Analytical mind pushes Duffy to Olympic heights

Jul 17, 2021, 3:27 AM | Updated: 3:32 pm

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Climbing takes stamina and strength, from fingers to toes and everything in between.

The physical side is only half of the equation.

Solving a rock wall also requires mental acuity, an ability to identify the best route not only to the top, but prevent getting stuck.

Colin Duffy’s mind is a perfect fit.

Mathematically inclined and an avid puzzle solver, the 17-year-old Duffy has scaled his way into the elite level of sport climbing, becoming one of the youngest athletes to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

“A lot of climbers are really smart, love math and science, and analytical thinking, enjoying the problem solving has really helped,” Duffy said. “That’s a big part of climbing. It’s not just a physical sport. It’s also being able to handle the mental pressure and being able to solve the climbs, mentally processing everything before physically getting on it.”

Duffy was like a lot of elite climbers when he was growing up, scaling anything and everything in front of him. Look away for a second and his parents might find him climbing the railing of the neighbors’ stairs or hanging from the balcony.

Duffy was drawn to the climbing wall at the local recreation center at a young age, the massive wall — at least to a 5-year-old — and colorful holds prodding him to scale. He proved to be good at it at a young age and began climbing at ABC Kids Climbing in Boulder, Colorado, where he learned from other elite youth climbers.

Now one of his fellow climbers at ABC is an American teammate for sport climbing’s Olympic debut later this month.

Brooke Raboutou was raised by two world cup champion climbers, Didier Raboutou and Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou, and became one of the world’s best climbers. She and Duffy grew up climbing walls together, pushing each other all the way to the Olympic rings.

“At a young age, being around so many strong kids and elite athletes really helped form my climbing,” he said. “Climbing around strong people really motivates you. It’s really cool to go to the Olympics with Brooke.”

Duffy is built more like a lightweight wrestler at a muscular 5-foot-6, so some moves that climbers make are not possible for him.

That’s where the problem solving comes in.

Duffy excels at math and science in school — he’s eyeing an engineering degree in college — and loves the challenge of solving puzzles. He uses his mind to figure out the rubric of rock walls that suits him best, even if it’s not the route other climbers might take.

“He’s just always had an intuition for movement, he’s always had a confidence in his ability,” fellow American Olympian Nathaniel Coleman said “So he’s grown up unafraid of doing big dynamic moves, which is super important for his size. He’s never been held back by the way you’re supposed to climb. He’s always prioritized his own style.”

Duffy’s strength and analytical mind have taken him to heights not even he expected so quickly.

He has been an elite climber on the youth climbing circuit, twice winning International Federation of Sport Climbing youth world championships and finishing second in another.

Duffy has tackled outdoor problems far more experienced climbers might not even attempt, including two 5.14c routes at the Red River Gorge in the same day.

Duffy’s goal had been to make the U.S. Olympic team for the 2024 Paris Games. He pushed the timetable forward in 2020, winning the IFSC Pan American Championships to clinch an Olympic spot as a high school sophomore.

Duffy’s high school held an assembly to celebrate his accomplishment. The attention at such a young age has been a little strange, but it hasn’t altered his determination heading into the Tokyo Games.

“I don’t really care about the results. I just want to climb well,” he said. “Being so young, I don’t really have any pressure on me. I’m less experienced than everyone else, so just go in and give it my best shot, see where that gets me.”

If there’s a problem in front of Duffy, he’ll likely find a way to solve it. No reason to think it won’t happen when climbing goes under the Olympic spotlight.

___

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

SFA beats UNC Greensboro 75-58

LAVAL, Quebec (AP) — Roti Ware scored 17 points as SFA beat UNC Greensboro 75-58 on Sunday. Ware was 6 of 9 shooting and 4 of 4 from the free throw line for the Lumberjacks (4-3). Nigel Hawkins added 13 points while shooting 5 for 11 (2 for 3 from 3-point range) and 1 of […]
1 day ago
South Carolina forward Victaria Saxton, left, shoots over Hampton guard Camryn Hill during the firs...
Associated Press

Boston injured in No. 1 Gamecocks’ 85-38 win over Hampton

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Aliyah Boston missed the second half of No. 1 South Carolina’s game against Hampton on Sunday with her right foot in a walking boot, but reserves Bree Hall and Ashlyn Watkins scored 14 points each in an 85-38 win. Kamila Cardoso added 11 points and 14 rebounds for South Carolina. It […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Big 3rd quarter carries No. 14 Maryland women by Pitt 87-63

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Abby Meyers scored 12 of her 23 points in Maryland’s 36-point third quarter and the No. 14 Terrapins rolled to an 87-63 win over Pittsburgh on Sunday to finish the Ft. Myers Tip-Off. Brinae Alexander hit three 3-pointers in the Terps’ biggest quarter of the season and was 5 of […]
1 day ago
TCU quarterback Max Duggan reacts to throwing touchdown pass during the second half of an NCAA coll...
Associated Press

AP Top 25: Michigan up to No. 2 behind top-ranked Georgia

Michigan moved up to No. 2 in The Associated Press college football poll Sunday, with TCU at No. 3 and Southern California at No. 4 behind top-ranked Georgia after four top-10 teams lost on the final day of regular-season games. The Bulldogs (12-0) are No. 1 for the eighth straight week and 11th time this […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Memphis uses 15-0 run, defense to turn back Stanford 56-48

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — Alex Lomax scored seven of his 12 points in a game-changing surge and Memphis used its defense to stymie Stanford 56-48 in the fifth-place game of the ESPN Events Invitational on Sunday. Maxime Raynaud and Harrison Ingram hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put Stanford up 14-9 midway through the first half. After […]
1 day ago
South Carolina forward Aliyah Boston (4) shoots against Hampton during the second quarter of an NCA...
Associated Press

South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston in walking boot after fall

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina forward Aliyah Boston was sidelined with a walking boot on her right foot after a hard fall duing the No. 1 Gamecocks’ game Sunday against Hampton. The Most Outstanding Player of last spring’s NCAA Tournament was driving for the basket when she fell and took several moments to get […]
1 day ago
Analytical mind pushes Duffy to Olympic heights