Colin Duffy etched his name into the history books on Sunday, as he booked a place at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Duffy becomes the second US climber to qualify on the men’s side, after Nathaniel Coleman. Duffy also becomes the youngest climber on the men’s side to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Duffy’s day actually got off to a rough start in Speed, where he took 5th place. Speed was rough phase for the US men, with Sean Bailey and Xander Waller coming in 8th and 6th respectively.
Despite the failures of his teammates, it was actually Zach Galla (USA) who found himself in first after Speed. A sloppy final climb-off saw him take the win over Ecuador’s Carlos Granja, who had to settle for second. Even though he ultimately came second, Granja had the fastest climb with a time of 6.33.
It was then on to Bouldering, where the US climbers really began to shine. Boulder after boulder, the Latin climbers would struggle while the Americans would make quick work of the problem. The difference in skill was quite evident, and the Americans took advantage finishing 1, 2, 3, 4.
In the end the margins were razor thin, and it actually came down to flashes, attempts, and countback between the Americans. Xander Waller came away with the phase win after flashing (meaning that he topped the boulder on his first attempt) all three boulders with ease. That put him into provisional second overall heading into the Lead phase.
Next was Duffy, who had to use 2 attempts to top the first boulder, and thus lost out to Waller. Duffy’s proficiency on the boulders is what kept him in contention heading towards his bread and better, Lead. Behind Duffy was Sean Bailey. Bailey had 3 tops like Duffy and Waller, but he had 4 attempts on the zone holds, which put him in third, and out of contention for an Olympic spot.
Simple mistakes were key to Sean Bailey’s failure to qualify for Tokyo. The same can’t be said for Zach Galla who did his best, but came out short in the end. He finished fourth in the bouldering phase behind Bailey do to countback. Bailey did better in qualification than Galla, which meant he placed higher than him in the Boulder phase in the final.
The best non-American on the boulders was Carlos Granja (ECU), who showed off some seriously impressive core strength. Unfortunately, he was only able to top 1 boulder, and he wasted much of his energy to do so. He would be the only non-American in contention for the Olympic quota heading into the Lead phase.
Jose Ramón Santos Buhl (MEX) got Lead started with a respectable performance (34+), before Carlos Granja took to the wall. Granja went a bit higher than Santos Buhl, posting a 39+ to take the lead. Granja had also positioned himself to take the provisional overall lead at that point.
One of the more unexpected performances of the night came from Cesar Grosso of Brazil. After two weak phases in Speed and Bouldering, he pulled out his best climb of the day during the Lead phase. He surpassed Granja’s mark, and posted a new highscore of 42+. Grosso’s score essentially took away the possibility of an Olympic quota from Granja.
Next up was the all important climb from the best placed climber after the first two phases. Zach Galla fought for every hold, and gave it his all to seal Olympic qualification, but it wasn’t enough as he fell off the wall. He fell just after where Grosso did, and so posted the best score up until that point with a 44+.
Waller came next, with a top being enough to seal Olympic qualification for him. Unfortunately, he too was unable to conquer the mighty Lead wall. He fell just two or three holds from to top to leave the door up for Colin Duffy. His score, 48, was best in lead at the time, but wasn’t actually enough to bump Galla off the overall lead.
Off course that would change when Sean Bailey took to the wall. Bailey made good progress up the wall, and was able to fight through the pain. He topped the wall before having some belay issues. Thankfully he was returned to the mat safely after those issues were sorted out.
Olympic qualification would come down to the last climber of the night. Duffy needed not only to top the wall, but do it quicker than Sean Bailey as well. After a few tense minutes, he reached for the heavens in the “city of angels”, and made it. Duffy climbed quicker than Bailey, and so qualified for the 2020 Summer Olympics, much to the delight of the home crowd.
The final podium composition ended up being Duffy, Galla, and Waller. Not only did the US earn a second Olympic quota, they also managed to sweep the Pan American Championships. It was a proud moment for US climbing, and the climbers made sure to savor it.
When asked about his performance in final, bronze medalist Xander Waller said “I was pretty happy with how I did in Speed and Bouldering, and a little disappointed I did not do better in Lead, but it happens.” When asked what he would go back and redo, he commented “Honestly I don’t know, I feel like I climbed almost to my potential. I just had like a silly foot slip at the top of the lead route, and I probably would have wanted to set up my foot better.”
Silver medalist Zach Galla, while admitting his own shortcomings on the day, had nothing but positive thoughts for his teammate. He stated “Congrats, to Colin (Duffy) he really killed it. It was fun to watch, and it was a cool event.” He blamed the bouldering phase for his lost today, when taking about what he’d redo, saying “It was just that one little slip, just a small lapse of concentration. I (would) definitely go back and do that third boulder again. I know I could have done it first try.”
Galla will actually be taking a break from competitive climbing now, to focus on his passion of outdoor climbing. Someone who won’t be taking a break from climbing is Colin Duffy. He held an impromptu, or improvised press conference. You can listen to the full recording from that on this week’s episode of Totallympics Weekly Update.
With the 2020 Pan American Combined Climbing Championships in the books, Tokyo 2020 is one step closer. Keep reading Totallympics Media for more information about climbing at the 2020 Summer Olympics as we get closer to the games.