Tomoa Narasaki has never hidden his desire to become the first ever Olympic gold medalist in sport climbing and remains the favorite in Tokyo after continuing his calculated strides in this pandemic-ridden year.
“The time has finally come and my feeling is mainly one of excitement. I have made up my mind to become the first champion,” said the popular climber, who originally liked to do gymnastics before switching to climbing at the age of 10.
After securing his Olympic spot by winning the 2019 World Championships in Combination, the exact format used in that summer’s Games, disappointment was inevitable after the postponement was announced.
The file photo shows Tomoa Narasaki competing in the Combined Japan Cup in Iwate Prefecture in June 2021. (Kyodo)
But the postponement also allowed Narasaki to use the extra year to become an even more versatile climber. This was thanks in part to his Olympic colleague Akiyo Noguchi after building speed, bouldering and lead walls in her home that Narasaki used as a training base in her home in Ibaraki Prefecture in the spring of 2020.
Because of his agile and eye-catching climbing style, aptly known as a ninja, more outside of Japan, the 25-year-old Narasaki won both the World Cup season title and the 2016 and 2019 World Championships in bouldering.
But his combined title at Worlds 2019 best reflects his versatile talent.
The final rating in the format is determined by multiplying the positions from the three disciplines of speed, bouldering and lead, with the lowest winning the gold medal.
The stumbling block was speed for Japanese climbers, who are traditionally strong on boulders and lead. And Narasaki mastered the new challenge with flying colors.
The Japanese Tomoa Narasaki (L) and his younger brother Meichi will compete in the speed discipline of the men’s combined final at the Sport Climbing World Championships in Hachioji in western Tokyo on August 21, 2019. (Kyodo) == Kyodo
In 2018, the national association began to send its climbers completely on the Speed World Cup course to cross the uniform 15-meter-high wall, and also started the Speed Japan Cup in 2019.
Having thrived on bouldering and also in the lead, Narasaki had the innate ability to be a top-speed climber too, while continually breaking the national record.
When he invented the “Tomoa jump” during the 2018 Asian Games, in which he bypassed an early theoretical grip on the left, this time he had foreign climbers fetch a train named after him for the innovation.
It took Narasaki over 6.1 seconds to hit the top of the wall two summers ago, but the Tochigi-born continued to lose time and renewed his record at the Speed Japan Cup twice this March, first with 5.79 and then with 5 , 72 when he hit the world record of 5.48.
“It’s a confidence boost this time around,” said Narasaki, whose lower body work he started earlier this year has quickly proven to be effective.
Adam Ondra, a strong lead climber, will become his direct rival for the Games gold medal after the Czech won both of the bouldering world cups he competed in this season.
Narasaki, who is working with a new coach and finished second and third in his two Bouldering World Cup competitions this season, hopes that he can outperform his rival in speed and bouldering in the first two disciplines.
“The sport has grown in popularity since it was inducted into the Olympic program. I feel like my mission is to deliver on these games,” he said.
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