Duffy and Yip win Pan-Am Championship and Olympic Qualification
- Thursday 5th March 2020
Colin Duffy and Alannah Yip won an eventful and emotional Pan-American Continental Championship last weekend and have now qualified for the Olympics.
Amidst growing concerns worldwide about the spreading Coronavirus the Pan-American Continental Championships, the first of the five Continental Championships to decide the next cohort of Olympians, took place in Sender One gym in LA, USA last weekend.
Brook Raboutou and Kyra Condie from the USA had already qualified for the Olympics, has had fellow American Nathaniel Coleman and Canadian Sean McColl. From Team USA's perspective that meant that whilst one other US male could also qualify the women’s max quota was already taken and hence the remaining female qualification place would, therefore, go to the highest-ranking non-American. The favourites for the two places were widely considered to be Sean Bailey (USA) and Alannah Yip (Can).
Whilst the first few days of the Pan-American Championship were all about the individual events, i.e. Speed, Bouldering and Lead the business end, at least with regards Olympic qualification, was the final four days when the 20 highest ranked climbers progressed to the Combined Final.
Following the qualification day on Thursday Lauren Bair (USA) came out on top of the women’s rankings; surprisingly Alannah Yip finished in 6th place after a pretty eventful day that didn’t go according to form having finished Speed (8th), Boulder (7th) and Lead (3rd) with, for such as seasoned and capable athlete, what can only be described as a very mixed bag of results.
Friday’s qualification round for the men saw Sean Bailey finish the day on top of the rankings having finished 1st in Boulder and 2nd in Lead – adding further weight to his favourite status.
Women's finals day on Saturday was nothing if not highly emotional with the lead swapping back and forth as the various elements finished. Lauren Bair, the highest placed qualifier and the climber threatening to deny Alannah Yip from winning the Championship, slowly slipped down the rankings as the finals progressed. However, Yip had a storming Boulder round topping all three boulders which meant she was highest placed going into the Lead.
Opting for an alternative sequence high on the route, Yip finished Lead in 3rd place and whilst Bair put on an absolute masterclass lead performance she cruised the route and finished that round in first, Yip took not only the Championship win but duly qualified for the Olympics; this much to the relief of herself and supporters having come so close to qualifying at both the Hachioji and Toulouse events last year.
Sunday was the final day and the turn of the men. The Speed event was messy all-round; it wasn’t Sean Bailey's day however and he had a disaster and finished last in 8th place. Crucially, as it later turned out, Colin Duffy finished Speed in 5th – a better performance than his form might have suggested. Carlos Granja, the highest placed speed athlete in the qualification round slipped into second.
The Boulder round was, as expected, dominated by the four USA athletes; crucially, not only did it divided the field but it further cemented the misfortunes of Sean Bailey who finished that round in third and the successes of Colin Duffy who finished in second! Duffy, the sixteen-year-old rising star and multiple World Youth Champion, looked set to blast up the standings and cause a massive upset.
As with the Boulder round the American athletes dominated the Lead; however, the relative placings were vital not least where Colin Duffy, Zach Galla and Zander Waller finished would all impact on the fortunes of Colin Bailey. Although Bailey had more experience at senior events, Lead was Duffy’s specialism and he alone had secured the top of the Lead route in the qualification round; Bailey, already trailing, needed to top with a quick time to stand any chance and that assumed Duffy would, against form, crash and burn.
Bailey, climbing before Duffy, topped the route and once his belayer had finally given him sufficient rope to clip the belay stopped the clock. The pressure was on Duffy when he emerged to climb but he not only duly dispatched the route but he did it quicker than Bailey. Once Lead was over, Duffy – as calm as the proverbial cucumber – had taken the win and the became the second US male athlete to qualify for the Games. Zach Galla and Zander Waller finished in second and third respectively and the former favourite, Sean Bailey, being well and truly outclassed, finished in fourth. Remarkably, Colin Duffy had successfully stepped up to the senior level with aplomb and was off to the Olympics!