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Asian Games: Veretan climber Noguchi struggles to pull herself together

Japanese sport climber Akiyo Noguchi competes at the Asian Games in Palembang, Indonesia, on Aug. 24, 2018. (Kyodo)

PALEMBANG, Indonesia (Kyodo) -- Veteran Japanese sport climber Akiyo Noguchi wants badly to do well at the Asian Games, but her struggle to regain her form continued Friday.

The 29-year-old considers the Asian Games an important test ahead of Tokyo 2020, where sport climbing will make its Olympic debut. But whether she can advance to the combined event final will come down to Saturday's final qualifiers.

"The Asian Games are considered the Olympics of Asia, and I know for a fact it's a really important tournament," Noguchi said after her first qualifying event on Thursday. "I need to be able to deliver results in a tournament like this, where I feel the pressure to succeed."

At the competition in Palembang, all climbers compete in three disciplines -- speed, bouldering and lead -- with the final rankings determined by each event's placing.

Noguchi, who has been balancing competition with a hectic travel schedule, was 11th in Thursday's speed qualifying before settling for third in Friday's bouldering, her strongest event.

Each climber's qualifying scores are determined by multiplying their ranking in each phase, and Noguchi sits seventh after the first two disciplines. The six lowest-scoring climbers advance to the final.

"I think I can go to the final depending on how I do in my lead qualifiers tomorrow," she said after Friday's bouldering qualifiers. "I was only able to complete three problems out of four, and I expected to do better than third."

Noguchi attributed her lack of form to exhaustion from competing in the season's final World Cup event in Munich last week and traveling to Indonesia the day after returning to Japan.

"The course today wasn't as difficult as those at World Cup events," said Noguchi, who has won three straight World Cup events this season. "But I'm still jetlagged and tired from going to Munich and to Indonesia, so my condition wasn't that good."

In bouldering, athletes complete a set of problems in a given time, with those completing the most problems and zones with fewer attempts winning the competition.

Noguchi started off well, easily topping her first problem in one attempt. However, she couldn't reach the top on the third wall, where she had trouble reaching for the last hold.

"In the third, I had trouble coming up with the way to reach the top," she said. "If my condition was 100 percent, I would've been able to complete all the courses."

After competing Friday, she said she wanted to train some in order to be at her best -- and be ready for the finals.

"If I do well in the lead qualifiers, then I can start over from scratch," she said. "I need to improve my condition."

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