Switchbackr Spotlight: Olympian Kyra Condie
Updated: Mar 25
We are psyched to introduce our first Switchbackr Spotlight, a series in which we will feature inspirational leaders in the outdoor industry! Our inaugural interview is with Kyra Condie, one of four American Sport Climbers who qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Kyra, 23, is based in Salt Lake City, UT, and sat down to talk with us about her climbing journey.
When did you start climbing?
When I was 11 I went to the local gym in Minnesota for a birthday party and I was immediately hooked. I did musical theater at first and quit the climbing team because I got into a play. Then, I eventually rejoined.
Do you have a climb you’re most proud of?
The outdoor climb that I probably was most psyched by is Columbian Bowties (V12) in Idaho. It was really my style and quite cool. I also loved my trip to the Rocklands in South Africa. I like straightforward powerful climbs the most. Some people really like the intricacies of other techniques, but what I have most fun on is where I get to try really hard.
Do you have a pre-comp routine?
I get pretty nervous morning of so I eat just a few things for breakfast that won't make me nauseous. I like to listen to music in isolation, that calms me down. Most recently I've gotten into opera music. It feels epic but is also calming.
Was there a turning point when you decided to climb professionally?
Honestly, I always wanted to climb professionally. The two things I had in the back of my mind were being a vet or climbing. I never thought that being a pro would actually work, it just felt like a dream. It became more of a reality towards the end of college.
Walk me through the process of trying out for the Olympics.
As soon as climbing was accepted to the Olympics, they were on my radar. Even though I prefer disciplines to be separated, I thought the combined aspect suited me really well. I always liked all three [bouldering, sport, and speed] even though I mostly boulder. I thought I had a decent chance if I dedicated to it.
It was really exciting because I thought that we had been rejected for 2020, but then Tokyo announced they could have us. It's funny–I had a timeline since senior year of high school that had the 2024 Olympics marked off, so I guess it was always on my mind.
The qualifying process was pretty rugged. I had to go to all the World Cups when I had never been to more than four. In 2019 I went to 11. Balancing training and competing was totally different. There was a really good team atmosphere that for sure helped.
How did you feel when the Olympics were delayed?
I was just really glad they weren't cancelled. It was also a good thing for me since I was already qualified. Lots of athletes were still waiting for qualifying events and that is the worst position to be in. I just got to focus on training and really hope it will still happen. I'm choosing to stay optimistic because there isn't much else I can do.
Who are your role models?
My main role model growing up was Alex Johnson, who trained at the same gym. She was 19 and winning her first world cup just as I joined the team. If not for her, I wouldn't have known that competing to that level is possible in climbing. In general, I'm inspired by my peers a lot.
If you could change something about the sport, what would it be?
The main thing I would change is that there are a lot of people who think they can't climb or aren't the right type of person. Especially movies like Free Solo make climbing look really intimidating and inaccessible. I would rather people not think about it that way. There are so many different aspects of climbing–you don't have to go free solo, you can go to the gym and top rope 5.9! That isn't immediately obvious. I'd also like climbing to be more accessible socioeconomically. It's a pretty middle class and higher sport because of the way access and free time works.
How do you think about sustainability in climbing?
It's something I have thought about a fair amount. There are lots of people in climbing like Nathaniel Coleman working on it. I think climbing is kind of nice because you get to use a lot of gear for a long time, you don't have to replace a ton. But the carbon footprint of traveling to competitions is tough.
Anything you wish you knew starting out?
It's really easy to go to the gym and get super intimidated. Try not to let it affect you. I was lucky to be super oblivious when I started–I look back and think that experiences were misogynistic or kind of sucked. If I were older it might have been really discouraging. I would just say to focus on the positive people.