Why Shoreview's Kyra Condie is one to watch in sport climbing
Sport climbing will be part of the Olympics for the first time this summer, joining five other new sports making their Summer Games debuts in Tokyo. Minnesota's own Kyra Condie is a top challenger in the sport.
Sport climbing's three Olympic events, lead, bouldering and speed, each highlight different athletic challenges. Shoreview native Condie, 25, who got her start at St. Paul's Vertical Endeavors, is particularly good at bouldering.
A creative climber
Condie, who had no coaches for the first several years of her career, describes herself as having a very aggressive and quick style.
Climbing often requires flexibility that Kyra has to work around — she had spinal-fusion surgery at 13 to correct severe scoliosis, leaving her with limited back mobility. As a result, she is a creative problem-solver.
Kyra has said that what makes a good climber is both physical and mental stamina: "One of the hardest things about climbing is, it's a lot of failure. You fail over and over again."
1 Hand holds
Climbers grab a variety of colorful plastic elements with hands and feet to make their way up, ranging from large to tiny, so small only a few fingers can pinch it, with rock-like crags or smooth edges.
2 Chalk bag and tough fingers
Powdered chalk absorbs sweat and aids in gripping. Key to the sport (besides having incredibly strong fingers) are various gripping techniques used for the myriad of handholds a wall might have.
3 Tight shoes
Climbers wear special, tight shoes to help them feel and grip the wall with their toes.
In both the men's and women's events, A field of 20 athletes will compete in a qualification round, with the top six advancing to the final. Condie and Brooke Raboutou of Boulder, Colo., will represent the U.S. in the women's competition. Nathaniel Coleman of Salt Lake City and Colin Duffy of Broomfield, Colo., have qualified for the American men.
A climber's final score is determined by multiplying their placement in each of the three disciplines. For instance, an athlete who finishes first in lead climbing, third in bouldering and fifth in speed climbing would receive a score of 15. The lowest score wins. Example: 1 x 3 x 5 = 15
Three disciplines: Lead, bouldering and speed
Each type of wall has unique hand holds and requires the mastery of speed, strength, agility and the ability to problem-solve quickly and efficiently, giving the sport not only physical challenges but strategy and mental challenges as well.
Climbers ascend as high as possible on a roughly 50-foot high wall in 6 minutes. Lead climbing is the closest to stereotypical "rock climbing."
4 Clipping quickdraws
Climbers use safety ropes and clip into "quickdraws" bolted into the wall as they ascend. Once they've attached their rope to the final clip, they've finished.
5 Tricky angles
Some parts of the wall are built with overhangs of up to 5 degrees that make for dramatic and difficult climbs.
Athletes climb preset routes — known as "problems" — up a wall nearly 15 feet tall, without ropes.
6 Assessing routes
Climbers aren't allowed to see or practice routes before they compete in bouldering or lead climbing so they don't gain an advantage by watching others. Climbers have five minutes to complete each of four problems.
7 Mental and physical stamina
Boulderers only get a few moments to plan their moves before starting up the wall, so movements must be coordinated and precise, although they can try a route again if they fall. A route is only deemed complete when the climber grabs the last hold with both hands. Climbers can get partial credit for a problem by reaching designated holds, called "zones," in the middle of the route.
Two climbers race up a nearly 50-foot wall with standard, identical hand holds. Races are extremely fast — men finish in as little as 5 seconds, women in about 7. Quick starts are critical, but a false start will instantly disqualify a climber.
Photo: Eddie Fowke, International Federation of Sport Climbing