Updated 3/11/20: We've added bios for Pan-American Championship winners Colin Duffy (USA) and Alannah Yip (CAN).
There will be a total of 40 climbers (20 men and 20 women) competing at the Tokyo Olympics, and each country attending the games has been given a maximum quota of two competitors per gender. The climbers who have already qualified for the Olympics were selected through a series of Olympic qualification events, including the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) World Championships this past summer in Hachioji, Japan, and a more recent combined contest in Toulouse, France.
It will be an eclectic roster. Some of the Olympians (such as the Czech Republic’s Adam Ondra) are well known for climbing the world’s most difficult rock climbs—on revered cliffs in Yosemite, Norway, Spain, and elsewhere—in addition to participating in high-level competitions. While other Olympian climbers, such as Japan’s Miho Nonaka, rarely make publicized outdoor ascents and have carved out careers centered almost exclusively on World Cup competition.
Still, competition climbing requires a very specialized skill set; the challenge is not merely to climb, but to climb while also dealing with nervousness, scores, judges, a cheering crowd, and parkour-style route-setting that is generally not comparable to outdoor-climbing movement. In other words, attempting to compare outdoor climbing to competition climbing is somewhat like comparing a pickup basketball game by NBA players to an actual NBA league game; both scenarios would feature elite-level skills, but the contexts and the extraneous factors would be very different.
Also, the handholds and footholds on the climbing wall in any competition are made of plastic. This might sound like a minor detail, but the friction on plastic can be quite dissimilar to the friction on granite, limestone, or sandstone.
For these reasons, any top-level outdoor climber could not expect to excel at the elite competitive level and qualify for the Olympics without training extensively on plastic and devoting significant time to adapting to the various competition rigors.
To that point about qualification, the Olympic qualification process for climbers has not been administratively smooth, and it is still ongoing with a number of Continental Championships looming on the calendar this spring...and a pair of berths still to be awarded by a Tripartite Commission. Thus, not all 40 Olympic slots have been filled yet, and not all qualified countries have met their maximum quota.
What follows is an alphabetical list of the climbers who have qualified for the Olympics thus far.
Nathaniel Coleman (United States)
- Age: 23
- Instagram: @nathaniel.coleman
Coleman has long been considered one of the best American boulderers, particularly due to back-to-back-to-back wins at USA Climbing’s Bouldering Nationals in 2016, 2017, and 2018. But he surprised pundits by nearly winning the United States’ inaugural Combined Invitational in January 2019, placing second behind the winner, Zach Galla. By the time Coleman placed 12th in the combined discipline at that same year’s World Championships, there was no denying that he had evolved into an incredibly skilled all-arounder. He punched his Olympic ticket at the qualification event in Toulouse, France, where he placed 6th in the speed climbing finals, 6th in the bouldering finals, and 4th in the lead climbing finals.
Coleman’s climbing style often combines sheer strength with incredible flexibility, but his coordination is what gets touted most often. This makes him particularly adaptable to any style of route—indoors or outdoors.
Colin Duffy (United States)
- Age: 16
- Instagram: @colinclimbs
As a multi-time Youth World Champion, Duffy was extremely decorated on the youth circuit. But one of the first times he made waves in the adult field was at the American Combined Invitational in 2019. There he placed fourth—narrowly missing out on a podium spot—but he left his mark nonetheless, placing higher than the likes of Drew Ruana, Kai Lightner, and many other mega-names. Duffy followed up that performance with a second place finish at the American Combined Invitational the following year, the same year (2020) that he punched his Olympic ticket by winning the Pan-American Championships in Los Angeles.
Duffy is the youngest of the American Olympians, and he is rightly considered to be a phenom by most pundits. He is also a member of Team ABC, the squad that produced Olympian Brooke Raboutou. Like Raboutou, Duffy excels at all disciplines, evidenced by the fact that he posted a personal best time—twice—in a singular competition in 2020 (the aforementioned Combined Invitational). He is young, but it is hard to look at his progression over the past few years and argue that he does not belong on the American Olympic team. Beyond that, it is hard to argue that he does not have a shot at making the Olympic podium—especially if he continues to improve just as rapidly in the months leading up to the Games.
Ludovico Fossali (Italy)
- Age: 22
- Instagram: @ludovicofossali
Fossali punched his Olympic ticket at the World Championships in Hachioji, Japan, last August 2019. He is considered to be a speed specialist. He placed 3rd in the speed discipline at a World Cup event in Wujiang, China, last May, and 9th in speed at a World Cup event in Villars, Switzerland, not long after that. Compare those results to some of his placements in other disciplines last year: 91st in lead climbing at a World Cup competition in Chamonix, France; 99th at a bouldering World Cup competition in Meiringen, Switzerland. This means that Fossali’s best chance at winning an Olympic medal is a top-place finish in the speed portion of the combined discipline.
Given that Fossali is a strong and powerful climber due to his speed specialty, perhaps his greatest challenge will be mustering the requisite endurance needed for the longer lead climbing portion—and for the entire combined discipline itself.
Kai Harada (Japan)
- Age: 20
- Instagram: @kai_hrd
Harada’s accomplishments in the season leading up to Olympic qualification included high placements in bouldering World Cup events (such as a 2nd place finish in Wuijang) and lead climbing World Cup events (such as an 8th place finish in Chamonix). He is perhaps best known in competition circles for having won the bouldering discipline of the 2018 World Championships. His speed results have not been quite as impressive (i.e., 42nd place at that Wuijang World Cup), but he is still considered one of the most well-rounded competitors on a Japanese national team that has arguably more depth than any other country’s squad.
One of Harada’s sponsors, Friction Labs, has cited his “old school climbing ethic,” and particularly his “unreal finger strength.” This ties him to a bygone era where finger strength and one’s ability to pull hard on crimps was considered a key metric—and perhaps the key metric—for gauging a climber’s competition potential. Don’t let that old-school nod mislead you though; Harada’s World Championship victory two years ago proves that he is perfectly adept on the most contemporary competition routes.
Jan Hojer (Germany)
- Age: 27
- Instagram: @janhojer
Hojer is one of the most veteran competitors in the men’s field. His best World Cup seasons to date were 2014 and 2015, when he was primarily a boulderer and won multiple competitions on the circuit. He has been focusing a lot on lead climbing and speed climbing in the lead-up to the Olympics and was cited as an Olympic hopeful for Germany long before he officially qualified.
Hojer is approximately six feet tall, making him one of the tallest competitors in the men’s field. He can use his height to reach handholds that would be out of reach for many other competitors. But Hojer is also a very dynamic climber, thanks in part to the fact that the German team was one of the first national squads to embrace parkour exercises and unique cross-training in a comprehensive way years ago.
Rishat Khaibullin (Kazakhstan)
- Age: 24
- Instagram: @rishat_khaibullin
Like Fossali, Khaibullin is a speed specialist. In fact, competition diehards might be drooling at the possibility of getting an Olympic speed finale that features Fossali going head-to-head against Khaibullin. It has the makings of an epic Olympic showdown. That being said, Khaibullin is also capable of performing well in other disciplines. For example, when he qualified for the Olympics in Toulouse, Khaibullin won the speed portion, but impressively placed 5th in lead (and 8th in bouldering).
Khaibullin is not a household name. However, if he can get a stellar result in his speed runs, and can place strong in lead climbing like he did in Toulouse, he could be one of the surprise breakout stars of the Olympics’ climbing portion.
Alberto Ginés López (Spain)
- Age: 17
- Instagram: @albertogines_
Last year, López had one of the best rookie seasons ever. Highlights included being one of only two competitors to reach the headwall in a lead climbing World Cup competition in Inzai, Japan, in October, and a 3rd place finish at a lead climbing World Cup in Kranj, Slovenia, around the same time. Because López is so young, we don’t have a substantial body of work on which to base Olympic predictions, but that also makes López one of the most exciting competitors to watch.
What struck many pundits during the 2019 World Cup season was López’s charisma on and off the wall. Far from a stoic climber, his youthful exuberance could easily make him one of the fan- and sponsor-favorites at the Olympics. And a medal-winning performance by López would dovetail nicely with the recent gym openings in Spain by Chris Sharma, perhaps the world’s most famous rock climber. With such climbing accolades on a national level, it’d be hard to argue against Spain being the current climbing epicenter of the world.
Bassa Mawem (France)
- Age: 35
- Instagram: @lesfreresmawemofficiel
Bassa Mawem is the oldest climber currently on the Olympic roster. He earned a silver medal in the speed discipline at the 2018 World Championships. More recently, he won speed at the World Cup in Moscow, Russia, last April. There he clocked a run time of 5.656 seconds, so it is not beyond the realm of possibility that he could break the world record at some point—possibly in Tokyo.
Bassa Mawem has been competing on the World Cup scene for years, making him somewhat synonymous with global competition climbing of the past decade. However, unlike many other Olympians who learned to climb as toddlers, Mawem was a natural athlete who did not pick up climbing until age 15. But he quickly proved proficient in all disciplines, and even took part in the first French Ninja Warrior broadcast.
Mickael Mawem (France)
- Age: 29
- Instagram: @lesfreresmawemofficiel
Mickael Mawem is Bassa’s younger brother, making the two of them the first (and so far the only) sibling climbers to earn Olympic berths. Mickael is an adept all-arounder, but bouldering comes to the forefront when scanning his career highlights: 9th place at a bouldering World Cup event in Chongqing, China, last year, 1st place in the discipline at the European Championships that same year, and narrowly missing a spot on the bouldering podium at the World Championships in 2016.
Like his brother Bassa, Mickael Mawem has taken part in Ninja Warrior programs and thus branched into pop culture, particularly in Europe, to a degree that few others on the Olympic roster have.
Sean McColl (Canada)
- Age: 32
- Instagram: @mccollsean
McColl is a Canadian veteran who is well-known to many American fans, particularly because he took part in some American Bouldering Series Nationals in years past as a foreign national. He has won numerous medals at the World Cup level in both bouldering and lead climbing events. The fact that he has been working to improve his speed run times over the past couple of years makes him the quintessential all-arounder.
McColl is widely recognized as being one of the most engaging competitors to watch; his style typically combines dynamic movement with great grip strength, so it should come as no surprise that he typically posts Instagram videos of himself trying creative muscle-ups and front-levers (or trapeze-style trickery). He has also served as the president of the IFSC’s Athletes' Commission for several years, meaning that he’s played a hands-on role in getting climbing into the Olympics.
Alex Megos (Germany)
- Age: 26
- Instagram: @alexandermegos
Megos was not a mainstay on the World Cup circuit until recently; it seems that a chance to participate in the Olympics sparked something in him, and it resulted in a stellar 2019 season: 2nd place at a lead climbing World Cup in Chamonix; 3rd place at a lead climbing World Cup in Villars; 8th place in the combined discipline at the World Championships—which ultimately earned him an Olympic invite.
Megos is one of the Olympians with the most impressive outdoor pedigrees complementing his competition accomplishments. For example, he has sent Bishop’s famed Lucid Dreaming boulder problem (rated V15); he has claimed the first ascent of Fightclub (5.15b) in Canada; and he’s sent numerous 5.14+ and 5.15 benchmark rock climbs like Perfecto Mundo, First Round First Minute, La Rambla, Action Directe, Realization, Dreamcatcher, Hubble, etc. For this reason, Megos is a figurative linchpin for the disparate worlds of competitive climbing and outdoor mega-sends. A lot of “casual climbers” will likely tune in to watch the Olympics because they hear that Megos is taking part.
Tomoa Narasaki (Japan)
- Age: 23
- Instagram: @tomoa_narasaki
Narasaki was the winner of the combined discipline at the World Championships. He also won the separate bouldering discipline at those same championships. He has won bouldering World Cup events, he has placed high in lead climbing World Cup competitions, and he is a stellar speed climber. Based on those past accomplishments, he has to be considered one of the early favorites to earn a medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
Narasaki is one of the most exciting competitors to watch because of his relentless, all-out approach to every move. While not reckless, he climbs with a reckless abandon that makes his style instantly recognizable. Perhaps one YouTube commenter said it best: “Tamoa has such a nice flow to his climbing. Usually when no one does a boulder, I bet on him. He just does things differently.”
Adam Ondra (Czech Republic)
- Age: 26
- Instagram: @adam.ondra
Ondra is one of the most well-known climbers on the planet (thanks in part to his Road to Tokyo vlog series), and many consider him to be the best climber ever. He qualified for the Olympics at the event in Toulouse, during which he struggled in the speed portion but battled back to place 3rd in the bouldering portion and won the lead climbing portion. Although he has been working extensively on improving his speed runs, we should expect a similar game plan in the Olympics: weather the storm of the speed portion, and then post extremely high placements in the bouldering and lead portions.
Like Germany’s Jan Hojer, Ondra is a tall climber (6 feet, 1 inch) and extremely flexible for his size. On hard outdoor routes, Ondra is known for being extremely vocal in the crux sections—heck, there are entire “Adam Ondra Screaming” compilations on YouTube. And even though he is not typically as loud while climbing in competitions, there is still a chance that Ondra will offer his unique vocal stylings at the Olympics.
YuFei Pan (China)
- Age: 19
- Instagram: @yfei_pan
Pan was China’s big lead climbing standout of the 2019 season. One of his most impressive performances was a 2nd place finish at a World Cup in Villars—ahead of Germany’s Alex Megos, Slovenia’s Domen Skofic, Austria’s Jakob Schubert, and other far more experienced competitors. He also earned 8th place at a bouldering World Cup in his home country. His speed-run times are also respectable too, often hovering around 7-seconds-flat.
Pan is China’s quintessential all-arounder; he appears calm and comfortable in any climbing format and will likely be a megastar as competition climbing continues to boom in his home country.
Jakob Schubert (Austria)
- Age: 29
- Instagram: @jakob.schubert
Schubert is one of the most decorated climbers on the Olympic roster. A multi-time gold medalist at the World Championships in the lead discipline, Schubert has also won myriad lead climbing World Cup competitions in a career that has lasted more than a decade. He has earned medals in bouldering World Cup events too.
Schubert dabbles in other sports, including soccer and tennis. This diverse interest in all athletics informs his climbing, as he is thought to be a competitor who can win any given format on any given day. And he has mentioned that he wants to pursue more big-wall climbing as well (routes typically 1,000 feet or taller), which could be an area that he focuses on when his legendary competition career wraps up.
Check back soon for new bios as more climbers qualify for the games.
Julia Chanourdie (France)
- Age: 23
- Instagram: @juliachanourdie
Chanourdie, like most of the Olympian climbers, parlayed a decorated youth competition career into the adult sphere. She placed fourth at a bouldering World Cup event in Munich, Germany, last year, and 7th at a lead World Cup competition in Villars, Switzerland. As impressive as those World Cup results were, they did not fully prepare us for how well she would do at the Toulouse Olympic qualification event, in which she rocketed to 2nd place as a result of placing 3rd in the speed portion, 5th in the bouldering portion, and 2nd in the lead portion.
In some ways, Chanourdie is a product of climbing’s various histories. She was born in the Alps of Southern France, thus tied inexorably to climbing’s mountaineering roots. But her parents also owned a climbing gym, making Chanourdie the prototypical “kid-crusher” at the family’s facility. A profile of Chanourdie by one of her sponsors, The North Face, notes that she is naturally strong and agile, and “skilled and experienced in both lead and boulder.” This makes her an ultra-modern climber who happens to hail from the birthplace of the activity itself.
Kyra Condie (United States)
- Age: 23
- Instagram: @kyra_condie
Condie is as credentialed as any competitor can be in the combined discipline heading into the Olympics. She won combined discipline at the Pan-American Championship in 2018. The following year she won the inaugural Combined Invitational hosted by USA Climbing. And when she punched her ticket for the Tokyo Olympics, it was a result of placing 7th in the combined discipline at the Toulouse qualification event.
Condie’s backstory is even more compelling than her results. She had severe spinal curvature as a child, eventually leading to the surgical fusion of 10 vertebrae. As a result, she has had to be extra cautious—particularly outside—about the impact of falls and the consequent natural compression of her spine. Suffice to say, it all makes her climbing accomplishments and her Olympic qualification achievement even more impressive.
Shauna Coxsey (Great Britain)
- Age: 26
- Instagram: @shaunacoxsey
Coxsey has battled back from a series of injuries in the past few years (damaged cartilage in a knee and a ruptured tendon in a finger), all of which have caused her to miss significant stretches of competition. But that makes her Olympic journey more riveting, with the figurative comeback being a 3rd place finish in the combined discipline at the 2019 World Championships in Hachioji, Japan. She is known for her bouldering, but she is capable of placing high in any of the disciplines within the combined extravaganza. As an example, in the finals of those aforementioned World Championships, she placed 2nd in the speed portion and 3rd in the bouldering portion, and 7th in the lead climbing portion.
Coxsey is also one of the most prominent climbers in British media. The Guardian called her “Britain’s No 1 climber,” and the Daily Mail called her “the climbing sensation.” She has also been written about by the BBC, Sky Sports, and The Telegraph. She has received a personal letter from the Queen. Admittedly, it is difficult for us Americans to fully comprehend the scope of her fame in her home country, but she us obviously a very big deal in the big realm of British sports—and soon she’ll have the biggest showcase of all.
Janja Garnbret (Slovenia)
- Age: 20
- Instagram: @janja_garnbret
Garnbret is a talent unlike anything we have ever seen in competition climbing. In 2019 alone, she went undefeated in the bouldering World Cup circuit. At the year’s World Championships, she won the bouldering discipline, won the lead climbing discipline, and then won the separate combined discipline. For what it’s worth, we also deemed her the Competitor of the Year in Climbing’s End of the Season Awards last year. We could dig into older results as well, such as a gold medal in bouldering at the 2018 World Championships, or a gold medal in lead climbing at the 2016 World Championships…but after a while, it all just seems superfluous. Put it this way: If there is any competitor who should be considered a favorite for a medal—and very possibly the gold medal—at the Olympics, it is Garnbret.
What’s particularly interesting is that there was actually a time years ago when Garnbret was considered stylistically a lead-climbing specialist. Obviously sweeping the bouldering World Cup season in 2019 proved that was no longer the case, and it also proved that Garnbret is continuing to evolve her skills significantly. One of the most engrossing curiosities in light of that progression is not whether or not Garnbret will be great at the Olympics, but just how great she will be, and what new records she might rewrite.
Iuliia Kaplina (Russia)
- Age: 26
- Instagram: @iuliiakaplina
Kaplina is one of the few competitors on the women’s roster who is a speed specialist. But saying she is a specialist is an understatement. She is one of the best speed climbers of all time, having won multiple World Cup events and having previously held the women’s speed-climbing world record (of 7.32 seconds, which she set at the World Games in Poland in 2017).
It’s unfortunate that much of Kaplina’s Olympic narrative might be clouded by her home country’s ban due to a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) ruling; as it stands, Kaplina will likely have to compete under a neutral flag. But those ancillary details should not detract from her ability on the wall, and her potential to make the Olympic podium if she can reign supreme in the speed-climbing portion.
Petra Klingler (Switzerland)
- Age: 27
- Instagram: @petra_klingler
Klingler’s career highlight aside from Olympic qualification is winning the bouldering World Championships in 2016. She has participated in a limited number of lead and speed events outside of the combined context, so she will be another competitor looking to have a spectacular bouldering performance at the Olympics buttressed by speed climbing and lead climbing performances that are adequate enough to advance into the finals.
Klingler happens to be one of the few Olympians who also participates at the highest level of ice-climbing competitions. In fact, in 2015 she became the first Swiss climber to win a gold medal at an event in Kirov, Russia, during that year’s Ice Climbing World Tour. She has indicated that she will skip the UIAA’s Ice Climbing World Cup circuit in 2020, but fans can expect her to pick up right where she left off on ice after the Olympics conclude.
Mia Krampl (Slovenia)
- Age: 19
- Instagram: @mia.krampl
Krampl emerged on the adult scene two years ago and immediately looked impressive with high placements in two Chinese lead climbing World Cups. In 2019, she placed 3rd in a bouldering World Cup event in Munich, Germany, and continued to be in the top of the pack at practically every World Cup she entered after that. She earned her Olympic invite in Toulouse by narrowly beating out her compatriot Lucka Rakovec for Slovenia’s other quota slot (Janja Garnbret having already claimed the country’s first Olympic invite).
Krampl also holds the distinction of having created one of the most thrilling moments of the 2019 World Cup circuit when she climbed despite an injured knee (…not something that Climbing necessarily endorses or supports) and ended up making a podium in Munich, Germany. Climbing designated it the “Inspirational Performance of the Season,” and it probably gained Krampl myriad American fans that she otherwise would not have. It was a rousing display of guts and determination that can be rewatched here. It would be a shame if the Olympics does not somehow use that moment and weave it into a recap package, as it embodies why we love sports and the gutsy instances that transcend them.
Aleksandra Miroslaw (Poland)
- Age: 25
- Instagram: @ola_rudzinska
Miroslaw is the reigning speed-climbing World Champion. She won the speed World Championships in 2018 as well. She won the speed portion of the World Championships (ultimately earning an Olympic berth), but struggled mightily in the other portions—placing 8th in bouldering and 8th in lead climbing.
Miroslaw is the quintessential speed specialist. To have any chance of earning a medal at the Tokyo Olympics, she will likely have to win the speed portion. And even if she does win the speed climbing, she will still likely have to score higher than 8th place in the other events—which would merit a multiplied final score of 64 (see—SCORING)—in order to have any chance at finding a place on the Olympics’ podium.
Akiyo Noguchi (Japan)
- Age: 30
- Instagram: @noguchi_akiyo
Noguchi placed second at last year’s World Championships; she missed out on the gold medal by less than ten points. Her strongest discipline is bouldering and her weakest discipline is speed climbing. For example, at those World Championships, she was second-to-last in the finals of the speed portion, but won the bouldering portion. This disparity will make her a particularly fascinating athlete to watch in the Olympics. Like Adam Ondra, Noguchi will likely find herself in somewhat of a hole at the end of the speed portion, but will slowly work her way up the ranks in the ensuing bouldering and lead climbing segments.
Noguchi uses her flexibility arguably better than anyone else competing at the high level. She is not the strongest or the most powerful climber, but if there is a way to contort or stretch in order to make a given climbing sequence work, Noguchi will be the competitor who figures out the physicality puzzle.
Miho Nonaka (Japan)
- Age: 22
- Instagram: @nonaka_miho
Nonaka has been on the adult World Cup circuit for years, but it wasn’t until 2018 that she started to be talked about as a potential all-time great—and then she injured her shoulder…and then she injured her other shoulder. The requisite rehabilitation from those injuries kept her out of competition for a long time, but there was no greater way for Nonaka to stamp her return to the competition scene than by qualifying for the Olympics at the 2019 World Championships. She is just as proficient at bouldering and lead climbing as her compatriot Noguchi, and Nonaka is arguably a better speed climber.
This is the age of athletes transcending their respective sports—or at least aiming to—and Nonaka has certainly done that in her native Japan. She has appeared in fashion magazines, and she is sponsored by Tag Heuer and Beats by Dre. The Olympics being in her home country will only increase her profile and fame…especially if she wins a medal.
Jessica Pilz (Austria)
- Age: 23
- Instagram: @jessy_pilz
Pilz was long thought of as a lead-climbing specialist based on impressive World Cup results; she even won the lead climbing World Championships in 2018. But at those same World Championships, she also earned a 3 place finish in the combined discipline. Admittedly she was on the cusp with her Olympics qualification at the 2019 World Championships in Hachioji, Japan, but an Olympic berth is an Olympic berth. And Pilz should be considered one of the best lead climbers in the entire women’s field.
Pilz has been climbing since she was nine years old. Along with her compatriot Jakob Schubert, she is one of the key climbing ambassadors for Austria, appearing at national galas and frequently taking part in photo shoots for a number of Austrian brands. But like American Brooke Raboutou, Pilz also attends college and “aims to become a role model for the next generation of climbers.” In a recent interview, Pilz specifically pointed out that she’d like to coach and route-set when her time of competing at the highest level comes to an end.
Brooke Raboutou (United States)
- Age: 18
- Instagram: @brookeclimbs
Raboutou was the first American climber to qualify for the Olympics—which she did at the World Championships in Hachioji. She comes from a famous climbing family, with her mother and father both being decorated competitors and the masterminds behind ABC Kids Climbing, one of the preeminent climbing youth programs in the United States. While most competitors forced themselves to appreciate the combined discipline upon the announcement of climbing’s Olympic inclusion, Raboutou has had an affinity for lead climbing, bouldering, and speed climbing since her days on the youth circuit. In her Olympic qualifying performance, Raboutou placed 6th in speed climbing, 10th in bouldering, and 7th in lead climbing, exemplifying her ability for fairly consistent placement across the scoreboard.
If you have read anything about Olympic climbing in the American media over the past six months, you’ve probably read about Raboutou. She has been profiled by Southwest, Popsugar, NBC Sports, The Denver Post, as well as Climbing. There could be a compelling argument that Raboutou is the most popular and well-known American climber right now behind Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell, particularly with the teenage demographic. If she can continue to parlay her Olympic exposure into mainstream attention while still winning competition at the highest level, Raboutou could reach levels of celebrity in the social media age that no other American climbing competitor has.
Laura Rogora (Italy)
- Age: 18
- Instagram: @laura.rogora
Rogora has been climbing since the age of four. She first made headlines by claiming some testpiece ascents as a youngster, but around 2018 she started winning a lot of youth lead climbing competitions in Europe. Then she won the Youth World Championships in Russia, and then she basically did it all again on the youth circuit the following year.
Rogora tends to post fairly uniform results in all portions of the combined discipline. Although she has homed in on the Olympics and competition, she still has an affinity for outdoor climbing—evidenced by ticking her fifth route rated 5.14 approximately a year ago. One of the developments to observe in her career, particularly following the Olympics, will be whether she stays on the competition track or returns to focusing on world-class outdoor sends.
YiLing Song (China)
- Age: 18
- Instagram: @climber_pang
Song broke the women’s speed world record last year with a time of 7.101 seconds. Although that record was later broken by Indonesia’s Aries Susanti Rahayu, Song should still be considered the fastest speed climber on the women’s Olympic roster. And like Poland’s Aleksandra Miroslaw and Russia’s Luliia Kaplina, Song will have to win the speed portion of the combined discipline to best situate herself for a strong overall showing. Of course, only one of those three competitors can actually win the speed portion, which is what will make that segment so darn compelling.
Beyond the speed-climbing races, the world record, and snapshots on Instagram, there has not been a lot of information filtered to the press about Song. She has no Wikipedia entry; there are no extensive interviews readily available. In a way, this makes her even more fascinating as a competitor, as her breakout success last season happened like an unexpected whirl of energy. Perhaps Olympic success will happen with the same sudden verve. But don’t say we didn’t inform you ahead of time.
Alannah Yip (Canada)
- Age: 26
- Instagram: @alannah_yip
One of the feel-good stories of the Olympics lead-up was Yip’s qualification, which she finally secured at the Pan-American Championships. Prior to that, she had narrowly missed out on qualifying for the Olympics at the World Championships in Hachioji and the Olympic Qualifier in Toulouse. Her eventual qualification at the Pan-Ams was met with a standing ovation from the fans that were attendance, hugs from the other competitors who were taking part, and tears of joy from Yip herself. It was a heartwarming moment that will likely be played in Olympic-related climbing documentaries down the road—as it should.
But beyond tugging at everyone’s emotions, Yip’s Olympic qualification was appropriate. She has been a perennial favorite in her home country of Canada for years alongside her compatriot Sean McColl (also an Olympian—see MEN’S). Yip is a bouldering specialist, evidenced by high results at bouldering World Cup events in 2019: fifteenth-place finishes in Meiringen, Switzerland, and Vail, United States, as well as a ninth-place finish in Moscow, Russia. And she can translate those bouldering skills to the lead wall—as proven in her Olympic qualifying performance at the Pan-Ams—and her speed climbing times have been improving too. Few competitors are more capable of putting all separate disciplines together in a robust combined performance; and Yip’s best Combined showing to date just might happen in Tokyo this summer.
Check back soon for new bios as more climbers qualify for the games.
Here’s a list of key climbing terms both to help you understand this article and what the commentators will be talking about during the Olympics. Climbing is certainly one of the most lingo-intensive sports in the world. If you want to learn more, there’s a handy reference called the Climbing Dictionary.
The roped system (and the device itself) used in speed climbing to ensure that a competitor is lowered safely and slowly to the ground in the event of a fall. The auto-belay only lowers the climber; it does not in any way assist the climber, i.e., pull her up the wall.
Sarah fell midway up the speed wall and was lowered by the auto-belay.
The person who controls the rope’s slack and tension, and arrests any falls, while the climber is on the wall. In the Olympics, the belayer will be standing on the ground the entire time while the climber ascends.
When the climber fell, he was caught by the belayer.
Information or general strategizing about the best way to decipher the moves/sequences on a route.
Her beta of trying to jump to the next handhold is proving to be ineffective.
A type of handhold (and the corresponding way of gripping it—usually with the thumb wrapped over the index finger) that is usually a small horizontal edge or lip. Technique for properly “crimping” will vary, but in all types of crimps, climbers must load a significant amount of their body weight onto their fingertips.
He is reaching for the crimp. [or] He is crimping the edge of that yellow volume.
A type of climbing movement in which the competitor lunges toward the next handhold but does not fully give up all points of contact with the wall—usually maintaining three.
Nathaniel Coleman can probably deadpoint from the first hold to the zone hold.
A type of climbing movement in which the competitor all-out jumps to the next handhold, essentially becoming airborne and briefly giving up any points of contact with the wall.
Nathaniel Coleman will dyno to the top of the boulder problem.
To climb to the top of a route or boulder without any prior knowledge (or beta) of the proper sequence. In competition, this means coming out of the isolation zone and climbing to the top on the very first attempt.
Brooke Raboutou flashed the first boulder.
A difficulty rating assigned to a roped climb or boulder problem. There are many climbing-rating systems the world over; a full explanation can be found here.
While the setters didn’t give this problem an official grade, those who’ve tried it so far peg the difficulty around V10.
A type of hold gripped between the fingers and an opposing thumb, in any orientation.
The route starts with a big pinch and then turns into a collection of volumes.
Quickdraw (aka Draw)
Gear used in lead climbing to secure the climber to the wall and help arrest a fall. One end of the quickdraw will be anchored to the wall; the other end will be a carabiner that’s “clipped” as the climber ascends, clipping her rope into successive quickdraws (usually spaced a body-length apart) and thus limiting the distance of any fall. Here is an example of South Korea’s Jain Kim clipping the rope into a quickdraw with her left hand as she climbs.
Climbers’ slang for a successful ascent.
Her send of the third boulder was quick and impressive.
A climbing wall that’s typically vertical or slightly less than—think obtuse angles from geometry class. Climbing on slab generally requires slower, technical movement and balance on small or poor holds.
The second boulder is a slab, which is generally something she struggles with in competition.
A type of handhold that’s usually rounded and must be gripped by using the full surface of an open hand, almost like palming a basketball.
That right-hand sloper will help her stabilize her body so she can reach for the top.
The end of the climbing route or the boulder. Note that the “top” in competition is not literally the top of the wall but rather a handhold that’s been designated as the “top” handhold.
Adam Ondra won the bouldering event with three tops.
A type of hold that’s too large to be designated as just a handhold or foothold, but is more of a feature. Volumes are often extremely large, hollow, and geometrically shaped (prisms, spheres, pyramids).
If she can press away from the volume with her feet, she will be able to reach the next handhold.
A scored handhold approximately halfway up a boulder. There is one zone hold per bouldering problem. [Note that the scoring for IFSC bouldering competitions—and, thus, bouldering in the Olympics—is different from the scoring of USA Climbing competitions. So, if you’ve watched any USA Climbing Bouldering National Championships in which there are holds that are worth 10 points, 15 points, etc., be aware that the scoring for the bouldering portion of the Olympics will not be comparable.]
She didn’t get the top, but she got the zone on her first attempt.
John Burgman is the author of High Drama: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of American Competition Climbing, which chronicles the history of American competition climbing.