Olympics-Climbing-Ondra plays down speed threat at sport's Olympic debut

TOKYO, July 31 (Reuters) - Czech athlete Adam Ondra, a top medal contender considered one of the world’s best technical climbers, said that while he has worked speed into training, the focus has been on his strengths in the lead and bouldering events as he targets gold in Tokyo.

“Even if I’m very last in speed, there’s still a chance of a good result and even for the gold,” said Ondra, referring to the highly specialised speed event in which competitors race head-to-head up a 15-metre wall.

Climbing makes its Olympic debut on Tuesday in a controversial combined discipline here that, due to only one gold medal being offered for each gender, has combined three radically different events.

In addition to speed, athletes compete in bouldering, using problem solving skills to scale fixed routes, and lead, where climbers try to ascend as high as possible within six minutes.

“The biggest focus was on lead climbing because that’s where I see my strength and, at the same time, it’s the least dependent on luck,” said Ondra.

The scoring system, which multiples the ranking from each of the three events to find an overall winner, has injected uncertainty into the outcome.

An athlete who came first in speed but eighth in both bouldering and lead would have a final score of 64. So would an athlete who came fourth in all three events.

"It's more important to be exceptional in at least one discipline or better two," said Ondra, who has mastered here some of the world's most technically challenging outdoor routes.

Competitors must also grapple with the weather, with Ondra pointing to high humidity during Tokyo’s summer evenings during which climbing is scheduled to take place.

“If you just keep on climbing for 10-15 moves without chalking up, your fingers are way too greasy and slippy,” Ondra said. (Reporting by Sam Nussey; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)