Posted by: Katie Coakley
The Minnesota athlete returns to Vail on an upward trajectory
By Shauna Farnell
The world’s top climbers have shaken up their schedules and goals in anticipation of their sport’s debut in the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020. Everyone is vying for one of the few spots to represent his or her country on the world’s biggest stage. Only two men and two women are allowed to compete for each country and the Olympic format is entirely different from that which most World Cup climbers are accustomed.
Luckily, Kyra Condie already has a leg up … in every sense of the expression.
The Minnesota-based climber who turns 23 on June 5 graduated from the University of Minnesota last year with a degree in animal science and hopes to become a veterinarian someday. But first thing’s first: She has her sights set on becoming an Olympian.
Condie put down the top performance of her bouldering career in Vail last year, a fifth place at the IFSC Climbing World Cup, which happens to be the only U.S. stop on the international circuit. Like all climbers who compete at the Vail event, Condie’s strength and discipline focus area is bouldering. As seen in Vail, bouldering requires athletes to negotiate a set of wall routes with a variety of changing problems that become increasingly difficult. However, bouldering is just one portion of the Olympic climbing competition, which will also include speed and lead disciplines, with the medal winners nailing the top combined score in all three.
“I’d prefer a different format like everyone else, but I think it’s a good stepping stone for the first Olympics,” Condie says. “I prefer this format rather than having one discipline. Now everyone is trying to figure out how to train their best. Do you train your strengths or your weaknesses?”
Luckily for Condie, she has more than one strength, as exhibited last November when she won gold at the Pan American Championships in Ecuador in the combined event, the same format as the upcoming Olympic competition.
“Bouldering has always been my favorite of the disciplines,” she says. “It fits my personality the best. It’s fast-paced but dynamic. I enjoy doing a few hard moves. I like to hit things at 100 percent. I think boulderers are slightly better-suited for speed versus slow climbers because bouldering is powerful and fast. Someone who is good at lead and bouldering won’t necessarily be good at speed.”
Speed is the most specific and unchanging of the disciplines. The same type of wall is always used in every competition; the goal is simply to be the fastest athlete to the top.
“The biggest thing with speed is having access to a speed wall,” Condie says. “I don’t live next to a speed wall, so in order to train it, I have to travel. For the other two, I’m comfortable training at home.”
In addition to overcoming tough obstacles on the wall – both indoors and outdoors – Condie has overcome a physical hurdle not faced by many others in her profession. At age 13, after she had already begun proving herself as a competitive climber, Condie underwent major spinal fusion surgery for a form of scoliosis that had radically curved her spine. Although the procedure left her with a limited range of motion in her back, she’s still managed to climb her way to the top of her sport.
“What I really like about climbing is that in all honesty, hard work really does pay off,” she says. “You could be the best climber in the world, but if you don’t work hard, you won’t make it. It’s all strength-based, but it’s also very individualized. If you succeed, its all on you. If you fail, it’s all on you.”
However, Condie’s perspective on failing is one that more athletes – and humans for that matter – should consider.
“The goal is to get to the finish hold. There are hard moves on the way to that. It really takes someone who has a lot of tenacity and determination and who is OK with failure,” she says. “It takes someone who’s really driven. In climbing, you have to really enjoy a challenge. Every day, you’re trying things you can’t do. You’re either climbing or falling. When you’re falling, you’re like, man, it’s hard. But personally, I don’t think of it as failing. I think of it as trying.”
Condie’s “obvious goal” this year is to qualify for the Olympics. In Vail, this will mean matching or exceeding her outstanding performance last year.
“What is really special in Vail is that a lot of my family comes to watch. I have a ton of family coming this year. Some of them will be doing the running races and other events. It’s nice to be surrounded by other Mountain Games athletes and the other things to do. Having the crowd behind you, in general, is a big push. If you hear the crowd roaring, you’re more likely to do the move than if you’re there alone.”
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