Tears, rigidity and talent as girls’s sport climbing takes Olympic bow | Tokyo Olympic Video games 2020


ONWhen Shauna Coxsey and Iuliia Kaplina tossed their bodies up a 15-meter-high vertical wall as quickly as possible, the difference between them was immediately clear. Kaplina is the world record holder in speed climbing. Coxsey isn’t a speed climber at all. Kaplina immediately broke up with her British rival, but as she neared the top, she slipped. When she returned to the floor, she was crying.

While the announcer at Aomi Urban Sports Park tried to comfort Kaplina by pointing out to the crowd of country delegations and volunteers that she was still in fifth place after her first attempt, she knew the truth. This is her specialty when it comes to speed, in this strange combination of three different climbing sports under one roof, Kaplina had to be almost perfect at the other two events due to her vulnerability.

With just one medal for climbing in Tokyo 2020, speed, bouldering and lead were merged into one sport. The combination of speed climbing with the other two categories was controversial, with the various events requiring significantly different skills.

“The format is not ideal,” said Coxsey. “As an athlete, I think it’s pretty risky for your body. It’s intense. It is almost impossible to train all aspects of the combination well anyway. “

But, as Coxsey also noted, it worked as a spectator sport. Throughout Wednesday evening, the debut of women’s sport climbing played like a party until late into the night. When a revolving door of climbers entered the stage, music boomed through the stadium. The unique tension that every event brings has been combined.

Speed ​​climbing, in which the athletes simply dash up the wall as quickly as possible, is seven to eight seconds of fast-paced adrenaline. In bouldering, where the competitors solve climbing problems with the fewest attempts, the countless falls make the reward of a successful ascent extremely satisfying. Lead, a challenging climb, becomes more tense throughout.

Women’s climbing these days is often defined by the height of Janja Garnbret, a 22-year-old Slovenian who dominates everything on her way and is widely considered to be the best climber of her time. Garnbret says her nerves were abnormally developed under the Olympic pressure, which affected her during the speed game. She went into the locker room, screamed out frustration, and then returned in a zen-like mode.

Team GB’s Shauna Coxsey stretches to end a run in the speed segment. Photo: @ AUO1 / Reuters

What Garnbret achieved during the bouldering round was one of the most impressive sporting achievements of the games so far. While her peers struggled through the four bouldering problems, she mastered each one straight away with the ease of climbing stairs. When asked what her response to Olympic stress taught her, she laughed. “That I have a pretty good mind.” She said.

The day ended with a departure. The most successful British climber and one of the sport’s most prominent ambassadors, Coxsey has had a nightmare since qualifying for the Olympics in 2019 with bronze medals combined and bouldering.

She has been plagued by injuries, from knee and wrist surgeries within a week last year to a chronic back injury. She had planned to retire after the Olympics, but for so long wasn’t sure she would make it at all.

After finishing a respectable 10th place after a solid outing in bouldering, her specialty, Coxsey spoke about her back injury, which she believes is constant pain.

“I don’t wish anyone an injury. I got my fair share of it. My back isn’t getting any better, which is the hardest part. Getting around that is not really possible. I trained significantly less than I should have. “

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“Getting this far feels like a great achievement. My goal was literally to get off the ground so walking away in 10th place is crazy. Most of all, I enjoy it and feel happy on the wall, ”she said.

Coxsey lived up to those words to the end. On a tearful day in which Olympic dreams died within a few hours, she climbed down from the wall after her main performance with a beaming smile on her face. She ends her groundbreaking career as a proud Olympian.