Charting the course of Tokyo’s climbing walls

Women remain a minority in the setting, despite the increasing number of female climbers. Male settlers may struggle to understand the morphological differences—everything from height discrepancy to finger size, strength, power, and flexibility.

The reverse is true, and depressing, for female settlers.

“I have been unable to accurately test some of the men’s climbs, which I’ve determined with the women improving,” said Slovenian setter, Katja Vidmar.

Vidmar is one of three ratified female international settlers, and the only person selected to work on the Tokyo course. He had to withdraw, leaving an area in Tokyo composed entirely of male settlers. “Women move, think and set differently,” she said. “I’m glad the scene is slowly changing.”

Teams sometimes set the bar too low, or impossibly high, for women.

Athletes only have a few minutes to go inside the settlers’ heads and apply their own ideas to what’s above. “Understanding the thought processes of settlers is incredibly important when tracing movements,” Condi said.

The goal is to stagger the obstacles in each climb, aiming for the ideal of one “top” per climb and isolating the field. Multiple tops are boring, as is each athlete falling to the same point. Both situations can result in a relationship.

The most challenging part of the climb is called the crux. In Tokyo, a team of seven settlers will tackle the crux of their careers, building 18 climbs over five days for 40 athletes.

“Athletes have an extra year of training, but there are few competitions,” Bishton said. “No one guessed correctly. Maybe it’s the allure of the job, or what makes it so awful, that you don’t know if you’ve got it right until D-Day.”

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