Colin Duffy: America’s Next Champion Rock Climber? (2023)
Published on: 03/22/2023
At the young age of 16, Colin Duffy beat out a crew of seasoned veterans to become the first male athlete to qualify for the USA climbing team at the 2020 Tokyo Games. At the Games, Duffy came in a respectable 7th, just after Adam Ondra.
When you’ve represented your country on the world stage before your senior year of high school, where do you go next? Let’s take a look at Colin Duffy’s amazing path to success and see where it might lead him over the next few years.
Duffy was born in Broomfield, Colorado, not far down the road from the climbing mecca of Boulder. His first climbing experiences were on indoor walls at a recreation center and fitness club. The seed was planted during those early excursions.
When Colin was 8, he started climbing at Rock’n & Jam’n, a Denver-area rock gym. Within months he was leading sport climbing routes, and soon he achieved his next goal: a spot on the ABC Team, an elite youth climbing team coached by former pro Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou.
Climbing Style and Specialty
Colin Duffy made his reputation as a rock climber based on his astounding comp results, rather than outdoor climbing accomplishments. His performance on steep, technical indoor routes and competition boulders shows that he excels at dynamic movement and powerful crimping.
While his skills and strength were honed on indoor walls, those abilities have translated to outdoor bouldering and sport climbing on real rock with an ever-expanding tick list.
Competitions and Results
Duffy has enjoyed unprecedented success at professional climbing competitions, starting with gold in the Lead Climbing category at the 2018 IFSC (International Federation of Sport Climbing) Youth Championships in Moscow at age 14.
During his junior career, Colin won a total of 10 US Climbing Youth National Titles (6 lead, 3 bouldering, and 1 speed).
He went on to win gold at the IFSC Pan American – Continental Championships in 2020, which qualified him for the 2020 Tokyo games. Colin was the youngest member of the US national team to qualify, and the youngest climber to represent their country in Olympic competition.
Perhaps Colin’s most impressive result to date, outside of his Olympics qualification, came in June of 2022 at Innsbruck, Austria. At that stop on the World Cup circuit, Duffy won gold in both lead and boulder to become the first American ever to win both disciplines at the same event.
After his first full season on the adult World Cup circuit in 2022, Duffy was ranked 6th in Lead Climbing and 9th in Bouldering.
Notable Feats and Projects
In addition to his competition performances, Colin has found time to conquer some notable outdoor climbing ascents. His personal bests in terms of difficulty ratings have already proven him among the strongest American climbers ever.
Here’s a quick list of Duffy’s outdoor climbing highlights:
- Life of Villains, 5.14d (9a)
- The Activator, 5.14d (9a)
- Pure Imagination, 5.14c (8c+)
- Flight of the Conchords, 5.14c (8c+)
- Southern Smoke, 5.14c (8c+)
- Omaha Beach, 5.14a (8b+) onsight
- Echale V14 (8B+)
- The Phoenix V14 (8B+)
A few days before this article was written, Colin Duffy snagged the second ascent of Drew Ruana’s latest Colorado V16 boulder problem, Bookkeeping. This was Duffy’s hardest boulder to date, with a difficulty rating that only a handful of climbers around the world can match!
Colin tries to lead a normal life, considering his world-class climbing resume. He recently began studying at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and hopes to find a profession outside of rock climbing after college in a field such as engineering.
Colin’s Future Climbing Goals
Duffy has aspirations to continue his winning ways.
Prior to the Tokyo Games, he told Climbing magazine (1):
“I really see myself competing for as long as I can until I either burn out or just get too old. I really enjoy competing more than anything else.”
After the event, Duffy reflected on his 7th place finish (2):
“It feels great. It did not go the way I wanted. But it leaves me hungry for more in the future. I mean, I’m only 17, so I have a lot of time. I’m upset, but I’m still happy. Like, as time goes on, I’ll be able to appreciate what today was.”
And when asked about the next Olympics rock climbing comp (Paris 2024):
“Yes. That’s definitely, Olympic wise, the next goal and hopefully I’ll do better the next time.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Duffy’s height is reported to be 170 cm (5 feet, 7 inches) on the IFSC website (3).
Colin was born on December 10, 2003 (19 years old).
Colin’s shoe sponsor is Evolv, and he most often wears Shamans or the new Shaman Pro for his hardest projects and sends.
Since Colin has been attending high school and focusing on indoor comps for the majority of his climbing career, he doesn’t have a huge tick list of test pieces from around the world. He has climbed extensively in his home state of Colorado, with regular trips to major US areas like Red River Gorge and Red Rocks. Colin Duffy has made at least two trips to the Hurricave in Utah, during which he sent his first 5.14d (9a), Life of Villains, along with two 5.14c routes.
Colin Duffy, Olympian, Climbs 5.14d And 5.14c In A Day (retrieved on 03/22/2023)
Delaney Miller, Nov 2021
Coleman Wins Silver in the Olympic Games (retrieved on 03/22/2023)
US Climbing , Aug 2021
International Federation of Sport Climbing
Main photo credit: © Black Diamond Equipment