Kelly and Watson Win Gold and Olympic tickets

USA dominates in Santiago as they win 4 medals and 2 Olympic tickets in Speed.

Sam Watson hugging his Dad after winning his Olympic ticket
Sam Watson hugging his Dad after winning his Olympic ticket © Lena Drapella/IFSC

Piper Kelly (USA) and Sam Watson (USA) secured their Olympic tickets this weekend as the USA dominated the Pan American games in Santiago, Chile.

Emma Hunt (USA) came second, and Andrea Rojas (Ecuador) third in the women’s event. Noah Braschi (USA) came second in the men’s competition, and Carlo Granja (Ecuador) came third.

Women Speed: How It Happened

Twelve women competed in the women’s round, with the top eight going forward to the final.

Emma Hunt was the fastest in qualification, ahead of Sophia Curcio and Piper Kelly. Andrea Rojas, the second-fastest athlete in the competition, finished fifth with her fastest time of 8.57 after a few slips and stumbles. Because she finished fifth, she would join Hunt in the top bracket.

In the final, the USA would dominate the quarter-final round, with all three USA women getting through. Hunt would race against Rojas and Curcio against Kelly in the semi-final. Hunt won her race by over a second, while Curcio slipped in hers, so Kelly faced Hunt in the final.

Piper Kelly won her Olympic ticket with her semi-final win, as Emma Hunt already has an Olympic ticket.
Andrea Rojas celebrating winning the bronze medal at the Panamas Games 2023
Andrea Rojas celebrating winning the bronze medal © Lena Drapella/IFSC

Rojas would win the bronze medal in the small final ahead of Curcio.

Hunt would false start in the big final, giving Kelly a solo race to win the competition with a personal best of 7.52. Kelly was the second-fastest athlete in the competition.

Piper Kelly descending after she wins her semi-final race and an Olympic ticket at the Panams Games 2023
Piper Kelly realising she is going to Paris 2024 © Lena Drapella/IFSC

Piper said after the final,

“I’m completely blown away, so excited to go to Paris! The goal coming into this event was to win and to get the Olympic ticket, but I knew it was going to be tough. I had a little bit of a rough qualifier, I slipped on my first one, so I had to pull through on the second one, and then the perfect final round, getting faster each time and setting a new PB in the last race.”


  1. Piper Kelly (USA)
  2. Emma Hunt (USA)
  3. Andrea Rojas (Ecuador)

Men Speed: How It Happened

With only 16 men competing, the qualification was no more than seeding for the final bracket.

Watson finished first in qualification, posting the fastest time of 5.38. Granja would come second, and John Brosler (USA) third. Bratschi stumbled in both of his qualification runs. His fastest time of 6.56 would seed him 11th in the lower half of the final bracket.

In the final round, Watson progressed without an issue to the semi-final. He recorded the fastest time of 5.05 to win his quarter-final round. The same cannot be true for Brosler, who came to a stop twice in his last 16 rounds, losing to Predo Egg (Brazil). After cleaning up his runs, Bratschi would make it to the semi-final round against Granja.

Watson would race against Ethan Flynn-Pitcher (Canada), while Granja would race against Noah in the semi-final round. Both races were anti-climatic as Flynn-Pitcher and Granja slipped and fell off the route. Bratschi did set a personal record of 5.37.

Noah Bratschi wins his semi-final race and sets a PR at the Panams Games 2023.
Noah Bratschi wins his semi-final race and sets a PR © Lena Drapella/IFSC

Granja would win the bronze medal in the small final ahead of Flynn-Pitcher by 0.07.

In the big final, the stakes were the highest they had been in the competition. Both the gold medal and an Olympic ticket were on the line. Watson kept cool after Granja stumbled to win the gold medal and the Olympic ticket.

Sam Watson beating Noah Bratschi in the Men Speed final race at the Panams Games 2023.
A slip was costly for Noah Bratschi as Sam Watson won gold and the Olympic ticket © Lena Drapella/IFSC

After the podium, Watson said

“I feel like this is the culmination of my entire process, that I’ve been working on for the past I-don’t-know-how-may years… since Speed Climbing as a single medal in November 2020, so it’s been a huge deal for the past three years.”


  1. Sam Watson (USA)
  2. Noah Bratschi (USA)
  3. Carlos Granja (Ecuador)

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