This is Keeping Time With, an insight into the lives of pioneering professionals who are striving to use their time and their platform to inspire change.
The Olympics might feel like a lifetime ago now as 2021 draws to a close, but the legacy of this year’s games lives on. Think Simone Biles’ meritorious withdrawal, confirming that athletes – despite their incredible talents that often defy our understanding in the most incredible way – deserve to be treated with dignity and respect as they push their body to the limits, as we willingly suspend our disbelief watching them perform.
It was the year that the Olympics, for the first time in its history, that five new sports were featured in the competition including 3×3 basketball, skateboarding, surfing, karate and sport climbing. Holding the torch for climbing, 25-year-old Kyra Condie joined the first ever US Olympic team, joining 20 men and 20 women to compete at the Tokyo 2020/2021 Olympics and in rock climbing.
Tales of sporting mastery are underscored with hardship, from dedication and the sheer commitment to be consistent and improve. But for Kyra Condie, her climbing journey wasn’t simply about dedicating her time to a sport she loves, but overcoming lessons of personal struggle. At just 13 years old, Condie was forced to make a life-altering decision. She needed back surgery for severe idiopathic scoliosis, causing curving in the spine. But after a surgeon told her that climbing wasn’t that important in comparison, in her true-to-self determined nature, Condie sought out a different surgeon that would give her climbing hopes life.
After a successful surgery, Condie has made the climbing walls her stage, championing a space for young individuals to pursue their hobbies and talents no matter what obstacles may unexpectedly present themselves. In an exclusive interview with The Next Hour, Condie caught up with us to discuss the importance of time and tackling barriers head-on.
TNH: How did you get your footing in the climbing world? Was it something you always knew you wanted to do?
Kyra Condie: I was definitely like a really athletic kid. But um, no sports were really sticking. I tried soccer, I tried track and field, I tried gymnastics, and none of them were like, I was fine at them. But none of them were like, really my passion. Yeah, I could tell that right away. And I was always climbing on things as a kid, like I was on the wrong side of playground structures, and on top of our fridge at our house and up in trees, like as far as I can get by them. Yeah. And so as soon as I was in a climbing gym for the first time, like, that was one of those things that it just stuck. And I actually got started through a birthday party for my friend at my elementary school.
TNH: Early on in your climbing career you faced hardship with injury. Could you talk us through how this has shaped you to be the athlete you are today?
KC: I was having a bunch of back pain. I didn’t really know why I realised that it was pretty abnormal for 11/12 year old girls to have pretty severe back pain.I was the type of kid who wouldn’t go to the nurse at school if I was feeling sick, because I just didn’t like talking about it. I think it was kind of my fault that I didn’t bring it up sooner that it was an issue. And so we actually found out that I had scoliosis, when I was already pretty severe, and needed to get surgery right away, so I got that in 2010 and I’ve just have had to climb with it ever since.
I think I definitely would not be the climber I am without having gone through that. I think there was something about having something to overcome, like tangibly that really inspired me. I guess as a kid I didn’t like being told no, or that I couldn’t do something. And I wanted to prove everybody wrong. But yeah, I think yeah, I think I definitely owe it to where I am right now. Even though sometimes I wish that I didn’t have it.
TNH: What does it feel like to be an athlete today, entering into the Olympics and having a global platform?
KC: I think getting pigeonholed into being just an athlete is something that a lot of us have talked about a lot. I think, you know, there’s a bunch of us who are really passionate about social justice issues, climate change, things like that. And, you know, people always just say, like, like, what do you have to say about this, you just an athlete. And that’s something I think that can be really frustrating, because we do have this platform, and I think it’s really important to use it as much as possible. I think that’s definitely the thing that I love most about the position that I’m currently in. I didn’t have a lot of female role models at the gym growing up as a kid. And so that’s something that I really, like, aspired to, to do, like, you know, be a friendly face at the gym that people can talk to you.
TNH: How important is structure in navigating your time?
KC: I think it’s really important. Like, the way you allocate your time, even in training is super important. You know, if I’m climbing for two and a half hours, I try to make sure I at least, you know, lift or do some sort of working out at the end of that for half an hour, and then also stretch. And, you know, I want to make sure I stretch for a certain amount of time in order to improve at it and stuff like that. And so I usually have a fairly good sense of how time. And then on top of that, you know, making sure you get enough rest.
TNH: Is there anything you think the industry could do better? What changes would you like to see?
KC: There’s so many things, I think we could do better. Even just, you know, the stigma and against being a muscular woman. Like if within the climbing world, if I posted, like a photo of me flexing people are saying, yeah, muscles sick. But then if it goes out like the general public, you start getting some really nasty messages. And, you know, I’d like to see that change.