Adam Ondra, perhaps the world’s best climber, is not faring well in the climbing final.

Adam Ondra, perhaps the world’s best climber, is not faring well in the climbing final.


TOKYO — The men’s final is underway in sport climbing’s first appearance at the Olympics, and the man widely considered the world’s best climber is in a distant sixth place after two of three disciplines.

Adam Ondra of the Czech Republic has scaled the most difficult outdoor climbing routes ever attempted around the world. Indoors, on fake obstacles and holds, he has won a slew of world championships and World Cup events.

But in climbing’s debut at the Olympics, different disciplines have been combined into one medal event, and Ondra has not placed well after the first two. Athletes’ rankings in each of the three disciplines will be multiplied together, and the climber with the lowest total will be the winner.

Ondra began with a pleasant surprise in the speed round. He set a personal best of 6.86 in his last race of the round — probably the last speed event he will ever have — and that was a near-perfect result for him. He got an unexpected fourth out of the eight men competing in the final.

But whatever advantage Ondra received in speed, he gave away in bouldering, an event where he is a former world champion. He was flummoxed by the second boulder problem, requiring a sort of two-step, running leap to a small hold, then an awkward lift of pure strength toward the top. Most could get halfway, good for a “zone,” but Ondra could not. He received no points, and finished a surprising sixth in the boulder discipline.

That leaves him sixth in the competition, heading into the lead discipline, his best event. But even a first-place finish there may not be enough for a medal.

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Nathaniel Coleman of the United States won the boulder event, and sits in third place before lead. In first place is Mickael Mawem of France, but his weakest event is lead. In second is Japan’s Tomoa Narasaki, who was second in both speed and boulder, and who might be in the best position to claim gold.