Nathaniel Coleman became the first American man to qualify for sport climbing’s Olympic debut by making the final of an Olympic qualifier in Toulouse, France, on Thursday.
Coleman, a 22-year-old from Utah, qualified for Tokyo on his second try. He was the top U.S. man at the world championships in August, placing 12th when a top-10 would have clinched an Olympic berth.
“As Toulouse creeps closer, I’ve noticed my mind fixating on it throughout my days and nights,” was posted on his Instagram earlier this week. “I think the last time I’ve cared so much about a competition was in the weeks leading up to my first open national, back in 2014. I’m usually pretty laid back until the actual day of the comp, when I can let my nerves surface and feel them drive me to compete. But not this one, it’s got my number and won’t stop calling.”
On Thursday, Coleman was seventh in qualifying into Saturday’s eight-man final. The top six in Toulouse make the Olympics, but two of the finals qualifiers were Japanese, and Japan had already maxed out its Olympic qualifiers at worlds in August. Therefore, everybody else who made the final is guaranteed an Olympic spot. Another American, Sean Bailey, missed the final by one spot.
A pending Japanese federation lawsuit could impact Olympic qualification, but under the current procedures, Coleman has clinched.
He joined the already qualified Brooke Raboutou on the U.S. Olympic team. The roster could get up to two athletes per gender total after the women’s event in Toulouse and the Pan American qualifier in three months.
Overall, 25 athletes have qualified for the U.S. Olympic team across all sports. A full roster is here. The team will eventually eclipse 500 athletes.
Olympic sport climbing will feature one set of medals per gender, the event combining three disciplines: lead, speed and bouldering. Coleman specializes in bouldering.
From Tokyo 2020: Speed climbing pits two climbers against each other, both climbing a fixed route on a 15-meter wall at a 95-degree angle. Winning times are generally between five and eight seconds. In bouldering, climbers scale a number of fixed routes on a four-meter wall in a specified time without safety ropes. In lead climbing, athletes attempt to climb as high as possible on a wall measuring over 15 meters in height within a fixed time with safety ropes.
The sport debuted at the Youth Olympics in 2018 in Buenos Aires, but no Americans were entered.
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