Sport climbing is one of the latest events to be added to the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games in 2020, and one of Canada's young stars of the sport is from Ottawa.
Cat Carkner, 18, just graduated from Nepean High School, and is taking the next year off from education to focus on competing and training -- that includes a trip to Beunos Aires this fall, to test herself against some of the world's best young climbers at this year's Youth Olympic Games in Argentina.
Clearly a passion of hers, Carkner can barely remember a time when she wasn't climbing.
"[As a kid] I was just climbing everything in and around the house, like trees and whatever, and one day my mom told my dad to take me to the climbing gym because it seemed like a safer outlet for that urge [to climb]," she explained. "So I went with my dad when I was about 4-years-old and I loved it, and I've been doing it ever since."
By the time she was nine, Carkner was part of the youth climbing program at Coyote Rock Gym and eventually got good enough to be picked up as a member of the youth national team in 2014.
Carkner calls her experience competing internationally, "Totally life changing."
"I've met people all over Canada, so that's a nice network to be a part of, but also internationally through competitions."
It's a sport that the Ottawa teen has obviously been drawn to from the beginning, but she thinks rock climbing has gained popularity among young people in recent years, and it being added as an Olympic sport is only going to give it more exposure.
She said it has been nice to see more of her high school friends at the gym over the last few years, allowing her to combine training life with her social life.
Although sport climbers compete independently, the community and social aspect of the climbing is what has kept Carkner so in love with the sport through her adolescent years.
The Ottawa teen flies to Argentina October 3, to get ready for the Youth Olympics' opening ceremonies October 6, and competition on October 7. If she qualifies for the sport climbing women's final, that will go October 9.
"It carries a bit of a different weight to it [compared to other international competitions]," said Carkner. "It's something I never thought I'd have to opportunity to be a part of. It's a bit intimidating just with the word 'Olympics' attached to it. So it's a bit stressful, but definitely exciting."
Sport climbing is a combination of three events: speed climbing, lead climbing and bouldering. The goal of speed climbing is to simply get to the top of a set route the fastest; lead climbing is a test to see which athlete can climb the highest up a challenging wall; while bouldering tests a climber against a number of different routes, and they are judged by how many they can complete.
Each event holds equal weight, and then the results are combined to create an overall score.
Over the next month, Carkner plans to spend a lot of time training at Altitude Gym in Kanata, as well as others in the region, as well as in Montreal and Toronto.
Beyond Beunos Aires, the young climber is taking a 'wait-and-see' approach to her future as a serious competitor in the sport.
While she thinks it is fantastic to see sport climbing gaining international recognition, and added to the Tokyo Summer Games, right now Carkner is leaning toward focusing on post-secondary school next fall.