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American Sam Watson breaks speed climbing world record twice

Hargitay reflects on the greatness of Ledecky
Actress Mariska Hargitay shares the story of seven-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

American Sam Watson lowered the world record for speed climbing twice in a span of less than an hour at a World Cup event in China on Friday.

Watson, who qualified for the Paris Olympics at October’s Pan American Games, ascended the 15-meter (49-foot) wall in 4.85 seconds in his first run, then did it in 4.79 seconds in his second run.

Watson broke the previous world record of 4.90 set by Indonesia’s Veddriq Leonardo, who last April became the first man to break five seconds.

In speed climbing, athletes go head-to-head, scaling identical walls as fast as they can. All top-level International Federation of Sport Climbing competitions have identical holds along the wall, allowing for world records in the event.

A standardized 15-meter wall was introduced in 2011, when Qixin Zhong of China set the first world record of 6.26 seconds.

Watson, an 18-year-old from the Dallas area, is set to make his Olympic debut in Paris. He is eighth in the world rankings and updated his Instagram bio, which now reads, “The fastest vertical man in the world.”

Sport climbing made its Olympic debut in Tokyo with one event per gender combining results from the speed, bouldering and lead disciplines.

For Paris, there are two events per gender: a standalone speed event and a combined event for bouldering and lead.

The 2024 U.S. Olympic team roster of athletes updated as they qualify.