African Olympic Qualifier Key Takeaways

Mukheibir, Janse Van Rensburg, Bryuns and Holder win their tickets to the Olympics

Janse van Rensburg celebrating winning his Olympic ticket at the top of the Lead route

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA — South Africa won all four Olympic tickets at the African Qualifier last weekend. Mel Janse Van Rensburg and Lauren Mukheibir won the Boulder&Lead Olympic tickets. Joshua Bryuns and Aniya Holder won the Speed tickets.

Four counties had registered athletes for the event, but only athletes from South Africa, Uganda, and Mauritius could attend. None of the 10 registered athletes from Nigeria were able to attend.

Tokyo 2020 Olympian Erin Sterkenburg did not compete at the event, so we would have at least 3 new future Olympians.

Lauren Mukheibir Wins by 0.2 points over Rauen Krohn

Lauren Mukheibir from South Africa won the female Boulder&Lead Olympic ticket ahead of Rauen Krohn by only 0.2 points.

The final started with a hard Boulder round, with only one top in the entire round by Mukheibir on Boulder 2. No athlete reached even the low zone on Boulder 1. Mukheibir won the Boulder round by 4.3 points with a top and a low zone over Krohn’s two high zones and one low zone.

Krohn needed to reach two holds higher on the Lead route than Mukheibir to make up the difference.

Both would make it into the final highest-scoring section of the lead route. Mukheibir came out first, reaching the high point with 80 points, 5 holds from the top. Krohn got to the same point as Mukheibir before starting to struggle. She fell one hold after Mukheibir while going for the next hold, which would have won her the ticket.

Mukheibir fighting on the head wall on her way to winning the Olympic ticket
Mukheibir fighting on the head wall ©

16-year-old Caitlin Bouwer finished in 3rd place after finishing 4th in Boulder and joint 3rd in Lead.

Mukheibir win by 0.2 points was the slimmest of margins we have seen in the new Boulder&Lead format. Mukheibir commented after the event. “I feel fantastic! I have trained in Australia the whole year with an incredible coach called Alan, and he’s taught me so much. In between all the training, I’ve been studying over time, I’ve just finished my degree, and now this! I just feel phenomenal!

“I’m going to Paris. I still can’t believe it! I still can’t believe it! My parents were here, my godfather was here, pretty much the whole team from my gym in Johannesburg, they have all had my back since day one. I’m so happy that they were here to witness this.”

Mel Janse van Rensburg edges out Chris Cosser to take the Olympic ticket

Cosser was the favourite coming into the event. He was the only Olympian competing and had the strongest IFSC World Cup results over the last two years. Yet, he struggled to reach the high zone on the third risky coordination-focused boulder. Janse van Rensburg won the Boulder round by 4.5 points ahead of Cosser with two tops and all zones.

Janse van Rensburg came out second to last before Cosser and knew if he topped the route, he would win the ticket.

And he did just that.

Janse van Rensburg erupted with joy as he topped out the route, knowing he had won.

Cosser would come out last, and he would also top the Lead Route to finish second. 6-year-old Nicholas Allan finished third after a strong performance in Lead, scoring 96.1 points.

“I’m surprised, I guess. This feeling is unreal, I am super happy!” declared Janse Van Rensburg. “I was a little bit nervous before the Boulder round, but I knew I could do it, so I just tried to have fun. The Lead route felt good all the way, I knew that if I had topped, I would have won.

“I’m currently studying Engineering in Lyon, France, so next year is going to be tough, but I’m going to have to make time to train and maybe do some more World Cups… I haven’t thought that far!”

Bryuns and Holder win their Olympic Tickets for Speed Climbing

In Speed, the fastest athletes kept it together to win their tickets. Only 8 men and 6 women competed for the tickets in Speed, and all except Doriane Saramandif, from Mauritius, were from South Africa.

Joshua Bryuns set a new African record of 5.95s earlier this year at the World Championship in Bern and was the clear favourite. He did not race below 7 seconds in the competition. He was lucky in the quarter-final round to make it through after finishing in 11.99s. In the final round, he beat John Stucken with a time of 7.16s.

After the competition, Bryuns said, “It was tough, I was very stressed in the months and weeks leading up to this event, coming in as the favourite is never easy, and I struggled a little bit to compose myself. But I put a lot of trust in all the training and the work that I’ve done in the past few years, and it paid off.”

Aniya Holder won the Olympic ticket for the women, beating Tegwan Oates in the big final with a time of 11.33s. Holder was the quickest at the competition and was the only one to go under 12 seconds.

Aniya Holder and Joshua Bryuns posing with their Olympic tickets for Speed Climbing at Paris 2024
Aniya Holder and Joshua Bryuns were the fastest athletes in the competition ©

Holder said, “It feels surreal! Obviously, it’s a dream true. I hoped, but I didn’t expect I could win. I always try not to expect anything, but I definitely hoped for it. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t train very hard for it.

“I want to get down to eight seconds, that’s my personal goal in the months that separates me from the Olympics. I’m going to train as hard as I can for it, and I’ll try to compete in some World Cups next year,” she added.

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