PALEMBANG (Reuters) - Iran’s Reza Alipour and Indonesia’s Susanti Rahayu Aries became the first people to win gold medals for climbing at the Asian Games on Thursday as they emerged victorious in the speed climbing events.
Sport climbing is making its Asian Games debut in Jakarta and has also been introduced to the Summer Olympics programme for the first time at Tokyo 2020.
The combined competition requires athletes to compete in the three disciplines of bouldering, lead and speed climbing, but in Jakata there was also a separate speed climbing event.
Alipour, who is currently ranked fourth in the world and holds the world record in speed climbing, came to Jakarta as favourite for the men’s event and delivered.
Alipour beat four-time world champion Qixin Zhong in the final after the Chinese was disqualified for a false start.
Home favourite Aspar Aspar picked up the bronze medal.
Aries claimed the women’s gold ahead of compatriot Lestari Puji and Cuilian He of China, who took bronze.
“Our preparation was so long and we have the dream that we want to be the world’s best,” said Aries, who was the highest ranked female athlete in the event.
“Our team in sport climbing is like a family and we support each other with all of the Indonesian people.”
Although inclusion in the Olympics has greatly raised the profile of climbing, not all the competitors are happy with the format of the Olympic competition.
Some athletes believe the requirement to compete in all three climbing disciplines, with a gold medal dependent on a combined score, is unfair as each requires different skills. Bouldering, for example, often relies on strength, while lead climbing requires a higher level of endurance.
That means specialists such as Alipour and Aries will not be rewarded in Tokyo and may not even qualify.
“I don’t have a great feeling about the Olympics because I focus on speed and when I go for strengthening then I lose that speed,” explained Alipour before the event.
“I would rather be world champion than go to the Olympics and finish seventh or eighth. Maybe I have to wait until the next Olympics.”
Reporting by Michael Church; writing by Jack Tarrant; editing by Kirsten Donovan