Duffy’s parents, Nancy and Eric, are still getting used to the idea.
“We knew Colin was a youth national champion and very good at what he does, but we didn’t have this Olympics on our radar,” said Eric, an investment manager. “We thought maybe 2024, but things went well this year leading up to Pan-Am and he performed really well. We’re all still trying to get adjusted to having an Olympian in the house.”
Keeping a narrow focus helps the family stay on an even keel, Nancy said.
“I think the reason Colin is able to take things in stride is we try not to make a big deal out of things,” she said. “We focus on one thing, and then go on to the next thing. Some people keep a broad focus; we try to make it narrow and just (concentrate) on what we’re doing at that moment.”
Mom describes herself as too nervous to accompany her son to his competitions — “I don’t want to harm my child’s chances,” she laughed — so dad is the traveling parent.
“I’m more actively involved in going to competitions and going on outside climbing trips, but Nancy is certainly the anchor getting Colin to practices and making sure we’re all set for things,” Eric said. “It’s definitely a family affair.”
An only child, Colin knew from age 4 that climbing would be a big part of his life. Trips to local recreation centers introduced him to the sport, and by 7 he was training at ABC Kids Climbing in Boulder, where he still trains alongside fellow future Olympian Raboutou.
“My parents did not climb; I found the sport on my own. It really caught my eye,” he said. “Climbing found me, instead of me finding climbing. … My love for the sport grew and grew. I started to compete with Team ABC and went all over the state.”
Duffy combines his athletic career with full-time studies at Stargate Charter School, which he has attended since kindergarten. Not surprisingly for a puzzle lover, he favors math and science.
“I want to go into engineering and hopefully set up a career path for myself after my competitive climbing career is over,” he said. “I’m going straight to college after high school. I really enjoy STEM, that’s why engineering is the goal.”
For now, like most of the world, Duffy spends the vast bulk of his time at home, along with Nancy, Eric and the family pets: Lucky, a Labrador-border collie mix, and Sparky, a cat. He’s staying fit by climbing a small wall in the basement and joining virtual sessions with his personal trainer, as well as his Boulder climbing team.
Unruffled by the Olympic delay, the youngster thinks it might accidentally work in his favor, by giving his teenaged body time to mature. He may also gain chances to test his skills against top Japanese and European climbers in the IFSC World Cup Series.
“For me, it means I get a whole year of growth and training and, hopefully if competitions are rescheduled, I’ll get some more experience,” he said. “I’m just relieved to settle down a little bit and have a whole year to process.”
Duffy hopes the Tokyo Games mark only the beginning of his Olympic career.
“If everything goes on track, looking at athletes being in their 30s and climbing, it’s not far-fetched I could compete at several Olympics, even up to four,” he said. “That would be my goal, qualify for more Olympics.”
Then he seemed to catch himself, perhaps remembering his family’s mantra: do first things, first.
“I’m really trying to roll with the punches a little bit,” he said. “I will definitely have to balance training with college, but right now, I’m really trying to focus on getting through high school.”