Climbing on sight, towards Tokyo
From a spinal deformation to the Olympic dream. Kyra Condie’s story
Climbing a route on the first attempt without falling, with no prior knowledge of the holds, is the purist style of rock climbing. At the highest levels, it’s a display of decision-making mastery and the fusion of mental fortitude and physical strength. The most sought-after style of ascension, there’s only one chance at the first attempt.
The same holds true to the sport of climbing. Debuting at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Sport Climbing has moved out of the mountains and into the stadiums. Forty of the world’s best climbers will represent its athleticism, coordination, and skill.
When Kyra Condie started climbing at a young age, there were no dreams of Olympic podiums. What drove her was purely joy, then the satisfaction of accomplishment and doing what she was told she couldn’t. At 13, she was diagnosed with a spinal deformation. After extensive surgery to correct her 70-degree spinal curvature, she was told that climbing wasn’t in the cards for her anymore.
Not accepting fate imposed by her initial doctor, this was the fuel to light a fire of impossible recovery. Now, a decade later, she’s a top American competition climber, who must compensate for her fused vertebrae in a sport where body positioning can be the difference between success and failure.
When the inclusion of Sport Climbing into the Tokyo Olympics was announced, Kyra set her sights as high as they could go, Olympic rings. In January 2020, she qualified as one of two women for the USA Climbing Olympic Team. With a sigh of relief having made the team, she’s had over a year to prepare for the Games.
Sport Climbing is comprised of three disciplines, testing endurance, power, and speed: Bouldering, Lead Climbing, and Speed Climbing. The overall podium winners of Sport Climbing will not be specialists, but all-around performers who have put in the time, effort, and discipline to strengthen their weaknesses and hone their strengths.
Fingertips of steel, body tension, and dynamic movement characterize Bouldering, Kyra’s preferred discipline. She’s well known on her social media for posting impossible looking pull up workouts and campusing, footless climbing with just her fingertips. Technically requiring the most powerful movement of the three disciplines, Bouldering allows climbers unlimited attempts in a set amount of time to get to the top. With no ropes, failed attempts result in a ground fall to the mats below, much like the pole vault.
Lead Climbing is a test of power endurance. Climbers tie into a rope and get one chance to ascend a wall upwards of 20 meters. The higher the climber makes it on the route, the better the score. Kyra has improved her lead climbing by moving quick, efficiently, and with conviction.
Speed Climbing is just that, getting to the top of the 15-meter wall fastest. The Speed Climbing route is standard, so the wall that Kyra trains on in Salt Lake City is exactly the same as Tokyo’s route. Kyra has every nuanced movement sequenced and can visualize them from memory. This event is the fastest of all the Summer Olympic Games, with Kyra clocking in a personal best of less than 8 seconds.
When she qualified for the USA Climbing team for the 2020 Olympics, she was a climber. But with the Games’ delay into 2021, she embraced this to transform herself into an Olympic athlete in the most traditional sense, for an untraditional sport. Long sessions in the weight room, deep work physical therapy, mental training with a sports psychologist, and deepening her relationship and trust with her coach are all progressions over the amateur climber.
With the sport’s debut this summer at the Olympics, there has been no roadmap to success. But being the trailblazer she is, Kyra has forged her own route to onsight Tokyo, matching her body and mind with her relentless spirit.
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