Coleman battles injury to repeat as National Bouldering Champ
Nathaniel Coleman pumps his fist after reaching the top on his first attempt at USA Climbing’s Bouldering Open National Championship at the Salt Palace Convention Center. (Jon Vickers/Momentum Indoor Climbing)
Gallery: Coleman battles injury to repeat as National Bouldering Champ [3 Images] Click any image to expand.
Overcoming a finger injury suffered during Christmas break, Nathaniel Coleman successfully defended his title as USA Climbing’s Bouldering Open National Champion on Feb. 4 at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
“It was definitely more meaningful being in front of a home crowd,” said Nathaniel, a Murray native. “Because I had such low expectations competing with an injured finger. It felt like my result was kind of just a miracle for the hometown.”
A miracle that didn’t look possible when he damaged the pulley —a sheath that holds tendons together—in his left ring finger causing him to take two weeks off and work with three different physical therapists. He estimated his finger was about 70 percent healed before the competition started.
“We weren’t sure if he would climb, he did lots of physical therapy,” said his mom Rosane Coleman.
The miracle victory also seemed to be out of reach when he squeaked into the final round in ninth place out of nine. It proved to be a blessing in disguise, the last qualifier goes first in the final round—made up of four separate routes that climbers must solve to reach the top.
“When I was going out first it was like…I was setting the bar. I was able to move confidently and quickly. That was another psychological factor in how I was able to make a comeback in finals,” Nathaniel said.
He noted how when you go last, you feel a certain level of pressure knowing that other climbers have come before you and the crowd has most likely seen the best way to reach the top.
Pressure did not reach Nathaniel as he flashed (reached the top on his first attempt) all four routes he faced, including one where he reached the peak 15 seconds after first touching the wall.
While the qualifying rounds and semi-final rounds are designed to be extremely difficult to weed out the weaker climbers, Nathaniel said the final round has a “more showboat, spectator friendly kind of problems, and those are my favorite kind.”
“He just happened to luck out on the finals that they were all climbs that he really likes,” Rosane said. “He likes dynamic moves, the great big pinchy holds, he’s really good at those. It just happened to work in his favor this time.”
Having a hometown crowd cheering him on worked for him, too, said his mom.
“When the crowd is behind him it just fuels him. He just loves that. He thrives on that, so I think a lot of his determination is based on the crowd because he knows they’re behind him,” she said.
Nathaniel said encouragement helped him have a good time and not stress.
“It made a world of difference for sure,” he said of the crowd support. “It definitely had a psychological effect on me. Especially before you step on the wall cause if you’re out there and people are cheering and showing their support for you before you even show them what you can do, it just gives you the confidence.”
After finishing his final problem confirming his championship status, Nathaniel’s friends pulled him into the crowd to bear hug him for minutes.
“It was really fun, he had a lot of support there,” Rosane, a manager at Momentum Climbing Gym, said.
Nathaniel said being a repeat winner carries extra significance for him considering the context.
“This year it was more of a big deal because I just didn’t think it was possible,” he said. “I wasn’t even thinking about being able to defend my title. It’s almost like an added bonus honestly because just getting the win in front of the home crowd was definitely the highlight.”
Nathaniel’s celebration was short lived as the following weekend he drove to Waco, Texas with his friend to compete in the Waco Rock Rodeo—one of the biggest outdoor climbing competitions in the nation.