Canadian sport climber Alannah Yip became the newest athlete to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games on Saturday. She did so by winning the 2020 Pan American Combined Climbing Championships in Los Angeles.
The women’s combined final began with the Speed phase. It was a disaster for the Americans with Emma Hunt, Norah Chi, and Lauren Bair falling to post good results on home soil. However, the Speed phase was very kind to the Latin American climbers, who dominated the early stages of the today’s competition.
Alejandra Contreras (CHI) took third place in Speed over Rebecca Frangos (CAN) with a time of 8.78. The Chilean was much more adapted to the quick, almost reflex like, style of Speed climbing. The reason the Chilean wasn’t able to claim first in the discipline was Ecuador’s Andrea Rojas. Rojas was able to make an incredible comeback on Contreras in the semifinals, and thus relegated her to the 3rd place climb-off.
Rojas was the big winner in Speed. She blazed passed her fellow competitors to face Argentina’s Valentina Aguado in the final climb-off. It was Rojas once again taking victory, and with the fastest climb of the day, clocking 8.45. Aguado would have to settle for second in Speed after she succumbed to fall in her final climb.
It was on to the Boulders then, and the North Americans were on a quest for redemption. Emma Hunt (USA) tore through the boulders to post 2 tops and 3 zones to take second in the Bouldering phase. It was a much needed moral boost for her after two falls in the earlier Speed phase. Unfortunately, her teammates Lauren Bair and Norah Chi continued to falter on the Boulders, with both only managing to top one boulder each.
It could have been worse for the Americans though, as Ecuador’s Rojas failed to top a single boulder problem. A horrible round saw Rojas fall from first, to the middle of the pack in an instant. Valentina Aguado, second place in Speed, wasn’t able to do much better, coming in seventh place with 1 top and 3 zones. It wasn’t all bad for the Spanish-speaking climbers though, as Chile’s Contreras topped 2 problems, and was able to get the zone hold on all 3. Though her climbing was rather scrappy in form, she finished the Boulder phase in third place.
It was the Canadians who were the cream of the crop in the Boulder phase. Rebecca Frangos managed to get 2 tops and 2 zones to finish fourth. However, she was to be outperformed by her teammate, Alannah Yip, who posted a “perfect” score of 3 tops and 3 zones to dominate the Boulder phase. Yip was in a league of her own as she looked immensely strong on the boulder problems. It became abundantly clear to those in attendance that Alannah Yip meant business.
And so it all came down to the Lead phase. The task at hand was as daunting as the large, protruding wall the climbers were about to be tasked with climbing. Emma Hunt was first on the wall, but she could not follow up her great Boulder performance, and took an early exit off the wall. Hunt would have the unfortunate honor of finishing last in today’s competition.
Aguado was next out, and she proved that technically proficient climbing can be just has affective as height or “wingspan” in Lead. Through a series of impressively choreographed movements, Aguado was able to achieve a score of 49+ that would be good enough for sixth in the Lead phase.
Ecuador’s Andrea Rojas was climbing for her life in the Lead phase. She was putting everything she had into her climbing for one last chance at an Olympic ticket. Unfortunately, a score of 49+ just wouldn’t suffice for the Ecuadorian.
Chile’s Contreras also found herself climbing with an Olympic ticket on the line. She had the very vocal support of the entire Chilean climbing team to carry her up the wall. She was clean and precise in her movements, and it paid off. Contreras posted a 52 in the Lead phase. Much to her chagrin, she would soon learn that it would not be enough to best Alannah Yip.
Frangos came next, and managed to post a 50 for fifth in the Lead. Her performance was cast to the wayside though, as next up was Alannah Yip. A clean, and precise climb was all that separated Yip and her Olympic dream. She gave the crowd a few heart attacks early, when she made a few errors that resulted in some small slips. However, her form shone through, and Yip climbed towards the heavens in the “city of angels”. To the roar of crowd, Yip made it higher than anyone before and posted a 53+ that solidified her qualification to Tokyo 2020.
Yip was greeted on the ground by her teammate, and they met in a warm embrace. The two had become close in the time they had spent training together, and the joy for both was quite visible. The crowd knew they had just witnessed something special, and so they saluted Yip with a standing ovation.
The Lead phase would actually finish with further excitement, as American Lauren Bair posted her best result of the day. Bair managed to top the wall, to really finish the day on a high note. It wouldn’t be good enough for an Olympic spot, but it did snag her a podium place behind Yip and Contreras at the 2020 Pan American Combined Climbing Championships.
When asked about her victory and what it meant, Yip responded “One of the things I’m most excited for is to walk in the opening ceremony, and to represent my country at the Olympics. To be there with Sean (McColl), the other Canadian (Climbing) Olympian, who I’ve been family friends with since I was born, and who’s always been such a huge inspiration and supporter.” She also went on to thank her coach, “who’s she’s been with since she was nine (years old).”
Mattel was the sponsor of today’s event, and their spokeswoman had mentioned the goal of inspiring girls to get active before the competition. When asked what she hoped to do through her climbing to inspire young girls to take up climbing, Yip commented “I think, to climb, I’d love to inspire lots of people to climb, and to realize through climbing that they feel powerful and strong, and that’s it something that can give you that feeling (of strength), and not maybe worry about looks.”
It was a tough day for Contreras, who visibly distraught after losing out on an Olympic quota. When asked about how she felt about her performance, she said “Well, I have mixed feelings because I gave it all, so I’m happy for that, but I’m kind of sad because I couldn’t qualify for the Olympics. I’m still happy for Alannah because she had a great competition today, and was really awesome and inspiring.”
Contreras went on to credit a strong mental game for her performance today, but admitted that if she could redo something, she’d redo “little things.” She continued “maybe I’d have done better on the first boulder, to get it on the first attempt, and (do) it the way it was meant to be done because when I realized how I should have done it; I would do that better.”
Now that Yip has purchased her ticket to Tokyo, it is time for a night’s rest before the men take to the stage tomorrow. Totallympics Media will have continued coverage of the 2020 Pan American Combined Climbing Championships tomorrow.