In Climbing, Finding a Way Up Is Just One of the Calculations


“It hurts,” Ondra said of not winning a medal. “But it’s hard to be too disappointed.”

When the numbers came to a standstill, 18-year-old Alberto Ginés López of Spain had climbed his way to the gold medal with an unexpected all-around performance. He finished first in speed, seventh in bouldering and fourth in lead, giving him a winning point total of 28 (1×7×4). All three medalists won one of the disciplines, earning the friendly multiplier of one.

Coleman won silver, and Schubert, who barely seemed in the competition until its final moment, lifted himself to bronze.

“Oh my gosh,” Coleman said after saying goodbye on the phone to his mother in Utah, where family and friends gathered to watch on television. “I never dared to acknowledge the dream that I could medal. Just making the finals was my Hail Mary goal.”

Coleman, 24, did not expect to be in the finals just two nights earlier, when his qualification round ended with a mediocre boulder performance and an early slip in lead. Dejected, he congratulated his American teammate Colin Duffy for reaching the finals and said he would be in the audience to cheer him on.

But as the scores shuffled, he found himself in the eighth and final spot in the final. On Thursday he seized first place for a time, only to be passed on the lead wall, and in the lead, by Ginés López.

Tomoa Narasaki of Japan, a powerhouse on the boulder and lead circuits and a surprisingly strong speed climber, finished fourth.

Speed climbing is a vertical sprint up a wall, a test of explosive power and muscle memory. Bouldering is a slow ascent up a short wall without ropes, a feat of dexterity and strength. Lead is the most like outdoor rock climbing, where athletes clip in with a rope and see how high they can get before they are undone by exhaustion, time or a fall.

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