Sport Climbing

Laura Rogora: How I've mixed my passions for maths and climbing

The 19-year-old Italian, who features in our latest original series 'Road to Tokyo', shares how it feels to be one of the 20 female climbers competing for a medal next year in Japan.

By Alessandro Poggi ·

Who said that you need to be big and have a herculean strength to be successful in sport climbing?

Laura Rogora, who's just 1.50m (4.9ft) tall and comes from a place not renowned for its mountains, has proved that it's possible.

The 19-year-old from Rome has already made a name for herself in the sport.

A 3-time junior gold medallist at the IFSC World Youth Championships, and European championships silver medallist at the senior level in 2019, Rogora won her first full World Cup competition this August in Briancon, France.

Last year in Toulouse she punched her ticket for Tokyo 2020, where sport climbing will make its Olympic debut in 2021, and her qualifying journey was documented by the Olympic Channel's original series 'Sport Climbing - The Qualifier Stories'.

In an exclusive interview to mark the launch, the Italian, who moved to Trento to join the Fiamme Oro sporting club, also shared her love of outdoor climbing, where she recently became the second woman in history to scale a 9b route.

Laura Rogora: "When I feel the adrenaline, everything around me disappears"

The Italian sport climber, who qualified for Tokyo 2020, reveals why the em...

No mountains, no problem

Rogora started to climb when she was five, but it wasn't love at first sight.

"The first time I went with my dad and my sister, and when I reached the top I got scared and I started to cry," she remembers.

"But once I came down, I immediately wanted to go up again."

Rogora was born in Rome, in the Lazio region:

"Sport climbing is more common in Northern Italy, but since competitions are held indoor you can train well even if there are no mountains.

"Actually Rome had great climbers in the past like Alessandro 'Jolly' Lamberti, who was the first Italian to climb a 9A.

"Around the city you can find nice cliffs to climb."

The 30-40m-high 'falesie' in Gaeta, Sperlonga, and Rieti were Laura's first 'gyms'.

"Climbing is my biggest passion and this sport taught me that you need to work hard to achieve results." - Laura Rogora to Olympic Channel

Laura Rogora clinched a spot at Tokyo 2020 during the IFSC Combined Qualifier in Toulouse 2019

A mathematical mind

Laura discovered climbing thanks to her father Enrico, a maths teacher at the Sapienza University in Rome, his daughter initially followed in those footsteps too.

"I started studying maths [at the University] but after qualifying for Tokyo I decided to pause my academic career to focus on the Olympics," Rogora admitted.

It seems maths and climbing have a lot in common.

Fellow Italian climber Stefano Ghisolfi compared the challenge of finding a way to reach the top to solving a Rubik's cube.

"At school I loved [maths], I enjoy trying to solve a problem," 19-year-old Rogora told Olympic Channel.

"During a climb, especially on-sight, you need to quickly figure out the way to solve a problem. There’s not only one way, you need to find the best way for you."

Laura Rogora celebrates her first World Cup win in Briancon in August 2020.

Powered by adrenaline

Rogora's favourite discipline is lead, where strategy and technique are more important than brute strength.

"It's true, I'm smaller than the other climbers.

"This means that sometimes it's more difficult to reach a hold, and I struggle in the parts that require more explosivity. But I can make up for it with my technique and a better endurance."

The Italian also opened up on what drives her when she's competing in front of a big crowd.

"The emotions during a competition are unique, such as the adrenaline and the satisfaction after achieving a good result.

"But I also enjoy all the preparation."

"When I feel the adrenaline, everything around me disappears, things seem easier, almost effortless." - Laura Rogora

"My most exciting competition was in Briancon (August 2020), in the last climb I knew that if I had reached the top, I would have won it.

"It meant a lot to me because it was the only World Cup event taking place this year and I wanted to test myself after training hard during the winter

"That was a goal, but also a starting point of me. It was my first [senior] win, I was all over the moon and it gave me a lot of confidence for the future.

Tokyo-bound

Next year in Tokyo, Laura will be one of the 20 female climbers vying for an Olympic medal.

"The Olympic Games are the biggest dream for each athlete. It’s different from other events, I’m intrigued about what surrounds it, like the Opening Ceremony or the Olympic Village," she said.

The Italian had a first taste of what awaits her two years ago at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, where sport climbing featured for the first time in a multi-sport event.

She finished 10th, after learning how challenging the Olympic format can be.

"It didn't go well, but it was a beautiful experience, an important dress rehearsal ahead of next year's big Olympics."

"I also loved to share it with athletes from other sports, instead of talking only abut climbing with my teammates from the national team."

In Tokyo, Rogora considers Slovenia's star Janja Garnbret and Japan's home hopes Akiyo Noguchi and Miho Nonaka to be the medal favourites.

But she admits that anything can happen:

"In sport climbing the results vary a lot, especially in the boulder, and in the Olympic format where the results [from speed, lead, and boulder] are combined, it’s very difficult to make predictions.

"Until the end you don’t know how it’s going to end. My goal is reaching the final, so let’s see..."