TOKYO – Slovakian Janja Garnbret, the most dominant competitive climber in recent years and the gold medal favorite in the first Olympic women’s sport climbing competition, qualified for the eight-woman final with a generally solid performance on Wednesday night.
Garnbret, 22, is a double threat to bouldering and rock climbing, two of three disciplines that have been combined into one event as sport climbing makes its Olympic debut.
She will be tested in Friday’s final by a veteran group that includes Akiyo Noguchi and Miho Nonaka of Japan, as well as Brooke Raboutou, 20, of the United States and Chaehyun Seo, 17, of Korea.
Sport climbing, much to the chagrin of climbers and fans alike, only got one medal for both men and women. This forced organizers to crush three separate climbing disciplines – speed, bouldering and lead – into one combined event.
At the 2024 Paris Summer Games, speed will have its own medal, and lead and bouldering – which have more skills and athletes in common – will team up as another medal-winning event.
But in Tokyo, the ranking of each athlete in the three individual disciplines is multiplied to produce a single score. Garnbret was 14th in speed, first in bouldering and fourth in the lead. This total of 56 points – 14x1x4 – places him in first place, ahead of Seo, Nonaka and Noguchi, who completed the top four.
All but two of the Olympic finalists are good at bouldering and climbing in the lead. An exception was the Polish Aleksandra Miroslaw, who set the fastest time on the 15-meter speed wall. This first place was enough for him to qualify for the final despite a last place in the block and a penultimate place in the lead.
Anouck Jaubert of France also took advantage of a second place in speed to advance to the final.
Kyra Condie of the United States finished 11th among 20 competitors. His hopes of making the final were dashed by a pair of bouldering issues that left almost everyone except Garnbret upset. Condie then suffered an early slip in the lead climb.
The men’s final is set for Thursday and sparked an unexpected intrigue after Tuesday’s qualifying round when France’s Bassa Mawem dropped out of the final with a bicep injury, leaving just seven contestants.
Mawem, the fastest climber of the final, had to face the arguably slowest Adam Ondra in the first lap of a head-to-head speed slice. Now Ondra will receive a bye and an automatic place in the speed semi-finals.
This means that a probable eighth place in speed – a ranking number that may be difficult to overcome in the multiplication of the combined format – will now be no worse than fourth for Ondra, a dominant boulderer and lead climber.