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PIX: Climbing makes thrilling debut at Tokyo Olympics

August 03, 2021 15:55 IST
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IMAGE: Bassa Mawem, left, of France and Jakob Schubert of Austria compete during the sport climbing men's combined, seed qualification on Day 11 of the Tokyo Olympic Games at Aomi Urban Sports Park in Tokyo, on Tuesday. Photograph: Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Frenchman Bassa Mawem scaled close to the world record in the speed section of the Tokyo Games climbing competition, as more than a third of the 20-man field posted personal bests in a sensational start to the sport's Olympic debut on Tuesday.


Bassa, who is competing alongside his brother Mickael and is the oldest contender in the field at 36, hit a personal best of 5.45 seconds, just short of the world record of 5.20.

He took an early lead in the competition in which the eight athletes with the best combined score across three events - speed, a vertical sprint; bouldering, which tests problem-solving skills on low walls; and lead, a technical climb against the clock - will advance to Thursday's final.

IMAGE: Yufei Pan, left, of China and Kai Harada of Japan compete during the sport climbing men's combined speed qualification. Photograph: Maja Hitij/Getty Images

In a good showing for host Japan, Tomoa Narasaki recorded his fastest time of 5.94, coming in second after Bassa, while Mickael rounded out the top three heading into the bouldering section.

The Czech Republic's Adam Ondra, an accomplished technical and outdoor climber considered to be one of the top medal contenders, finished down in 18th place with 7.46 seconds.

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 potential for upsets.

IMAGE: Jongwon Chon of Korea reacts. Photograph: Maja Hitij/Getty Images

The three walls stand side-by-side at the temporary Aomi Urban Sports Park venue near the Tokyo waterfront with the event to introduce the sport's competitive iterations and many of its big personalities to a global audience.

Climbing's inclusion in the Olympics along with events such as surfing and skateboarding is an attempt by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to broaden the appeal of the world's largest sporting event.

It brings to the Games a new breed of athlete, some of whom are adept at both competition and climbing rugged outdoor routes.

IMAGE: Colin Duffy of US in action. Photograph: Maja Hitij/Getty Images

The sport has become an alternative to traditional gyms as climbing walls spring up in urban centres offering a full body workout to a younger demographic drawn by its associations with adventure.

While the combined format favours all-rounders in Tokyo, climbing will be split into speed and a combined bouldering and lead event at the Paris Games in 2024.

The women's competition begins on Wednesday.

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