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OK everyone, the speed portion is a wrap in climbing’s last Olympic event–the women’s combined final. It was a much anticipated portion, and for good reason. Speed was a game changer for the men, and while we won’t know how impactful speed will be for the women until lead is over, you can bet it will be a fly in the tent: always there, reminding you of its presence. For starters, a new world record was just made.
For the speed finals, it is knockout rounds, like the NCAA brackets. Lose to the person in the opposite lane and you advance. In the qualis, it was a race against the clock.
Seo Chaehyun, of South Korea, raced the speed specialist Aleksandra Miroslaw, of Poland, and wouldn’t advance. Aleksandra clocked a 7.49, which is nearly a half second slower than the world record.
Next up was Noguchi vs. Pilz. Noguchi hit the buzzer in 8.55, clean and smooth and without mistakes, which was essential, because Pilz was chasing her the whole way. Noguchi advances to semis.
Unfortunately, Janja Garnbret pulled Anouck Jaubert for her racing partner, a speed specialist from France. As expected, Anouck won, but Janja put in an excellent, smooth and mistake-free effort. Jaubert advances to speed semifinals.
Last up in quarterfinals was Miho Nonaka vs Brooke Raboutou. Nonaka made a mistake with a foot slip, and it looked like the race was given to the American, but Nonaka worked quick to cover lost ground and would advance to semis with a time of 8.19.
In sum, the two speed specialists moved to speed semis, along with Noguchi and Nonaka. That Noguchi and Nonaka, bouldering savants, are guaranteed 4th place or less in speed will really help them down the line as the combined event continues.
Noguchi vs Miroslaw was first up. Noguchi gave it her all, but was ultimately beat by the specialist Miroslaw who clocked a 7.03, a blistering pace and not far off the world record.
Nonaka vs Jaubert. It would be close. Nonaka looked like the most native of non-native speed climbers. She gave a great run, but Jaubert had a mistake free run of 7.51. Again, like the other semi, the speed specialists advance to finals.
Jaubert vs. Miroslaw. Miroslaw continues the streak and gets a new world record of 6.84. Miroslaw wins speed and will advance out of speed with 1 point, a real advantage given the scoring.
In sum, Nonaka and Noguchi, with 3 and 4 points respectively, are set up nicely going into bouldering. Raboutou would get 7th (which in combined scoring is 7 points) and Garnbret would leave the speed portion with 5 points. Chaehyun landed in 2nd place in the women’s overall combined qualifiers two days ago, and today, going into bouldering and lead with 7 points already will become a small mountain she has to overcome. Stay tuned!
WOMEN’S SPORT CLIMBING SPEED FINAL RESULTS
1. Aleksandra Miroslaw (Poland)
2. Anouck Jaubert (France)
3. Miho Nonaka (Japan)
4. Akiyo Noguchi (Japan)
5. Janja Garnbret (Slovenia)
7. Jessica Pilz (Austria)
7. Brooke Raboutou (USA)
8. Seo Chaehyun (South Korea)
MEET THE WOMEN’S SPORT CLIMBING OLYMPIC FINALISTS
Janja Garnbret (Slovenia)
Though just 22 years old, Janja Garnbret is already one of the most pedigreed competition climbers of all time. Since her first appearance on the adult World Cup circuit in 2015, the Slovenian has been the competitor to beat in both lead and bouldering. In 2019, she swept the bouldering World Cup series and won the World Championships in both bouldering and lead.
In this week’s qualifying rounds, Garnbret—who is not a speed specialist—climbed somewhat sloppily in both speed heats, leading the announcers to speculate whether the pressure of the Olympic stage was getting to her. Those theories were thoroughly debunked in the bouldering round, where Garnbret was dominant, flashing all four problems with evident ease. (No other competitor even topped all four.) Her prowess on the boulders more than compensated for her relatively disappointing 4th place finish in lead. It’s a strong field, but Garnbret is certainly a gold medal favorite here.
Seo Chaehyun (South Korea)
At 17, Seo Chaehyun is one of climbing’s youngest Olympians (though not the youngest: she’s got a month on Colin Duffy). Because of her age and her limited exposure to competitions over the last 18 months, many people were unsure what to expect from Chae-hyun in the Olympics. She is recognized as a gifted lead climber—in 2019, her first season on the adult circuit, she medaled in six lead events, taking four golds, one silver, and one bronze—but until Tuesday’s qualifying round, her bouldering and speed capabilities remained largely untested on the international stage.
What did we learn during the qualifiers? We learned that speed isn’t her forte (she placed 17th) but that she’s a dang strong boulderer. Her 5th place finish on the boulders set her up nicely for her main event, lead, which she won with style, finding elegant beta through burly sequences that stymied many of the world’s strongest competitors. Can she medal? Absolutely.
(Fun fact: Chaehyun doesn’t just climb inside; when she was 14, she took a trip to Colorado and took down one of Rifle’s hardest routes: Bad Girls Club, 5.14d.
Miho Nonaka (Japan)
Born in Tokyo in 1997, Miho Nonaka started climbing at the age of eight; according to her website, her main motivation to improve was her desire to out-perform her two older sisters. She succeeded. She competed in her first World Cups in 2014, won her first boulder World Cup in 2016, and for the next few years racked up a hefty collection of medals, eventually winning the overall Bouldering World Championship in 2018. Known as an adept all-arounder, Nonaka clearly demonstrated her medal-potential during the qualification round, placing 4th in speed, 8th in bouldering, and 3rd in lead.
Akiyo Noguchi (Japan)
Born in Tokyo in 1989, Noguchi started climbing at the age of 11—training mostly on a home wall her father built on their family’s cattle farm. At age thirty-two, she’s a seasoned competitor. She began winning World Cup medals in 2007 and won at least three each year after that until COVID-19 disrupted the 2020 season. In her home country, she’s something of an elder statesmen; she won nine consecutive Bouldering Japan Cups, from 2005 to 2014.
Like Adam Ondra, Noguchi is has traditionally performed far better in bouldering and lead climbing than in speed, a disadvantage in the combined format. But evidently she’s been training: during the qualification round she managed a respectable 9th place (compared to Ondra’s 18th). This took some of the pressure off the bouldering and lead rounds, in which she placed 3rd and 6th, respectively. Noguchi has said that she will retire from competition climbing at the end of these Games.
Brooke Raboutou (U.S.)
Brooke Raboutou was born in 2001 to a climbing family. Her parents were leading competitors during the 90s and are the masterminds behind ABC Kids Climbing—a program that also produced fellow Olympian Colin Duffy—and her younger brother is currently one of the world’s strongest outdoor boulderers. Raboutou was climbing V10 and 5.13b by age nine; she sent her first 5.14b at age eleven; last year, when the Olympics were postponed, she sent two V14 boulder problems, Muscle Car and Jade, both in Colorado. Earlier this year, in preparation for the Olympics, she took a semester off from college—she’s a marketing major at the University of San Diego—and focused on training. It seems to have paid off. During Olympic qualifiers, she placed 12th in speed, then absolutely crushed it on the boulders, gaining three tops (two of them flashes) and a zone. Her 2nd place finish in bouldering took some pressure of lead, where she placed 8th.
Jessica Pilz (Austria)
Hailing from Haag, Austria, Jessica Pilz started climbing when she was just nine years old. Now 24, she’s one of the most accomplished lead climbers in the women’s field, and she has also made finals in six Bouldering World Cups. In 2018, she won the Lead Climbing World Championship—beating Janja Garnbret on time. Like Raboutou, Pilz is both a university student and a professional athlete, and she “aims to become a role model for the next generation of climbers.” Unfortunately, Pilz fully ruptured her A-4 pulley at a Bouldering World Cup in Salt Lake City in late May—an injury that has undoubtedly forced her to balance the requirements of recovery with those of training. But it seems to have worked. She had tape on her finger during qualifiers, but climbed well, especially in lead where she finished 2nd. She was 11th and 9th in speed and bouldering.
Aleksanda Miroslaw (Poland)
Aleksanda Miroslaw is the reigning women’s speed-climbing World Champion. And she is fast. During her best heat during qualifiers, she came short of the women’s speed world record by just .01 seconds. She’d have liked that 1/100th of a second, but even without it she won first in speed, which has carried her to the final. Miroslaw is the quintessential speed specialist, but doesn’t perform at the same level on the boulders (20th in qualifiers) and the lead wall (19th). To medal, she’ll need to win speed and then make some gains in the non-speed events.
Anouck Jaubert (France)
Anouck Jaubert is a 27-year-old speed specialist from Grenoble, France. She has appeared on dozens of World Cup podiums as a speed climber, and she earned her spot on the French team after an 11th place finish in the combined event at the 2019 World Championships in Hachioji, China. In the speed round of the Olympic qualifier, Jaubert posted a time of 7.12 seconds, second only to Miroslaw. Jaubert followed up this strong speed performance by placing 13th in bouldering and 15th in lead. We’ll expect a battle between Miroslaw and Jaubert for the speed title in finals—and with it the chance to podium.