This article originally appeared in Rock and Ice issue 229 (October 2015).
Comp placings can be close, but this was ridiculous. Nathaniel Coleman, an 18-year-old from Salt Lake City, tied for the
last slot of sixth going into finals at the World Cup in Vail, Colorado. In finals, he and Jan Hojer of Germany both flashed the third problem.
As the two readied for Problem 4, Coleman says, “Jan told me we were tied for first. If I flashed
it, I had a shot at gold.”
Coleman did flash—and so did Hojer. Among the four final problems, the two were even on topouts and number of attempts to top out. The tiebreaker
had to go clear back to attempts to reach the bonus (midway) holds on the first and second problems: Coleman took two attempts and Hojer one each.
Ultimately, Coleman finished a very close second place.
An unknown no more, Coleman has just graduated from Murray High, Utah. His father is a dental ceramicist, and his mother is a tutor and the manager of
his climbing team at Momentum Climbing Gym. He has two half brothers, though he says, “They are so much older, I consider myself an only child.” He
says his parents “drove me around a lot” on climbing trips.
He will attend the University of Utah next spring after taking this summer and autumn to climb. After the first two World Cups, Coleman attended two more
in China (placing 18th and 11th) and then youth Nationals in Atlanta (he took his first Sport Climbing Series title), to be followed by route climbing
in Céüse, France; Youth Worlds in Arco, Italy; and the last Bouldering World Cup, in Munich in August.
Q&A with Nathaniel Coleman
What are your school interests and grades?
I have a GPA of 3.8. My study habits are perhaps not the best, but I managed to get decent grades by working really hard when I’m at school.
I’ve seen a lot of people doing really well in comps and in school—Sasha DiGiulian, Vasya Vorotnikov. They’re both doing what I hope I can do.
I’ve always liked math and science. Recently I have been into computer programming. I want to have sort of my own business so I would be able to work on
the go, writing programs on a laptop so I could still travel and climb.
In Vail, were you stressing with that close call making finals?
No. I would have been fine with just making the semifinals. I was thrilled to have done so well [third] in qualifiers.
What is in your mind on the wall?
I’m good at letting go of how I’m placing, how I’m doing with respect to the other competitors. I can focus more on my climbing, being in the moment, rather
than making it to the next round.
I used to think my weakness was slabs, but lately they’ve been saving me.
Being powerful. It’s partly my genetics. I’ve always been a slightly bigger kid [5’11’’ 160 pounds] all around. That gave me a slight advantage to begin
with. So I worked on my advantage.
Did you get sponsorship offers after the World Cups in North America?
Sort of. I have not signed with anybody.
Are you hoping to get on one of the outdoor-industry teams?
It sounds like if I wanted to, I could maybe become a semi-professional climber. Which is the most I’d probably want to do because being a professional
climber is kind of a risky move. If you blow a pulley or hurt your knee warming up, you’re out. A good majority of professional climbers barely scrape
by. I’ve always planned on staying in school and getting a job that can pay for my passion in climbing. But if I can make a little money in climbing
as well, that’s great. There’s a lot of expenses.
Are you goal-oriented?
Having a goal of a placement in a comp doesn’t really help you much. You could be the best climber out there, but still not take first. I set my goals
more towards personal perfection and how I feel about my climbing after the comp.
Any motto in climbing or training?
In training it’s, “If you give up now, it will be that much harder to succeed next time.”
Do you say it out loud?
Are you rather quiet?
I try to think before I speak. I find it difficult to put myself into words, so I try to go slowly and express myself as clearly as I can. I’m logical
in my decision-making.
Reactions from other climbers at the World Cup?
Jan and Adam were very open and encouraging, telling me I could do well in the rankings if I go to China. That was unreal, to hear from your climbing idols.
After he flashed the last problem, Jan came over to where I was standing. He apologized for flashing, which was kind of ridiculous.
How are you at outdoor climbing?
I guess I’m all right. I wouldn’t call myself very good at flashing boulder problems. But I’m working on it!
Do you see yourself as a lifelong climber?
Until I can’t hold on.
Road to Bouldering Nationals with Nathaniel Coleman