TOKYO — Janja Garnbret of Slovakia, the most dominating competition climber of recent years and the gold medal favorite in the first Olympic women’s sport climbing competition, cruised into the eight-woman final with a typically strong performance on Wednesday night.
Garnbret, 22, is a double threat in bouldering and lead climbing, two of the three disciplines that have been combined into one event as sport climbing makes its Olympics debut.
She will be tested in Friday’s final by a veteran group that includes Akiyo Noguchi and Miho Nonaka of Japan, plus the 20-year-old Brooke Raboutou of the United States and the 17-year-old Chaehyun Seo of Korea.
Sport climbing, to the chagrin of climbers and fans, was granted only one medal each for men and women. That forced organizers to smash three distinct climbing disciplines — speed, bouldering and lead — into one combination event.
At the 2024 Summer Games in Paris, speed will have its own medal, and lead and bouldering — which have more skills and athletes in common — will partner as another medal event.
But in Tokyo, each athlete’s ranking in the three individual disciplines is multiplied together to produce a single score. Garnbret was 14th in speed, first in bouldering and fourth in lead. That total of 56 points — 14x1x4 — put her in first place, ahead of Seo, Nonaka and Noguchi, who rounded out the top four.
All of the Olympic finalists but two are adept at bouldering and lead climbing. One exception was Aleksandra Miroslaw of Poland, who had the fastest time up the 15-meter speed wall. That first-place finish was enough to get her into the final despite a last-place result in bouldering and a second-to-last place showing in lead.
Anouck Jaubert of France used a second-place finish in speed to squeak into the final, too.
Kyra Condie of the United States was 11th among the 20 competitors. Her hopes for making the final were undone by a pair of boulder problems that left nearly everyone but Garnbret vexed. Condie then endured an early slip in lead climbing.
The men’s final is scheduled for Thursday, and got some unexpected intrigue after the qualifying round on Tuesday when Bassa Mawem of France dropped out of the final with a biceps injury, leaving only seven competitors.
Mawem, the fastest speed climber in the final, was scheduled to race against Adam Ondra, likely the slowest, in the first round of a head-to-head speed bracket. Now Ondra will receive a bye and an automatic slot in the speed semifinals.
That means that a likely eighth-place finish in speed — a ranking number that can be hard to overcome in the multiplication of the combined format — will now be no worse than fourth for Ondra, a dominating boulderer and lead climber.