Garnbret, widely considered the favorite ahead of the women’s combined final, completed two of the three bouldering “problems,” while none of the other climbers managed to solve one.
She then climbed higher than her competitors on the lead wall to wrap up the victory and become the first Slovenian woman to win a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
The 22-year-old Garnbret finished with five points, well clear of the Japanese duo of Miho Nonaka in silver on 45 points and Akiyo Noguchi, who is retiring after the Olympics, in bronze on 64 points.
Those three climbers faced a nervous wait before the results were confirmed at the end of the lead discipline. When her victory was official, a visibly emotional Garnbret put her head in her hands before embracing Slovenia’s coaching team.
Speed world record
The dark clouds that spread across Tokyo’s skyline made for a dramatic backdrop against the bright lights of the climbing wall, a temporary structure erected for the Olympics.
Spectators are unable to attend Olympic events in Tokyo with the city under a coronavirus state of emergency, but that didn’t stop members of the public from trying to catch a glimpse of the climbing action from a nearby street — even with the presence of security officials and signs advising otherwise.
For many, this will be the closest they come to the Tokyo Olympics. Those inside the venue included competitors from Thursday’s men’s combined final and many off-duty volunteers who cheered on eventual medalists Noguchi and Nonaka.
The speed component, which sees climbers compete in head-to-head races, was won by Poland’s Aleksandra Miroslaw in a blistering world record time of 6.84 seconds.
However, Miroslaw, a speed specialist, saw her medal chances dented with eighth-place finishes in bouldering and lead.
Garnbret placed fifth in speed, her weakest discipline, setting a personal best of 7.81 seconds in the process, before showing her class in bouldering and lead to take an emphatic victory by 40 points.
Nonaka and Noguchi both scored consistently across the board to round off the medal positions.
The competition saw climbing’s Olympic debut in Tokyo come to an end. Added to the program to attract younger audiences, climbers across the four days of competition showcased their skills against the backdrop of loud music and animated support from stadium announcers.