Utah’s Nathaniel Coleman wins silver in Olympic climbing’s debut

Nathaniel Coleman hung himself from barely holding on and hung a silver medal around his neck.

Born in Murrayer, he worked his way up to the podium from eighth place after qualifying and won the first silver medal in climbing in the history of the Olympic Games on Thursday at Aomi Urban Sports Park in Tokyo.

Coleman said he “never dared dream that I could win a medal in the Olympics. Just reaching the final was like my Ave Maria goal. “

With his parents, aunts, uncles and cousins ​​cheering him on in Salt Lake City, Coleman entered the medal battle by winning the bouldering section – the second of the three disciplines. With the fifth best leadership performance of the day, he then secured his medal.

(Julie Jag | The Salt Lake Tribune) Nathaniel Coleman’s parents, Richard, left, and Rosane speak to him in Salt Lake City after Nathaniel won the silver medal in sport climbing at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics on Thursday, August 5, 2021.

Rosane and Richard scribbled carefully on a piece of paper to keep an eye on Coleman’s overall standings. You have been involved in sport climbing for years, but since the leaderboard is often shuffled throughout the competition and an athlete’s final score depends on his placement in each discipline, it was difficult to keep track of things.

“Did you just say Nathaniel Coleman ?!” Coleman’s father asked, his eyes widening in disbelief as he stared at the television at a family party while the medal winners were announced.

Coleman, 24, was bumped into Adam Ondra from the Czech Republic when Jakob Schubert from Austria, the last competitor, was the only one ahead in the lead.

“Thank you, Jakob!” Coleman’s mother Rosane screamed with tears in her eyes.

Schubert, 30, won the bronze medal by winning the leading role. He also put 18-year-old Alberto Gines Lopez of Spain in position to win the sport’s first gold medal. Coleman was only two points (28-30) behind Lopez in the final standings. Schubert scored 35.

“I’m proud of him, really proud of him,” Richard said of his son. “I really didn’t expect that. I am just absolutely thrilled. Simply enthusiastic. “

Coleman’s biggest challenge of the day was the final format.

The Murray High graduate would have finished second from the initial speed discipline if the athletes had only progressed on time, as in qualification. He climbed the route, unchanged since 2007, in a personal record of 6.21 seconds. That was just the 6.02 which was set by Tamoa Narasaki from Japan. But a bracket format is used in the finals, and a slip near the top on his first run and in the middle of his third run left Coleman in sixth place, almost staring at the rest of the field.

But bouldering was next.

It is Coleman’s specialty as he honed his skills in the Momentum climbing gym in Sandy and the quartzite fields in Little Cottonwood Canyon. But that’s not how it looked on Tuesday in qualifying. He had struggled in the suffocatingly hot and humid conditions and finished 11th, which ruined his chance of reaching the finals. But a fourth place in the lead was just enough to make him one of the top eight.

When he got a second chance on Thursday, he channeled the same live-in-the-moment attitude he’d won at the 2018 Bouldering National Championship in Salt Lake City climbing with an injured tendon in his finger. In Tokyo he showed his first boulder problem and put his competition under pressure. Then he was the only one who conquered the second boulder. On the third boulder, like everyone else, he reached the zone on the first attempt, but did not get up.

“I couldn’t believe how well the bouldering went,” Coleman told his parents in a short phone call after the podium. “It was – phew.”

Coleman’s medal hopes then depended on how high and quickly he could climb the 50-foot wall in the lead, the final discipline. He went into the event tied with Narasaki and the Frenchman Mickael Mawam.

About halfway through the competition, he was the first ever Olympic champion in climbing, but Ondra outdid him by climbing just a few holds from the top. Then Schubert, the bronze medalist at a Bouldering World Cup event in Salt Lake City in May, stormed from last place to the podium.

(Gregory Bull | AP) Jakob Schubert from Austria celebrates during the bouldering game of the men’s sport climbing final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Thursday, August 5, 2021, in Tokyo.

“It was kind of a lucky finale because the audience could see how much the track setting can affect the competition,” said Coleman. “The lead route was set perfectly. There was a man to top it, for the very last (opportunity). That is the height of the excitement in the lead competition. “

Ondra, the winner of one of the Bouldering World Cups in Salt Lake and the favorite in the event, was unusually wrong in the bouldering part and didn’t even get a zone on the second boulder. That threatened his medal hopes and he finished sixth overall, just ahead of Coleman’s 17-year-old USA Climbing teammate Colin Duffy from Colorado.

Ondra, 28, said he would use his placement as motivation to prepare for Paris 2024.

“Coming home without a medal from the first Olympic Games definitely motivates me to go to Paris in three years,” he said.

Climbing was one of six sports Tokyo selected as part of a new IOC rule that allows host countries to include just a few sports in their program to add a local flair and attract a younger audience. Paris has also opted for climbing – along with surfing, skateboarding, and break dancing – but with a few changes. Medals for men and women in speed climbing as well as in a combined bouldering and lead event are offered.

Rosane texted her son Wednesday evening – Thursday morning in Tokyo – encouraging him to just be there and enjoy the moment. Coleman said the news left him in good headspace.

Rosane could see it. She said “it was a pleasure” to see him in the final.

“To know that he had such a great speed run, set a personal best and was great at bouldering,” she said. “He just had such a good day. He was so happy and climbed so well. “

(Gregory Bull | AP) Nathaniel Coleman of the United States celebrates in Tokyo after winning the silver medal in men’s sport climbing at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Thursday, August 5, 2021.

Climbing for men


1. Alberto Gines Lopez, Spain

2. Nathaniel Coleman, USA

3. Jakob Schubert, Austria

4. Tamoa Narasaki, Japan

5. Mickael Mawem, France

6. Adam Ondra, Czech Republic

7. Colin Duffy, USA

8. Lower Mawem *, France

* Did not take part due to injury

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