Sport climber Sean McColl: 'The future Olympian'

Find out how to watch the Canadian at the IFSC World Championships

‘Future Olympian’ are the words already plastered across sport climber Sean McColl’s website

The Canadian is confident he can make Tokyo 2020, but before then he's seeking another title at the IFSC World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria.

The three-time combined world champion is also an accomplished pianist and fluent in both English and French.

But it's his climbing skills that really impress.

McColl's Tokyo Mission

Sport climbing will make its first Olympic Games appearance at Tokyo.

The medals will go to the top combined climber over the three sport climbing disciplines of lead, bouldering and speed.

And 30-year-old McColl is a warm favourite for men's gold.

Sean McColl competes in the World Cup lead competition in Briancon, France in July 2017
Sean McColl competes in the World Cup lead competition in Briancon, France in July 2017Sean McColl competes in the World Cup lead competition in Briancon, France in July 2017

"It’s something I have been dreaming of my whole life. I love climbing, competing, testing myself. I compete in almost every competition I can." - Sean McColl speaking to Olympic.org.

McColl took bronze in the lead at the 2017 World Games.

But he relishes the challenge of all three disciplines.

Well, nearly all of them.

"Speed climbing is my weakest of the three disciplines," McColl said.

"I don’t train in it as much. It is much closer to running than lead and bouldering – so it is something I will have to focus on more and more in the lead-up to competitions that will serve as Olympic qualification."

McColl is hopeful the new sport will attract a new audience with Olympic exposure.

"The [hand] holds are as little as 1cm or 0.5cm and you have to move your body – 90 to 120cm – and the footholds are often terrible; you can barely put your feet on them," he said.

"I am really hoping with technology, with the cameras and maybe the interviews and the commentary, people will be able to see that climbers make the moves look really easy but they are really not."

Youngsters Garnbret and Shiraishi battle for lead honours

If you’ve ever watched Ninja Warrior and thought that was impressive – wait until you see the professionals in action.

Janja Garnbret wins the World Cup lead competition at Arco in July 2018
Janja Garnbret wins the World Cup lead competition at Arco in July 2018Janja Garnbret wins the World Cup lead competition at Arco in July 2018

Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret became lead world champion aged 17 in 2016.

Now 19, she defends her title in Innsbruck.

And her Instagram is an absolute treasure trove of impossible-looking climbing.

Garnbret faces competition from another teenager in Ashima Shiraishi.

The 17-year-old is just 1.54m (5 ft 1 in) tall but climbs higher than most of her rivals.

Shiraishi already boasts an impressive array of sponsors and has dominated at the Youth World Championships for the past three years.

Ashima Shiraishi celebrates first place in bouldering at the 2017 Youth World Championships
Ashima Shiraishi celebrates first place in bouldering at the 2017 Youth World ChampionshipsAshima Shiraishi celebrates first place in bouldering at the 2017 Youth World Championships

The American has qualified for next month's Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.

But she is already challenging for senior world titles, and has made an impressive start in Innsbruck.

Don't rule out some of the older heads in Austria.

Japan's Akiyo Noguchi, 29, is a four-time World Cup bouldering champion with 21-year-old compatriot Miho Nonaka taking this year's crown.

Switzerland's Petra Kingler is the defending champion.

The need for speed

Next Thursday sees arguably the most spectacular discipline take centre stage.

And speed certainly lives up to its name with the action often over in less than seven seconds.

The men's favourite is 2017 World Games champion Reza Alipour.

The Iranian is bidding for gold after taking bronze at the 2014 World Championships, and silver two years ago.

Russian women have won the last four speed world titles with Anna Tsyganova defending her title.

But compatriot Yulia Kaplina claimed World Games glory in Wroclaw, Poland.

How to Watch

The Olympic Channel is streaming 10 fantastic days of Sport Climbing action. Join us live for Lead, Boulder, Speed and Combined events in Innsbruck, Austria.

And check out the full schedule here for timings in your area.

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