Spanish teenager Ginés Lopéz wins 1st Olympic climbing gold

Aug 4, 2021, 6:31 PM | Updated: Aug 5, 2021, 10:36 am

TOKYO (AP) — Nerves once were Alberto Ginés Lopéz’s biggest obstacle on the climbing wall. Didn’t matter if he was in the finals or well down the standings, the fear of climbing in front of other people left him locked up.

The Spanish teenager not only overcame those jitters, he conquered the world’s best climbers on the sport’s biggest stage.

At ease in front of a worldwide audience, Ginés Lopéz won the first Olympic gold medal in sport climbing, riding a victory in the speed discipline to the top of the podium Thursday at the Tokyo Games.

“My head hasn’t worked so well to start the season, but I was working with a specialist, and I think now it’s working better,” Ginés Lopéz said.

That’s an understatement.

Ginés Lopéz struggled when climbing in front of even 100 people when he was younger and still had stage fright into this World Cup season. The 18-year-old sought help from a coach to soothe himself on the wall, and it’s paid off.

He qualified sixth in Tokyo and quickly put himself into the lead by winning the speed event. He then showed off his all-around skills by finishing seventh in lead and fourth in bouldering. He had 30 points — the finishes are multiplied together — to edge Nathaniel Coleman of the United States by two.

“Two years ago, I was quite bad on speed and I worked a lot on it with my team,” Ginés Lopéz said. “Here I was bit lucky but was able to win it.”

Coleman came to Tokyo hoping to make the finals in the sport’s first Olympics. The 24-year-old from Salt Lake City did more than that, winning bouldering by topping three of the four “problems.” He also was fifth in lead and sixth in speed, finishing just short of gold.

“Getting into finals, it didn’t feel for real for a long time,” he said. “I put a lot of effort in resetting my mind and believe a good performance was possible.”

Jakob Schubert of Austria had the climb of the night, becoming the first man or woman to reach the top of the 15-meter lead wall in three days of competition. His climb moved him into the bronze medal spot and knocked Czech climber Adam Ondra off the podium.

“It kind of came out of nowhere,” Schubert said. “Out of speed and boulder, I was in such a bad position. I knew even with a first place in lead, there was only a small chance to medal. Everything went so fast after that.”

Climbing made the transition from chill outdoor vibe to competitive sport in the 1990s and took a huge step forward in 2007 with the formation of the International Federation of Sport Climbing.

The World Cup circuit expanded the sport’s popularity, as did the increase in recreational gyms around the world.

Climbing exploded the last several years with the social media prowess of the top climbers, a TV deal with ESPN and the success of Free Solo, a documentary of Alex Honnold’s rope-free climb of Yosemite’s El Capitan.

The culmination put elite climbers in position to reach for the Olympic rings.

Sport climbing was added to the Tokyo Games along with skateboarding, karate, 3-on-3 basketball and surfing in an effort to draw younger generations.

But with the inclusion came an exception: speed climbing was part of the program.

The IOC is handing out two medals in climbing — one for men and women — and wanted something fast-twitch to catch people’s attention, so speed was included.

The decision rankled lead and boulder climbers; speed is a more specialized discipline and will have its own medals at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The key for the lead and boulder specialists would be to offset low scores in speed with high ones, even a first in one or both of the other two disciplines.

Ondra, considered the best climber in the world, has called speed a circus show and didn’t seem too worried about his results in the finals in Tokyo. He laughed after losing to Ginés Lopéz after getting a bye in the first round and was ecstatic after losing to Mickael Mawem because he set a personal best of 6.68 seconds to finish fourth.

Ondra had a difficult time on the boulder walls after topping the first problem, but had the top score in lead until Schubert’s climb.

Ginés Lopéz used his speed climbing prowess to his advantage, winning the final race over Tomoa Narasaki of Japan with a run of 6.42 seconds up the 15-meter wall dotted with standardized holds. The teen who used to struggle with his nerves kept his composure over the next two disciplines, walking away with gold.

“Even when I knew I couldn’t win the comp, I was messing up,” Ginés Lopéz said. “Today, I didn’t worry about that too much.”

___

More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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

AP

Syracuse's Judah Mintz (3) tries to get around as Notre Dame's Dane Goodwin, right, and Cormac Ryan...
Associated Press

Edwards, Girard lead Syracuse over Notre Dame 62-61

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Jesse Edwards and Joe Girard combined for 42 points and Syracuse beat Notre Dame 62-61 in an Atlantic Coast Conference opener on Saturday to snap a three-game losing streak. Judah Mintz scored on a baseline drive to give the Orange (4-4) the lead with 13.3 seconds remaining. Syracuse had three […]
1 day ago
Ohio State's Brice Sensabaugh, right, posts up against Saint Francis' Luke Ruggery during the first...
Associated Press

No. 25 Ohio State has big 2nd half, beats St. Francis 96-59

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Brice Sensabaugh led the Buckeyes with 15 points and Bruce Thornton added 13 as No. 25 Ohio State surged in the second half for a 96-59 win over St. Francis on Saturday. The Red Flash trimmed a 16-point deficit to eight in the first half, with Josh Cohen getting the first […]
1 day ago
Poland's goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, right, makes a save in front of Argentina's Nicolas Tagliafi...
Associated Press

Big day at World Cup looms for France, Poland goalkeepers

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — It’s a huge day for goalkeepers with big reputations when defending champion France faces Poland in the round of 16 at the World Cup on Sunday. Hugo Lloris will tie a national team record for Les Bleus four years after lifting the trophy as captain. Opposite number Wojciech Szczesny is a […]
1 day ago
Christian Pulisic of the United States is dejected after the World Cup round of 16 soccer match bet...
Associated Press

US knocked out of World Cup, loses to the Netherlands 3-1

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — Memphis Depay and Daley Blind scored in the first half and Denzel Dumfries added a late goal as the Netherlands eliminated the United States from the World Cup with a 3-1 victory Saturday that advanced the Dutch to the quarterfinals. Second-half substitute Haji Wright cut the U.S. deficit to 2-1 […]
1 day ago
South Korea's team players wait for the result of their group's match between Ghana and Uruguay, af...
Associated Press

New 48-team World Cup format fails to impress Poland coach

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The high drama of split-screen tension during simultaneous matches in the final set of World Cup group games is now a thing of the past. The next tournament in 2026 will feature 48 teams — 16 more than this year in Qatar — and use a different format that will do […]
1 day ago
Poland's Robert Lewandowski, center, works out with teammates during a training session in Doha, Qa...
Associated Press

World Cup Viewer’s Guide: Rested France faces Poland

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — France, the reigning World Cup champions, has been warned by coach Didier Deschamps not to underestimate Poland and star Robert Lewandowski in the knockout round Sunday. Les Blues breezed through the group stage and clinched a spot in the round of 16 with a game to spare, which allowed Deschamps to […]
1 day ago
Spanish teenager Ginés Lopéz wins 1st Olympic climbing gold