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Four qualify for U.S. Olympic team in sport climbing at Pan American Games

Natalia Grossman

USA’s Natalia Grossman competes in the boulder stage during the sport climbing women’s boulder & lead final of the Pan American Games Santiago 2023, at the Cerrillos Park Climbing Walls in Santiago on October 24, 2023. (Photo by Pablo Vera / AFP) (Photo by PABLO VERA/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

Americans Natalia Grossman, Jesse Grupper, Piper Kelly and Samuel Watson won sport climbing events at the Pan American Games to qualify for their first Olympics in 2024.

They joined the previously qualified Emma Hunt and Colin Duffy on the U.S. team for Paris. Hunt and Duffy earned spots with silver medals at August’s world championships.

Climbing made its Olympic debut in Tokyo with a single men’s event and single women’s event, each 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 plus lead. A nation can qualify up to two athletes per event for the Olympics.

MORE: Current U.S. Olympic team roster for 2024

In each individual climbing event at Pan Ams in Santiago, Chile, the top finisher not already qualified for Paris earned an Olympic spot.

Grossman won the last event, women’s combined on Tuesday, prevailing over fellow Boulder (Colorado) Fairview High School grad Brooke Raboutou.

Grossman was the 2021 World champion in bouldering and silver medalist in lead. She placed ninth in the combined event at this past August’s worlds.

Raboutou, fifth at the Tokyo Olympics, can still qualify for the Paris Games via competitions next May and June.

In Monday’s men’s combined, Grupper, who has worked as a bioengineering research fellow at Harvard, won in a comeback from fourth place after the bouldering leg.

He climbed high enough in the lead to overtake countryman Sean Bailey and fill the second and final spot on the Olympic team in the event, joining Duffy.

For a second consecutive Olympics, Bailey missed the team by one spot at a qualifier.

Nathaniel Coleman, the lone American to earn a medal in climbing’s Olympic debut in Tokyo (silver), announced on a podcast published last month that he decided not to pursue the Paris Games.

Last weekend, Kelly and Watson joined Hunt on the Olympic team in speed.

Kelly, a 24-year-old from Indianapolis, earned her spot when she beat 17-year-old countrywoman Sophia Curcio in Saturday’s semifinals.

The other women’s finalist was the already qualified Hunt, so Kelly clinched an Olympic spot just by making the final.

Then in the final, Kelly, who is ranked 28th in the world, won after Hunt false started.

Kelly graduated from Xavier University this year and recently moved to Salt Lake City, where other top climbers train.

Watson, a 17-year-old from the Dallas area, won an all-American men’s speed final Sunday over 23-year-old Noah Bratschi.

Bratschi can still qualify for Paris via May and June competitions, but it’s unclear if he will be ranked high enough to make those fields.