USA Climbing’s newest Olympians, Nathaniel Coleman and Kyra Condie, given hero’s welcome upon return to SLC

About 30 supporters gathered at Salt Lake International Airport late Monday night to welcome home Nathaniel Coleman and Kyra Condie (center) from France, where they secured Olympic berths in climbing for the 2020 Games in Tokyo. Coleman is a Murray native, while Condie recently moved to Salt Lake City from Minnesota to train for the Olympics.

Rosane Coleman had a twinkle in her eye where sleep should have been. Christina Oridos spent the last hours of the night making colorful posters instead of completing her final exam, one she needed to submit by midnight to be able to graduate from nursing school the next day.

It was 11:30 p.m. Monday, way too late to be at Salt Lake International Airport for anyone who didn’t just disembark from a plane. Yet there they were, joining a crowd of about 30 sleep-deprived friends and family gathered around the Terminal 2 baggage claim. And not a yawn could be found among them.

That’s the Olympian effect.

Two athletes who boarded a plane here last week as just two more Utah climbers returned Monday night as members of USA Climbing’s 2020 Olympic team. Nathaniel Coleman and Kyra Condie, both 22, each secured an invitation to the Summer Games in Tokyo by reaching the finals of the International Federation of Sport Climbing Combined Qualifier in Toulouse, France, late last week.

“We’re all so proud,” said Steve Acevedo, Coleman’s uncle. “We definitely all felt reflective glory.”

Coleman, a Murray native, became the first American man to qualify for the Olympics in climbing, which will be making its debut in Tokyo. He missed the cut by two places in his first opportunity at the world championships in August and became fixated on getting the job done in France. He channeled that energy into a career-best time in the speed discipline, placing sixth. That momentum carried him through the bouldering portion — his strength — and lead portion of the combined event to secure Coleman seventh place in the trials and a spot in the final.

Nathaniel Coleman, 22, of Murray climbs during the IFSC Combined Olympic Qualifier in Toulouse, France in November 2019. Coleman became the first American man to qualify for the Olympics in climbing when he secured a spot at the games by making the final. Daniel Gajda/Special to the Tribune

Typically that alone would not have been enough, as only six of the eight finalists receive Olympic invitations. Because two of the finalists were Japanese and Japan had already filled the country quota of two qualifiers, however, anyone else who reached the final got into the Olympics.

Coleman said watching his position in the standings rise and fall with the performance of the other competitors in each discipline was excruciating, but it was also something he wouldn’t have wanted to miss.

“My ranking was moving all over the place. I spent the next hour and a half in this in between state,” he said. “There was this confidence and this hope and this good feeling that I was going to make it and then just this, like, ‘C’mon man, be real, it’s not going to happen. You’re not going to make it.’

“I don’t think either was good or bad, it was just part of the gift. When are you ever going to get to go through that much turmoil?”

It wasn’t turmoil so much as hubbub that he got at the airport. Many of the posters, placards and the Team USA banner were hoisted by family, kids from his former Momentum Climbing club or members of his church. They extended their excitement to Condie, however, who moved to Salt Lake City from Minnesota three weeks ago to focus on Olympic qualifying.

The move paid off almost instantly.

Kyra Condie, 22, climbs during the IFSC Combined Olympic Qualifier in Toulouse, France in November 2019. Condie, who moved to Salt Lake City from Minnesota in November 2019 to train for the Olympics, secured a spot at the games by making the final. Daniel Gajda/Special to the Tribune

“Moving to Salt Lake gave me a speed wall to train on,” she said. “It was a huge benefit. I’ve always been really fast but having it local to be able to train consistently has been huge because being able to be consistent on the wall is one of the biggest things for speed climbing.”

Condie qualified eighth, two out of the cutoff. Again, however, automatic qualifiers from Japan and also one from Slovenia resulted in anyone in the top nine received an Olympic invitation.

Brooke Raboutou, 18, of Boulder, Colorado, took seventh at the world championship and will fill out Team USA’s two-athlete quota alongside Condie. The men’s team has room for one more, but he would most likely need to win the Pan American qualifier in Los Angeles on Feb. 27-March 1 to secure a spot.

The Olympics will be held in Tokyo from July 24-Aug. 9. Climbing will take place Aug. 4-7 with a single set of medals awarded per sex to the climbers who excel at all three disciplines: speed, bouldering and lead.

Condie said being named an Olympian still feels like a dream.

“It definitely still feels super surreal because I’ve been daydreaming of this moment for over a year, since things really became real,” she said. “The outpouring of support I’ve gotten has been really emotional.”