Adam Ondra reflects on sport climbing's Olympic debut - and looks ahead to Paris 2024

With sport climbing in the Olympics for the first time, favourite Adam Ondra ended up finishing in sixth place. But he already has plans to continue his Olympic journey.

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Often considered one of the faces of competitive climbing, Adam Ondra spent years documenting his journey towards Tokyo 2020 as sport climbing made its debut in the Olympic programme.

Ultimately, the Czech superstar finished sixth in Japan, unable to summon his very best on the day that he needed it. But he still came away from the Olympics thankful for his first-time experience.

"It's been my dream to one day be at the Olympics and it was amazing, that's for sure," he said in an Instagram live interview with Olympics.com. "Maybe it didn't turn out to be the way I wanted, but it was still great. And I will take some nice memories."

It also brought a new sense of excitement for the next Games at Paris 2024, where sport climbing will be broken into two different set of medals, speed climbing and bouldering/lead climbing.

Such a change will benefit a traditional climber like Ondra.

"[Tokyo gave] some motivation for the next Olympics, which is something that I wasn't certainly sure about [previously]. But I think one participation at the Olympics was not enough for me. I'll be happy to come back to Paris again." - Adam Ondra

Tokyo 2020: Ondra finishes sixth

As the pre-Olympic favourite, Ondra had two things stacked against him in Japan: Speed climbing, which has never been his forte, and an aggregate scoring system that could send an athlete from first to sixth. (More on that soon.)

Ondra qualified for the final in fifth, with the top eight of 20 men progressing.

The 28-year-old started the final with personal best times on the speed wall, finishing in a satisfying fourth place headed into bouldering.

But it was on the boulder wall - where Ondra is a World Championships and World Cup champion - that the Czech struggled. He topped the first problem (completed the route fully), then could only find one zone (halfway point) in the next two, struggling in particular on boulder No.2.

He'd finish a disappointing sixth in bouldering, but find his stride on the lead wall, getting to hold No.42 - the best of any climber - until fellow veteran Jakob Schubert of Austria, the last climber to go, topped the lead wall.

Schubert's finish in lead - first - bumped Ondra to second, and sent Ondra's score cascading down the ranks.

For a moment, the Czech appeared to have been able to make the podium, but instead, with Schubert's win, he dropped to sixth place. Schubert would capture the bronze, as Spain's Alberto Gines Lopez claimed sport climbing's first-ever gold Olympic medal and American Nathaniel Coleman took the silver.

“It's very tough because there is never anything else in my life that I sacrificed so much [for]; I've been training harder than ever," Ondra said at the conclusion of the event. “Being left without a medal hurts, but it's kind of hard to be disappointed because I feel like today, I couldn't really have done any better.”

He added, in the aforementioned Instagram with climbing star Alex Honnold: "It's difficult to say whether I'm sad or happy. I'm sad and it hurts a lot, but, on the other hand, I'm quite happy with my performance."

What's next for Adam Ondra?

While sport climbing kicks on with IFSC World Cup events in the coming weeks, as well as the World Championships for bouldering, lead and speed held in Moscow, Sept. 16-21, it is unclear if Ondra will compete at those events or not.

But, as mentioned earlier, he now has more of a sense than ever that he will try for Paris 2024: "Yeah, [Paris] is definitely my objective. Coming back home without a medal from the first Olympics makes me motivated to go in three years to Paris, and try [the] Olympics in the new format. It will be combined boulder and lead, which is definitely much more of my strength.”

In the meantime, as Honnold told Ondra: "I'm looking forward to seeing you out on some real rock," meaning climbing outdoors, which Ondra agreed with.