Akiyo Noguchi has won three straight Boulder World Cups this year and is aiming for the Olympics in 2020.
At 29, the Japanese comp climber who was raised on the family farm, decided in university to quit school to climb full time.
“It was 10 years ago and climbing wasn’t in the Olympics, it was still a minor sport,” said Noguchi.
“When I told my parents I was dropping out of college to turn pro, they were extremely worried — and my mom was dead against it.
“But my dad has supported my climbing since I was a kid and built a wall for me in the corner of the farm,” added Noguchi, who has 21 World Cup bouldering titles to her name.
“He insisted I do what makes me happy. But my mom knows now how much I love climbing and has seen how much effort I put into competing so all the family is behind me now.”
@thenorthfacecup is over! I was 2nd place🥈But, I'm super shycked because I climb final and super final with @nonaka_miho ☺️🥇✨Also Congratulations @kai_hrd for his first victory👑✨* * * TNFCお疲れ様でした😆🎉 決勝も、そしてスーパーファイナルも生萌と登れてすっごく楽しかった〜!!!本当に年々熱くなってますね〜この大会は👏🏻予選からの課題のクオリティの高さに感動😳終始クライミングの楽しさを感じさせて貰いました💓* * * 次の大会はWORLDCUP! 益々トレーニング頑張ろー😍🎵 photo by @keisuke_ichinose @thenorthfacecup #teamau @thenorthfacejp #三井不動産 #牛乳石鹸 #zerostart #オリエンタルバイオ @lasportivagram @petzl_official #newhale
Noguchi admits she was a handful for her parents with her tomboy antics growing up in Ibaraki Prefecture.
“My dad was a farmer and we grew up surrounded by animals,” she said. “I loved climbing on the cows, climbing up trees, climbing onto the roof of the cow shed to play as a kid.
“When I was 11, we went on a family holiday to Guam and I tried a proper climbing wall for the first time. At the beginning, I was still quite small so it was a challenge,” said Noguchi, who beat countrywoman Miho Nonaka in Tokyo over the weekend.
“But I was determined to figure out a way up the wall. I loved overcoming obstacles, that sense of achievement — I was hooked.
“Obviously you need physical strength and power, but climbing is also about the thought process, ingenuity and really just going for it. Willing yourself to go higher — that’s part of the fun.”
Watch Noguchi at the Toronto World Cup below.
Noguchi is looking to improve her lead and speed climbing techniques, beginning at the world championships in Innsbruck, Austria, this September.
“It’s a home Olympics so I imagine I’ll feel pressure,” said Noguchi.
But I’m sure I’ll feel the support of everyone in Japan and I think it will work in my favor. I’ll be looking to win the gold medal of course.”
Japan could scoop multiple medals at the Olympics as the country boasts four of the world’s top 10 in men’s bouldering, led by former combined world champion Tomoa Narasaki and Rei Sugimoto.
Many in the crowd last weekend knew little about sport climbing but Noguchi could well change that at the Tokyo Olympics.
“I feel so lucky to have an Olympics taking place in Tokyo and for sport climbing to be included for the first time while I’m still competing,” she said.
“You don’t get many chances like that in life so I want to make it count.”