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Thrills and spills - and collaboration - among the high achievers


Sport climbing continues its inexorable rise, with competitors ready to stun crowds at Buenos Aires 2018 with speed, power and genuine care for their rivals

Sandra Lettner, Austria’s 2017 youth world champion, is adamant there is one defining characteristic that will make sport climbing stand out at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games.

“Our rivals are not like normal rivals: we help each other, we will look at the wall even in the finals and try and find different solutions together, asking each other what we think,” said Lettner, 17, referring to the set observation period all climbers have in which to study the challenges ahead. “It’s pretty cool.”

It may be hard to believe that those battling for men’s and women’s sport climbing gold will be collaborating, but it is true.

“I want to beat her,” Italy’s Laura Rogora, the world No.1 female youth lead climber, said of Lettner, before adding: “But for sure I will help her out with the route.”

This, combined with accessibility, gender equality and relentless thrills, has fuelled sport climbing’s rapid rise. Just 11 years ago the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) hosted its first sanctioned event and now it stands on the eve of a YOG debut, with inclusion at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games next.


France's Sam Avezou, the 2018 youth world and European bouldering champion, gets to grips with the challenge at Buenos Aires 2018 (OIS Photos)

A total of 42 athletes representing 26 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) will compete over three disciplines for the men’s and women’s combined gold medals in Buenos Aires, from Sunday to Wednesday 10 October.

Up first is speed. Climbers will race in pairs, side-by-side, straight up a 15-metre wall, with the winner likely to reach the top in less than nine seconds. If you have not seen this before, think Spiderman and you are on the right track.

“The technical aspect is a little bit less important in speed,” Rogora, 17, said.

Fans at the Urban Park are in for a treat, with the likes of Poland’s Kalucka sisters, Natalia and Aleksandra, already among the world’s very best speedsters. Aleksandra, 16, finished fourth in speed at the 2018 senior World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria, in May.

Next is bouldering. Rogora and her peers will have four routes to complete, each over a 4.5m boulder. The competitor who completes the most routes in the least number of attempts will finish first.

“In bouldering it’s more about explosive power and coordination,” Rogora said, pointing to 2018 youth world and European bouldering champion Sam Avezou (FRA), 17, as a master of his art. 

In qualifying and in the finals, competition concludes with lead climbing. Athletes have six minutes to progress as high up a 15m wall as possible.


Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018

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