Join us for the Outside Games, where Outside+ members can interact with USA Olympic team members like Nathaniel Coleman and Kyra Condie. Meet these two USA Team members virtually and hear what it’s like to blaze a trail in climbing’s debut Olympic performance. Climbing’s Senior Editor Alison Osius will host and curate the interviews at 6 p.m. MST on June 14. Registration is limited, but free for Outside+ members so reserve your space today. Not a member? Learn more about Outside+.
Sunday, May 31, 2015, was the first time and last time Nathaniel Coleman surprised the climbing world. The hitherto unknown 18-year-old stood in second place on the podium at a Bouldering World Cup in Toronto. He pulled the same trick the very next weekend, on June 7 in Vail, a close second behind Jan Hojer of Germany and just ahead of Adam Ondra of the Czech Republic. Twice elsewhere that same summer he was just outside the top 10, placing 11th, showing impressive consistency.
A climber since age 9, Coleman, 24 and of Murray, Utah, won three straight USA Climbing Bouldering Open National Championships, 2016 through 2018 (and was second in 2019).
As the 2019 Olympic trials loomed, he was the top American contender, but he’s also had his ups and downs. World Cup fields are stacked, even brutal. In climbing events, where a foot can slip, the routes may or may not suit someone’s style, or the difference between sticking and not sticking a move can seem infinitesimal, even the best can dip into the 20s and 30s.
Coleman has also been 16th and 17th in both 2018 and 2019, and rose up to 12th and even eighth (at Vail) in 2019. The above are all bouldering, yet he was also 12th and 14th at Lead World Cups in Chamonix and Briançon that year, showing the versatility required for qualification and performance in these Olympics, which combine genres: bouldering, lead and speed.
The young Utah climber missed Olympic qualification at the World Championships at Hachioji, Japan, by only two places—but put the pedal down at the next qualifier, in November at Toulouse, France, coming in eighth.
As of this writing, he placed 21st at the World Cup in Salt Lake City on May 21-22, just one spot out of semifinals, and a strong 10th at the next, a week later in Salt Lake. Previously this year, at World Cups in Toulouse and Meiringen, Switzerland, he was eighth and—making the finals field of six—a superb fifth.
Coleman is a powerful but smooth and controlled climber, with a thoughtful, analytical approach to climbing and life. He is passionate about environmental protection and hopes to use his visibility as an athlete to have an effect.