PALEMBANG: Reza Alipour of Iran took gold in the first ever men’s climbing final at the Asian Games on Thursday ahead of the sport’s debut at the Tokyo Olympics in two years’ time.
The 24-year-old world record holder, dubbed the “Asiatic Cheetah”, darted up the wall during the knockout stages but only won the final after his Chinese opponent Zhong Qixin, 29, made a false start.
Alipour said he was very happy to get the gold but disappointed about the way he won against Zhong, whom he described as a “strong climber and good friend”.
Indonesia took bronze in the men’s event, and the host country dominated the women’s final, with Aries Susanti Persembahkan, 23, bagging gold and Lestari Puji, 28, winning silver, sending the hundreds of cheering home fans crazy.
Alipour knocked 0.12 seconds off the world record in the Chinese city of Nanjing in April this year, taking just 5.48 seconds to scale the 15 metre-high wall.
The athlete fell in love with the sport when he was just 10 and says becoming the fastest speed climber in the world was a childhood dream come true.
To this day, Alipour still trains without a coach, saying the lack of top-level expertise in his discipline in Iran means he has no choice.
“I don’t have a doctor; I don’t have a coach; I just have God,” he told AFP, adding that his somewhat diminutive 1.67m (5ft 5ins) height meant he needed a different technique to his rivals.
“The three people to hold the world record before me were more than 1.80m tall,” he said. “So I had to make my body work differently to go beyond the other champion rock climbers.”
His strict regime of 10 hours’ training each day might have paid off so far, but he is managing expectations ahead of the 2020 Olympics, where speed climbing will be combined with bouldering and lead climbing.
“I can’t expect a medal in the 2020 Games,” he says. “But I hope in the 2024 Olympics, speed climbing will be a separate event.” —AFP