Veddriq Leonardo currently holds the world record with a time of 5.208, which he set during the Salt Lake City World Cup earlier this year. His countryman Kiromal Katibin, who took silver, had briefly held the record with a time of 5.258 in qualifiers during the same competition (the previous record, Iranian Reza Alipour’s time of 5.48, had stood since 2017 in Nanjing).

Though he’s a few ticks shy of nearing these times, with a personal best of 5.727 seconds (set in March 2021) Narasaki not only holds the fastest Speed time in all of Japan, he has the fastest Speed time out of all Olympic competitors, save for French Speed specialist Bassa Mawem (5.573). 

He’s not just a fast speed climber though, he’s an innovative one. In 2018, Narasaki implemented a unique speed start, now known as the “Tomoa Skip,” in the Asian Games against Jongwon Chon. The start modified Speed’s traditional right-leaning start with a more direct step-up dyno, skipping the third hold. It has since found more widespread adoption, vastly changing the way some Speed climbers navigate the opening section of the 15-meter route.

Narasaki soared into finals in the recent Salt Lake City Bouldering World Cup in 1st place, with four tops, but finished the event with a bronze, behind Sean Bailey (USA) and Kokoro Fujii (JPN). He did not compete in the first SLC Boulder World Cup, nor did he compete in this season’s previous Boulder Cup in Meiringen, though he recently won the 2021 Combined Japan Cup. 

Add Narasaki’s speed climbing proficiency to his standout bouldering resume, as well as his dual Combined Wins and Combined World Championship win, and it’s indisputable that he is perhaps the best equipped climber to tackle the multi-disciplined Olympic format.

There’s no way around it, Tomoa Narasaki will be a dominant force in Tokyo.