© Yuki Saito
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are the first Games to be held with sport climbing as an official Olympic sport. I am super happy that I achieved one of my big goals to qualify to take part in such memorable Olympic Games. It feels a bit unreal, and I am still taking some time to take it in. I told my mother in Austria right away that I had qualified, and my parents were very happy for me. It feels amazing to have the fortune of sport climbing becoming a part of the Olympics so that I have an opportunity to become an Olympian.
Sport climbing at Tokyo 2020 will feature three disciplines: Speed, Bouldering and Lead, with each athlete competing in all three. To be honest, it is not that I always dreamt of competing in the Olympic Games. But this is a precious chance for me to participate in the world’s biggest multi-sport competition, and I am confident of my skills in Bouldering and Lead. I want to take on this challenge.
I started sport climbing simply because it was fun. After I got older and started getting good results, climbing became something more serious for me. As I entered international competitions, and I made sure that it was I, not anyone else, who placed pressure on me. Especially since winning the Climbing World Championships in 2018, I have had a desire to be on the podium again, and I am creating pressure on myself to achieve this.
Nothing is easy: nothing is easy when you are at the height of an elite level. You know you have to fight for every move. I learnt through my daily training that you have to be passionate about getting something if you are to get what you really desire. At the same time, you also have to really discipline yourself. Those who don’t engage in hard work or enjoy the process cannot get what they desire.
© Yuki Saito
I started sport climbing when I was nine years old. When I was little, I had a chance to try many different sports during summer camp back home in Haag, Austria. That was when I tried sport climbing for the first time. It was really fun for me. I was smiling on the wall as I was climbing. I knew instantly that this was the sport for me. So, I quit riding horses, playing tennis and other sports, and I joined the sport climbing club to focus on climbing.
In the beginning, it was not really a training. It was just a hobby. After about a month or so, I told my coach that I wanted to try competing. It was when I joined the national team and got older that I started a real training that was based on a training plan with a national team coach. Then, it got more serious when I started competing internationally.
I climbed a natural rock formation for the first time after becoming a member of the Austria climbing team. I have been going out on climbs outside in nature ever since. At first, I had liked indoor climbing on plastic foot and handholds better. But I gradually started to find outdoor rock climbing interesting as well. When I went to Spain with a friend of mine on my first private rock-climbing trip, it was a very special experience. I now like climbing both natural rock formations and artificial walls.
I think the climbing community is very supportive and really friendly. You talk with all the other athletes to discuss skills and techniques. I feel that is a big difference from other sports. You train together; you go out on a rock together and so on. You can share the same passion with other climbers while heading towards your goals.
© Ryo Kubota
While competing in climbing events, I also attended a university in Innsbruck to study sport science. I wanted to know more about how to write a training plan, how to schedule everything based on a theoretical background, and that whole process. I studied it for one and a half years. However, I had had to skip some classes because I had been on the road for competitions, and, I decided to focus on competition. By studying sport science, it became easier to understand what I was doing in training, what it was for, and why you make some improvements. So, you understand the training plan, what your coach is saying, and the theory. I was able to gain a lot through my studies.
I develop and adjust my training plan carefully with my coach. In my training five days per week, at every session, we do some new moves, and that is how you improve your physical capabilities and skills. So, you never do the same thing in every training session. You always keep on trying something different.
The official sport climbing rules were revised in 2018. The climbing style changed a lot as a consequence, and you have to adapt yourself to the new style of climbing. You have to get more dynamic and learn many new rules as well. That is the case for everyone, so everyone has to go through the same learning experiences as mine.
I learnt through experience that carrying out your training devotedly in accordance with the training plan is extremely important in boosting your motivation. Also, your perspective and your way of thinking about matters become key when you are in a competition. You need the power to believe in yourself, and that power can lead to the exhibit your best performance.
© Yuki Saito
Ever since I was a child, Austria has had world-class climbers. My role model is Angela Eiter, a world-champion climber. I really liked her climbing style because she was really powerful and fast. She has been really inspiring for me. I always wanted to climb like her. I always wanted to get as strong as her. I hope that as much as Angela was inspirational to me, I, too, can be a role model for younger people.
Sport climbing is a sport for everyone. Women and men can compete under the same conditions. In a true sense, gender equality is there in the sport. In every competition, women and men are competing at the same time, and there is no difference in treatment, like in the prize money. Both genders get the same amount of attention. Men may be stronger in terms of physical power, and so their way of climbing differs and involves more strength. But the times marked is not very different. I do not think there are many other sports that are so fair and equal.
You see this also in paraclimbing. For example, people with one hand or one leg climb up the wall and that is so impressive. Blind people can climb, which is really cool. They can be very aggressive in the way they climb. I can say sport climbing is really for everyone regardless of age, gender and being with or without disability.
Across Austria, bouldering facilities have appeared in many places, and many people are now taking part in climbing. In Innsbruck, we have a really big gym. There are so many students as well as older people, young people and kids climbing there. It’s really nice that there is a facility where everyone can go and climb. Climbing can be a grueling sport, but it is great that people are not engaging in it alone or in silence but, rather, with friends and families in such a friendly atmosphere.
I hope that in the future I can support that will allow even more people to participate in this kind of friendly atmosphere and environment.
© Yuki Saito
To me, sport is something fundamental to life. It helps you maintain good balance in your body and mind. Even if you are worried about something, you can change how you feel by going for a run in a park or exercising at a gym.
On the other hand, sport has taught me that there is nothing that can be gained in life without effort. It has also shown me the importance of perseverance. I like competition and training, and I also enjoy the process of heading towards my goal. I want to keep being diligent, persevering and aiming even higher.
I want to stay involved in the world of sport, which has taught me such things. Right now, I post proactively on social media about the competitions and training so that more people can get to know about sport climbing, and also about me and my life as a climber. It would be wonderful if it helps people become even more familiar with climbing.
After I retire from competitive sport climbing, I am interested in coaching climbing or becoming a route setter. I do not know what kind of a path I will choose, but my passion will always stay with climbing and sport.
Started sport climbing at age 9, and after one month, entered a local competition. Competed in an international youth competition in 2010, taking part in the World Cup for the first time in 2014.
Excels in Lead Climbing and placed fourth in the 2017 Climbing World Cup. Won the 2018 Climbing World Championships in Lead Climbing.
In August 2019, qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Combined World Championship held in Hachioji, Tokyo.
I have only one arm. It is a physical disability, but it is not a negative. Whether a physical disability is a hindrance or not is up to each individual.
“Aim for the highest cloud, so that if you miss it, you will hit a lofty mountain.” Always aim for the highest cloud in the sky. Doing that, even if you don’t reach it, you will still be able to stand on a peak. From there, the highest cloud isn’t so far off.
For 24 years of my life, from the age of five until I retired at 29, I devoted myself to a single sport – gymnastics. What I learnt and became my belief from those times can be expressed in two Chinese words, Zhuānzhù (専注) and Jiānchí (堅持).