Two U.S. Women Make Olympic Climbing History

This year presents an entirely new way for women athletes to make history. The International Olympic Committee announced that climbing will make its debut in the Japan 2020 Olympics! Between the male and female categories, 40 climbers will get their chance at an Olympic medal this year. So far, three athletes have earned their chance to represent the U.S. Each country is allotted two athletes per gender category, meaning that one more U.S. male can be added to the team. 

To qualify, competitors are required to out-perform their peers in three events — speed, lead, and bouldering — in a single day. Climbers will often choose to specialize in just one of these categories, but the Olympics will require a well-rounded climber, making it that much more difficult to become an Olympian. The climber must possess speed, endurance, strength, and immense technical skill. 

Back in August, 18-year-old Brooke Raboutou of Boulder, Colorado, made history by becoming the very first climber to represent the U.S. in the Olympics. She was one of the first seven women in the world to qualify for the Olympics at the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) Combined World Championship in Hachioji, Japan. 

“Earning a spot in the 2020 Olympics is just proof that focusing on myself and my climbing is what pushes me to the next level. I am beyond excited to embark on this new journey. It is such an honor to be able to represent the US at the Olympic level, especially as climbing makes its debut. I hope I can help the sport grow and introduce new people to the joys of climbing,” said Raboutou. 

Not only was Raboutou the first person to be recognized as an Olympic climber, but she was also the youngest person to climb 5.14b (8c) — at age 11. With her parents being World Cup champion climbers themselves, Brooke Raboutou began climbing when she was one year old, and at seven years old she began to climb competitively. Besides climbing, she is currently a sophomore at the University of San Diego and plans to take one semester (Spring 2020) off to train for the Olympics.

The next Olympic Combined Qualifier was held in Toulouse, France, with the winners announced on December 2. It was at this qualifier that Kyra Condie, 23, of Shoreview, Minnesota, and Nathaniel Coleman, 22, of Salt Lake City, won their spots in the Olympics. This time around, 12 athletes were invited to the Olympics. Condie took 7th and Coleman 8th. 

Condie expressed her excitement by saying, “I'm still in shock about qualifying and it doesn't feel real yet. It's something I've been dreaming about for quite a while and so to have it actually come true is really surreal. I'm super honored and it feels like the hard work that I've been putting in the past two years has really paid off. To be in the first Olympics that climbing is included in is absolutely unbelievable.”  

Condie began climbing when she was 11 years old and fell in love with the sport. Later, she was diagnosed with severe, idiopathic scoliosis and told she may never climb again. She was determined to not let her condition govern her future, however. On March 12, 2010, she had spinal fusion surgery and took several subsequent months to recover. Against the odds, she continued to climb and became stronger than ever. 

Of course, Raboutou and Condie are just two of the 20 amazing women that will be competing in the games this year. Some of the first women to be added to the roster of competitors along with Raboutou  —  in order  —  were Janja Garnbret (Slovenia), Akiyo Noguchi (Japan), Shauna Coxsey (Great Britain), Aleksandra Miroslaw (Poland), Petra Klingler (Switzerland), and Jessica Pilz (Austria), with Raboutou placing 6th among these women. Two more athletes per continent will be announced this spring and the qualifier for North America will be held in Los Angelos, California, from February 28 to March 1. For more information about how climbing in the 2020 Olympics works, click here.

Images: Hero, 1, 2