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Canadians Alannah Yip and Sean McColl Arrive at the Tokyo Olympics

Messages of support pour in as Canada's first-ever climbing Olympians prepare to compete in Japan

It’s been a long road and a year delayed, but B.C. climbers Alannah Yip and Sean McColl have finally arrived in Tokyo for the Summer Olympics. They touched down in Japan yesterday and have already hit the walls.

“Arrived in Morioka after over 30 hours of travel for a training camp,” said Yip on Instagram. “Today we had a nice shakeout and heat acclimation session. Tomorrow the real training starts.” The heat and humidity will make this the hottest summer games on record.

McColl secured his Olympic nomination at the 2019 IFSC Climbing World Championships in Hachioji, Japan with a 10th-place finish in the combined event, in which athletes compete in all three of the bouldering, lead climbing, and speed climbing disciplines. The 33-year-old from North Vancouver has won four world titles in the combined event (2009, 2012, 2014, 2016).

Yip, also from North Vancouver, earned her Olympic nomination at the 2020 Pan American Championships in Los Angeles in February 2020. She placed first in bouldering, third in lead climbing, and fifth in speed climbing, culminating in her victory in the combined event. Yip, now 27, won her first national climbing championship title at the age of 12 and has won seven Open National titles since while also earning a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of British Columbia. In 2017, she became the first Canadian woman to advance to the final of a World Cup climbing event.

“When I was young, I dreamed of getting to compete in the Olympics. I was lucky enough to watch the Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremony in person and my favourite part was the athlete parade,” said Yip. “Watching all the athletes proudly representing their countries and thinking about how much work and sacrifice each one of them must have put in to get there was so emotional for me. Now that my sport is for the first time a part of the Olympic Games, I am beyond excited to get to be a part of it.”

McColl was instrumental in pushing for sport climbing to be added to the Olympic program. Serving as the president of the IFSC athlete commission since 2012, he participated in numerous presentations to the International Olympic Committee on behalf of sport climbing. His efforts contributed to the official announcement on August 3, 2016 that sport climbing would make its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020.

“Joining Team Canada with Alannah is a dream come true,” said McColl. “I grew up with Alannah before she started climbing. I introduced her to the sport, and now we are becoming Olympic athletes together in the inauguration of our sport.”

Sport climbing was originally proposed to the IOC for Olympic inclusion in 2013 but was passed over. In a different process that saw the host nation submit sports for inclusion at only the Games it is responsible for, sport climbing received a second chance. The other sports proposed by the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee and accepted by the IOC are baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, and surfing.

You can watch McColl compete in the Olympic qualification rounds for the combined event on August 3. Yip will be competing the following day, August 4. The finals for the men and women will take place on August 5 and 6, respectively. The sport climbing events will take place at the Aomi Urban Sports Park, located in the Tokyo Bay Zone.

We’ve included some well-wishes and stoke from the Canadian climbing community below.