TOKYO (Reuters) - Climbing's Olympic debut showcased many of its top competitors and their gravity-defying talents for a global TV audience, overcoming the limitations of the combined format in Tokyo and establishing a base for growth in future Games.
It was in the women's competition that viewers witnessed the peak of climbing prowess, with Slovenia's Janja Garnbret dominating the bouldering event - where athletes solve climbing puzzles set on a low wall - to emphatically win https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/climbing-polands-miroslaw-smashes-womens-speed-record-lead-final-2021-08-06 gold.
"I was in such a flow state of mind that if you asked me how I did the number three (bouldering problem) I wouldn't know," Garnbret said after the qualifiers.
Medal limitations in Tokyo meant competitive climbing's three disciplines were combined, with rankings multiplied to determine an ultimate winner. As predicted, the format was punishing for climbers and led to unforseen outcomes.
"The combined format was really painful. The event didn't unfold in the way I had thought," said Japan's Miho Nonaka, who won silver in the women's event, with compatriot and veteran climber Akiyo Noguchi taking bronze.
In the men's competition, Spanish teenager Alberto Gines Lopez's top ranking in speed - a vertical sprint up a 15 metre wall - and a competent climb in the lead event was enough to secure gold https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/climbing-spains-gines-lopez-claims-first-climbing-gold-thrilling-olympic-debut-2021-08-05 despite his weak performance in bouldering.
Top picks like the Czech Republic's Adam Ondra and Japan's Tomoa Narasaki finished outside the top three, with a single bouldering problem proving a turning point in the finals.
Tokyo showcased the wealth of up-and-coming talent in the fast growing sport, which also gave the Games itself a splash of youth appeal https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/climbing-push-button-upbeat-commentators-love-bomb-athletes-2021-08-04.
Climbing will be split into speed and a combined bouldering and lead event in Paris in 2024, giving an opening for more athletes including specialists in the evolving speed event.
(Reporting by Sam Nussey)