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Murray Journal

Murray welcomes home Olympic medalist Nathaniel Coleman

Sep 01, 2021 03:13PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Murray City honors local Olympian by declaring Aug. 13 “Nathaniel Coleman Day.” (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

When one of the world’s best competitive climbers reaches the medalist podium in the Olympics, you throw him a parade. Murray City did just that on Aug. 13, honoring Nathaniel Coleman in Murray Park, for winning the silver medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games in men’s combined sport climbing.

Over 100 people clamored to see Nathaniel, who was presented with a plaque from the Murray City Council. Murray Mayor Blair Camp gave Nathaniel a gold medal with Murray City’s logo and declared Aug. 13 as “Nathaniel Coleman Day.” 

According to Nathaniel’s mother, Rosane, honoring Nathaniel on Aug. 13 has a significant meaning. It also happens to be the birthday of one of Nathaniel’s greatest fans, his grandmother, who passed away last September. 

“Nathaniel was an early walker, taking his first steps shortly before he turned nine months old, and climbing out of his crib soon after,” his father Richard Coleman said. “We noticed that he was ahead of his peers in physical agility, strength, coordination, and boldness. He found lots of things to climb on, indoors and out, and we rarely discouraged him.”

“I feel lucky to have lived by the Jordan River Parkway,” Nathaniel said. “Adventure, five minutes in every direction. Those activities honed my skills.”

Perhaps the three-time USA Climbing Bouldering Open National Champion came by his talent naturally. His father caught the climbing bug from legendary University of Utah Exercise and Sport Science professor Harold Goodro. 

When Nathaniel was nine, Momentum Climbing Gym opened its doors and started a youth climbing team. Nathaniel had some outdoor climbing experience by then, and when his friend Palmer Larson invited Nathaniel to try out for the team, Nathaniel accepted the invitation. 

“It was the right sport for Nathaniel, so we signed him up,” Richard said. “We would stay at the gym and watch the team practice and pretty soon joined the gym ourselves so we could climb while waiting for Nathaniel. This was when Rosane started climbing. So, at this point, we were a climbing family. It was a sport we could all do together, and as Nathaniel began to win competitions, we traveled as a family all over the United States (and to Italy for the world youth championships) for the next 10 years.”

Murray has been Nathaniel’s home all his life. He attended Viewmont Elementary (where his mother worked as a teacher’s aide) and made an impression on his teachers. His third-grade teacher, Kristin Loulias, recalled, “I knew he was an amazing young man. I knew he could do something great. He always finished what he started.”

“Nathaniel was a determined child, adventurous, and in certain situations somewhat quiet, but observant,” Richard said. 

He participated in many things that Murray youth do, such as Murray Max soccer and weaving boondoggles as a Cub Scout. In addition to Viewmont Elementary, he attended Riverview Jr. High and Murray High.

“Different people know different pieces of Nathaniel. But as his parents, we know how most of those pieces fit together. At this point in his life, most people know that Nathaniel is an outstanding athlete—an elite competitive sport climber—the first male climber to win an Olympic silver medal. But few people know that in third and fourth grades, he won fourth place one year at the Utah State Youth Chess Tournament, and sixth another year,” Richard said.

At age 10, Nathaniel’s uncle Gary Acevedo introduced him to seven-time Paralympic medalist Muffy Davis. According to Acevedo, he was amazed at how much she could achieve and wanted to be like her. “He doesn’t spend time being self-critical,” Acevedo said. “In the Olympics, he was disappointed in his performance after nearly not making it into the finals, but he turned his focus to improving what he needed to do.”

When asked who in Murray was most influential to him, Nathaniel said, “My friend group. They changed how I do things,” seeing several of his friends’ families in the crowd there to support him.

“Murray has been a safe place for Nathaniel as he grew up, and our family has had many friendly and supportive neighbors,” Richard said. “When Nathaniel began competitive climbing involving heights of 40 to 60 feet, we were concerned about the risk of a fall. But we soon realized that he and his teammates were being well trained in the protocols of safe climbing. Most sports involve risk, some more than others, and serious, experienced climbers learn to minimize that risk. Nathaniel has had a few injuries, but nonserious, and none involving climbing. So, our advice to him is usually simple: be safe and have fun.”

Nathaniel came just short of winning the gold medal, which was won by Spain’s Alberto Gines Lopez. In the qualification round, Nathaniel barely made the finals, catching the eighth spot in the medal round. Nathaniel took first in bouldering, fifth in lead climbing, and sixth in speed climbing in the final round.

As the pandemic blunted any plans for Rosane and Richard to watch their son in Tokyo, they were content to hold an Olympic watch party in Murray. “It was indeed a celebration,” Rosane said.

Addressing the crowd, Nathaniel mentioned Winchester Park’s (1250 W. Winchester St.) new climbing boulders playground. He encouraged Murray youth to explore the park. “Go and see what inspires you at climbing. Then, keep climbing on the steepest parts, challenging yourself by finding those hidden handholds.”

So where will the “Climbing Colemans” go to celebrate their son’s achievement with a victory climb? “Ha ha, good question. I think it will be Nathaniel’s choice to where he wants to go, and maybe he’ll let us tag along,” Rosane said. 

Nathaniel plans to again try for the gold medal at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, but in the meantime, he will be involved in upcoming International Federation of Sports Climbing competitions.