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Eleven-Year-Old Crusher Ashima Shiraishi on Climbing in the Olympics

Even if you don't follow climbing, you may have heard of Ashima Shiraishi, the 11-year-old boulderer who graced the front page of the New York Times' sports section earlier this month. In March, the New Yorker became just the third woman—and the youngest by more than a decade—to climb a consensus V13 boulder problem when she sent Crown of Aragorn in Hueco Tanks, Texas. A movie about her exploits, Obe and Ashima, premiered at the Reel Rock Film Tour last year, and has traveled with the Banff Mountain Film Festival. We caught up with her between trips in New York City to find out where she thinks the sport is headed.

What do you think the future of climbing's going to be like?
I think climbing would be a really good sport for the Olympics. They're going to pick a sport because baseball got kicked out, so climbing might be the one. They're also thinking of putting skateboarding in the Olympics, but I think climbing would be better because it's a sport that a lot of people like around the world, especially in Europe.

How has your life changed since you started climbing?
A lot. Yuki [Ikumori] was the person who kind of introduced me to climbing. He used to live in Japan, then he moved to America. He basically climbed in Central Park every single day for years, and he coached a bunch of people, including me. It was really sad when he left the United States and moved back to Japan about a year ago. 

What's it been like to get so much attention from climbers?
I think it's pretty exciting. I didn't really think I'd get so much attention my first time I tried climbing.

Is it ever a bummer to have people watching you so closely?
Yeah, sometimes it does get kind of annoying. But I don't really mind it that much.

Do you ever get nervous before you compete?
I surprisingly don't get too nervous before I climb. 

What about when climb outside? When I was your age, I was super afraid of heights.
On sport I don't really get that nervous, but if it's like a really tall boulder, I sometimes get nervous at the very top. Because it's pretty high, and if you just fell down at that point, it would be pretty bad. You'd get pretty injured. 

You say that Rocklands is the area you'd want to climb the most in. Why?
A bunch of people said that Rocklands is really similar to Hueco, and I just really love Hueco because of all of the rock. So I think I'll love Rocklands too.

—Adam Roy

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