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16-Year-Old Colin Duffy Qualifies As Final Member Of U.S. Olympic Climbing Team

By Paul D. Bowker | March 01, 2020, 8:34 p.m. (ET)


Sixteen-year-old Colin Duffy made the climb of his life Sunday.

Climbing to the top of the bouldering wall in the final event of the Pan American Championships as the Los Angeles crowd cheered him on, Duffy won the gold medal and also clinched the final climbing spot on the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team.

Duffy trailed compatriot Zach Galla by six points entering the lead discipline, but his final climb sent him to the top of the standings as a dramatic four-man battle unfolded for the fourth Olympic climbing spot.

Three climbers had previously qualified for the Olympic team: Nathaniel Coleman on the men’s side, and Kyra Condie and Brooke Raboutou on the women’s side.

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Climbing will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo, and the Olympic tournament will include competition in all three disciplines of competitive climbing: bouldering, lead and speed.

With four U.S. quota spots in place for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, Duffy and three other climbers battled for the Pan American win and the Olympic spot through the last event in Sunday’s finals, the lead discipline.

Galla had a two-point lead over Zander Waller going into the lead, but his climb of 44-plus was topped by Waller, who nearly reached the top of the bouldering wall.

Duffy did reach the top of the wall.

“I kind of knew the circumstances,” Duffy said.

The U.S. swept the first four places in the competition. Following Duffy, Galla was second, Waller was third and Sean Bailey was fourth.

Bailey also reached the top of the wall on his final climb, but Duffy beat him in time to secure the top run in lead, and the top spot overall.

A native of Colorado, Duffy has been climbing since he was five years old. He is a two-time youth world champion in lead, and a 10-time youth national champion.

Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Colin Duffy