Three USA Climbers Advance to Finals With Olympic Spot on the Line

Jesse Grupper had a near perfect morning in bouldering, eventually leading the semifinal round in men’s boulder and lead Saturday. (Slobodan Miskovic)

SANTIAGO, Chile (Oct. 21, 2023) – USA Climbing athlete Jesse Grupper (Upper Montclair, NJ) was the top overall finisher in the boulder and lead event Saturday as all three Team USA climbers qualified into Monday night’s medal round at the Pan American Games in Santiago. Grupper led in both bouldering, with a near perfect score of 99.8, and lead climbing, with 92.1, for a total of 191.9. The gold medalist in Monday’s final will earn a spot in the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics.

Sean Bailey (Shoreline, WA) finished second with 164.2. Zach Galla (Atlanta, BA) was fifth at 133.8.

“Every competition day is an opportunity to try as hard as you can and to practice the things that you’re working on,” said Grupper. “I approach a finals and a qualifier in a similar way where I’m just taking every opportunity to do my best. Today it just happened to work out pretty well.”

Bailey faced a few challenges but still finished second. “The mental game wasn’t where I wanted it to be,” said Bailey. “I made a lot of mistakes and it’s good to get that out of the way.”

A strong USA finish was anticipated and now sets up a pivotal matchup Monday to earn the Pan Am Games title plus earn an Olympic qualification.

“Everyone’s in a good spot – we’re in a good building spot right now,” said Head Coach Josh Larson. “We have a good sense of the style of the boulders, style of the routes, the level of everything. It was a good learning day for all of us. We were hoping, and pretty confident, that everyone would get through. But things can happen. The routes are hard. The boulders could go any way. So we’re really happy everyone’s through and we’re not taking that for granted. But the big day is coming up.”

The Olympic qualifier opportunity has raised the intensity of the Pan Am Games for top international climbers in the field. “I put a lot of weight on this comp to peak and to perform my best,” said Grupper. “The Olympics has always been a dream for me and I would love to be able to make that happen at this competition.

“But overall this is just another opportunity to continue to perform as a rock climber and continue to better myself. As long as I keep that mentality in the front of my mind, everything else will follow.”

The finals are set for Monday evening at the Parque Cerrillos, a sprawling open space in southwestern Santiago. Everyone’s score will start fresh as the top eight finishers from Saturday’s semifinal will start on the boulders at 5:00 p.m. EDT (6:00 p.m. Santiago time) with lead final at 7:12 p.m. EDT. Live streaming coverage is planned on the PanAm Sports Channel and mobile app. Sport climbing, which began in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, is making its Pan American Games debut

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