- Eight of 20 until men’s final in Olympic debut
- Bassa Mawem appears injured after the main event
- American teenager Duffy finishes in the top 10 in all three disciplines
TOKYO, Aug 3 (Reuters) – French siblings Bassa and Mickael Mawem have reached the final of the men’s climbing competition, but questions remain about the former’s prospects after he appeared injured at the end of the tour qualifiers during the sport’s Olympic debut on Tuesday.
Mickael, who turned 31 on Tuesday, leads the pack of eight athletes who will compete for a single gold medal, the first in climbing, in three events – speed, a vertical sprint; the block, which tests problem-solving skills on low walls; and in the lead, a technical rise against the clock.
Twenty of the world’s top climbers shone in their first appearance on the Olympic stage ahead of mostly empty stands at Aomi Urban Sports Park with fans absent amid strict pandemic restrictions.
More than a third of the peloton set personal bests in the opening speed event, with Bassa, 36, the oldest of the competitors, leading after sprinting with his best time of 5.45 seconds, just below the world record of 5.20.
The result kept speed specialist Bassa in contention despite poor performance later. The Frenchman was unable to resolve any of the bouldering issues and appeared to injure himself during the head test, falling off the wall and leaving the room holding his arm.
It was a bittersweet day for Mickael, who finished third behind his older brother in the sprint race, before dominating the bouldering competition.
After the main event, Mickael said he was not told about Bassa’s state of health, but stressed that the brothers will go to the final together.
“We (will) go to the final for sure, we are going to the final and just that, it’s the first goal,” said Mickael.
“We wake up together, we eat together, we go and play games together, we walk together. “
17-year-old American Colin Duffy, the youngest climber in the field, was impressive in his Games debut, becoming the only competitor to finish in the top 10 in all three events. Read more
He finished third in qualifying behind top Japanese competitor Tomoa Narasaki.
Duffy’s compatriot Nathaniel Coleman also qualified with a strong performance in the lead event, dropping him from 13th to eighth after the first two laps.
Czech Adam Ondra, also widely regarded as one of the best contenders for the medal, finished 18th in sprint, his weakest discipline, but rebounded strongly in the following two events, finishing fifth.
The unusual combined format – the climbing equivalent of a triathlon – has pushed athletes out of their comfort zones, with the ranking system creating plenty of chances for surprises.
While the combined format favors all-rounders in Tokyo, rock climbing will be split into speed and a combined bouldering and lead event at the Paris Games in 2024.
Reporting by Sam Nussey and Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Lincoln Feast / Ed Osmond / Ken Ferris / Christian Radnedge
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