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Olympics

Bassa Mawem Out With Injury, Ondra Could Automatically Advance in His Worst Discipline, Speed

A torn biceps tendon has knocked the Frenchman out of finals potentially upsetting the medal apple cart.

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There was a lot of confusion at the end of yesterday’s Olympic qualifying round. France’s Bassa Mawem, who had looked phenomenal in winning the round’s Speed portion in the men’s division, fell from the wall in the Lead portion and doubled over in pain. He grabbed his bicep, but that was where any certainty ended. The event’s commentator wondered if it was a horrific injury—perhaps a torn muscle—or just a cramp. 

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While questions about the injury continued to pile up, and while other competitors took their own Lead attempts in that qualifying round, there were also new questions about Bassa Mawem’s ranking in the men’s Olympic field. The Czech Republic’s Adam Ondra climbed. Then South Korea’s Jongwon Chon climbed. Then Italy’s Michael Piccolruaz. By the round’s end, it was clear that Bassa Mawem—even with the unfortunate bicep situation—had advanced into the finals by points (in seventh place, to be exact)…but would he even be able to compete in the finals given how bad the injury seemed?

Soon more video emerged, and in slow-motion footage that likely made climbers everywhere wince, Bassa Mawem’s bicep could be seen coiling up beneath the skin like a window blind. Indeed, the injury looked bad, but how bad?    

Finally, after all that wondering, we have some answers. Bassa and his brother Mickael (who also advanced to tomorrow’s Olympic finals) made a social media post in which Bassa’s arm is cradled in a sling. Mickael refers to it as a “big injury.” Further media reports from France specified that the injury was a ruptured bicep tendon, with Bassa himself eventually saying that he would not compete in the Olympic final as a result—and that recovery would take a minimum of six months (according to our quick, basic French-to-English translation of Bassa’s quotes).

Bassa Mawem and his brother Mickael announcing Bassa’s injury.

There were also questions about whether Bassa’s now-vacant spot in the Olympic final would be filled by another competitor—particularly Germany’s Alex Megos, who had just missed the cutoff to advance into the Olympic finals. It does not seem like that will be the case at this point, as the start list for tomorrow’s final round was recently released with Bassa’s name included in it. It is likely that the Olympics will follow the standard World Cup protocol, in which Bassa Mawem will be given a DNS (Did Not Start) designation by his name in the record books. 

Of note is that Bassa Mawem is scheduled to race against Adam Ondra to kick off tomorrow’s Speed bracket, according to the finals’ start list. In standard bracket-style elimination, Bassa Mawem’s absence would result in Ondra automatically advancing to the next heat. If this proves to be the case, it could be significant, as Speed is inarguably the discipline that Ondra tends to struggle in the most. Automatic advancement would be advantageous for Ondra.   

Stay tuned to Climbing.com for any additional news or updates on the situation.