Brooke Raboutou competes during the semifinal of the women's lead competition at the IFSC Climbing World Cup on June 25, 2021 in Innsbruck, Austria.
Lead climbing tests every part of a climber’s skill set, including technical prowess, strength and, perhaps most of all, endurance.
Soon-to-be Olympian Brooke Raboutou showcased it all on Friday in the women’s final of the IFSC World Cup competition in Innsbruck, Austria.
The 20-year-old from Boulder, Colorado, qualified third in the semifinal earlier in the day to reach her first-ever senior elite final in lead climbing and very nearly made it a title-winning debut. Ascending up the towering wall on an overhanging route that required everything from dynamic leaps to handholds overhead to clinging by just fingertips to tiny pinch holds, Raboutou made it a handful of moves from the top before she fell off. The former youth world champion was sitting in first place, having completed 40 moves, with Japan’s Akiyo Noguchi in second with 33+ moves.
The only climber left was Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret, who’s always a formidable opponent. The multi-time world champion in both lead and combined climbing, Garnbret showed why many consider her to be the best female competition climber in the world by becoming the only one to make it to the top of the route.
Raboutou won silver and Noguchi bronze. All three women will represent their countries in Tokyo.
Sport climbing will make its Olympic debut this summer. The format consists of three separate competitions: speed climbing, lead climbing and bouldering. In lead climbing, athletes clip their ropes into carabiners as they ascend up a vertical wall. The goal is to make it all the way to the top, and the competition is timed.
In bouldering, athletes tackle a series of “problems” that stay lower to the ground and don’t require ropes. Raboutou took third in a pair of bouldering competitions in Utah in the spring. This was the first major lead competition of the season.
In speed climbing, athletes race each other side-by-side to the top on identical courses.