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Westlake junior James Roberts won first place at the Youth National Speed Climbing Championships in July. (Claudia McWhorter/Eanes ISD)

Just before the sport debuted at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, Westlake High School junior James Roberts climbed his way to the top spot at the 2021 Youth National Speed Climbing Championships on Saturday, July 18 in Reno, Nevada.

With his competition-winning climb, Roberts qualified for the U.S. National Team.

While Roberts holds a personal best of 6.78 seconds, the junior climbed his fastest time of 7.13 seconds in the Round of 8 competition to beat opponent Caden Reedy. Roberts took home the crown in the boys' speed competition, but it was Houston-based Team Texas that won the most points in all speed divisions.

Roberts made the climb just before his sport made its debut in the Tokyo Olympics in late July as the sport continues to gain traction worldwide. In 2021, rock climbing's three traditional disciplines, bouldering, lead climbing and speed climbing, made their debut in a triathlon-style format in the Tokyo Olympics. Fellow Team USA member Nathaniel Coleman was the first American to medal in the new Olympic sport with a silver medal.

As a new member of the U.S. National Team, Roberts was eligible for the 2021 IFSC Youth Worlds Competition that took place in late August in Voronezh, Russia. Though he did not compete, his U.S. teammate Samuel Watson placed second in the competition with a time of 6.52 seconds.

Next up for U.S climbing is the 2021 YETI National Championships which will take place Nov. 13-17 in Salt Lake City and will give a first look at who could be on that 2024 Paris Olympic roster.


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