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The Olympics are underway and most of the climbers have arrived in Tokyo for last-minute training and preparations as August 3 and 4 loom on the calendar (as the men’s and women’s qualification dates, respectively). Two of the most familiar names on the Olympic roster are the Czech Republic’s Adam Ondra and Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret. Both have spectacular World Cup credentials, and that makes them popular picks for winning Olympic gold. More to the point, Ondra and Garnbret are undeniably all-time greats, and we’re certainly not going to disagree with anyone who considers them to be the Olympic favorites. However, there’s also value in looking closer at their greatness, considering what it would take for others to overtake them in the Olympic scores…and tossing out a few names of competitors whose skills pose the biggest threats, at least on paper.
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GARNBRET THE GREAT
There are plenty of reasons why Janja Garnbret is the heavy favorite for Olympic gold. Her greatness is arguably the biggest allure of climbing’s entire Olympic debut, fashioned through previous World Cup dominance in two disciplines, multiple World Championships, and star power that is unrivaled in the women’s division. No matter what country you’re from or which particular Olympians you’d like to see shine, you can’t help but root for Garnbret because she is the GOAT, or Greatest Of All Time. But let’s take a look at some names that could challenge her at the Olympics.
Laura Rogora: If there is any Olympian whose results in the lead climbing division have been almost on par with Garnbret’s in 2021, it’s Italy’s Laura Rogora. Garnbret won two Lead World Cups earlier this season; Rogora won one. In fact, at the Villars World Cup, Garnbret and Rogora were the only two women in the field to reach the top of the finals route. At last year’s Lead World Cup in Briançon, Rogora actually beat Garnbret—something that not many competitors on the Olympic roster can say. Stylistically, Rogora is far less dynamic than Garnbret, making their rivalry an interesting study in contrasts. Given the Olympics’ Combined format, Rogora has to have the Speed run of her life (as well as her best Boulder results ever) to stay in the hunt for an Olympic medal. But definitely don’t count Rogora out if the scores are really close heading into the Lead portion of the Games.
Laura Rogora of Italy is hot on the heels of Janja Garnbret, and could take the gold with a strong performance. Photo: Marco Kost/Getty Images