Feature | Sport Climbing

Project Embark: Kyra Condie helps empower refugees through climbing

As part of Olympic Channel series "Inspired by Sport", Olympic sport climbing hopeful Condie helps four women to rediscover their confidence since becoming refugees in Utah, USA.

By Andrew Binner ·

There is a group of refugee women in Utah, USA who are becoming empowered through rock climbing.

As part of new Olympic Channel Original series Inspired by Sport, they have been brought together, using the activity as a way to foster confidence and self-esteem.

But they're not alone.

In this episode, USA sport climber Kyra Condie travels with the group to Salt Lake City.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifier teaches the women how to ascend the stunning red sandstone of Zion National Park, while also learning how the sport is impacting the lives of the four young refugees from Sudan, Chad, and Iraq.

For these young refugees rock climbing is a path to foster confidence

Kyra Condie travels to Utah to experience how the challenge of rock climbin...

The background

Utah is home to nearly 65,000 refugees.

Resettlement can be an isolating experience, and perhaps this is why the women may be a perfect fit for the challenge of rock climbing.

"Climbing is really unique in its ability to take you out of your comfort zone real quick," Kyra Condie told Olympic Channel.

But through taking on the climb, the women are learning new skills and building relationships.

"When I first came here, I promised myself that I'm going to be a new Wamda," said Wamda, a 21-year-old refugee from Sudan.

"(I will) Do something I've never done before like climbing. I know I'm scared of heights but I have to kill that fear. I feel like I'm doing something big, I never thought I could do something like that."

Wamda fled Sudan with her parents, grandmother, and five siblings at the age of 13.

She lived in Egypt for several years before the family secured asylum in the United States. It was in Egypt that the health aide worker discovered her fear of heights while doing laundry on the rooftop of an apartment building.

When Wamda heard about the project, she decided to push herself to try rock climbing.

The mission

Project Embark aims to build emotional connections and self-esteem for the women - who are from very different backgrounds - through the intense challenge of outdoor climbing.

With weekly mentorship at an indoor climbing gym, and special weekend trips to some of the area’s stunning national parks, they encourage these young women to challenge themselves and embrace independence through the emotional, physical, and mental rigor on the rock face.

While witnessing their climbing challenge, Condie and viewers learn about the emotional and inspiring journey of being a refugee in America, through the telling of their stories.

Kyra Condie's journey

Although raised in Minnesota, Condie also has an inspiring story of her own.

After discovering her love of climbing at 11-years-old, she was diagnosed with severe scoliosis and had to undergo spinal fusion surgery to correct her 70 degree curvature.

Her recovery took months and it wasn’t clear if she would ever be able to return to climbing. Her grit and determination were tested but ultimately, she pushed through to become a top competitive indoor climber and the very first climber to earn a spot on Team USA earlier this year.

Having already qualified for Tokyo 2020, Condie will be a special guest at the Pan-American Qualifiers being held in Los Angeles, February 24 to March 1.

Sport climbing's Olympic debut

Sport climbing will make its Olympic debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, July 24 to August 9.

It will feature three disciplines: speed climbing, bouldering, and lead climbing, meaning each competitor finishes with one combined score which will determine the medals.

Sport climbing is sure to be one of the hottest tickets in town at the Games, given Japan's status as one of the dominant forces in both men's and women's climbing.

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