Those still wondering why sport climbing was included in the Olympics should watch Netflix’s boom documentary ‘The Dawn Wall’. Not that it has anything to do with sport climbing itself, but it gives an indication into the incredible mental and physical toughness facing climbers, writes Gary Lemke in Tokyo.
At Tokyo 2020, sport climbing made its debut and by all accounts it’s here to stay. The competition venue became a media hotbed and photographers and videographers got everything, and more, than they had come for.
It also proved to be a life experience, one that he will never forget, for a young South African. When people ask in years to come, “Who was the first person in action when sport climbing made its Olympic debut?” the answer is Chris Cosser.
The 20-year-old created history when we took to the wall in the speed- qualifying competition at the Aomi Urban Sports Park in Tokyo. He then went on to compete in the bouldering and lead qualification events, eventually finishing 16th and out of the eight-man final hunting for the medals, but he more than held his own.
“I have heard from so many friends and family that sport climbing met everyone’s expectations,” he said the morning after the night before. “That was the goal – to show people that it’s a professional sport and people do it to the best of their abilities.”
Cosser was actually ranked ninth after the speed qualifying, having attained a personal-best achievement in the process. “It was amazing and I couldn’t have asked for more. The bouldering is always a bit wild, a rollercoaster in an event. It’s something you can never really plan for. Sure, I could have done better but I’m happy.”
And in the third of the three disciplines? “For the lead qualification I was a bit disappointed. I blew off the hold, but had a great position and a great ranking. Overall I’m happy … I could have done better, but it is what it is. There’s such competition at this level.
“I had come to Tokyo expecting that the Covid-19 situation would leave us stuck in our rooms, but that wasn’t the case. It was a hugely positive environment, perfect actually. I had nothing against which to compare the Olympics, but it blew me away – it was better than I expected.”
Cosser is hoping to start studies at the beginning of next year but he’s also looking for lift-off as a sport climber.
“I want to take professional sport climbing further. I want to be at the forefront of the South African scene and grow the sport as a professional athlete. Climbing is a lifestyle sport, you experience the outdoors. We pour our heart and souls into the sport and I want people to see that and also experience it for themselves,” Cosser added.
Photo: Ray Herbst