USA Climbing Camp for Paris 2024 begins in Salt Lake City
Jan 28, 2023, 5:22 PM | Updated: Feb 12, 2023, 5:17 pm
SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah — As the Summer 2024 Olympic Games draws closer, those athletes looking to participate begin their training.
“Let’s go! Let’s go!” someone yelled as athletes began their race up the climbing wall at the Momentum Indoor Climbing gym in Millcreek.
It’s only 50 feet up, but in speed climbing, it’s all about who gets up there the fastest.
“It is extremely exciting,” expressed Merritt Ernsberger. “I can’t even imagine walking onto that stage and what that would be like.”
Ernsberger is one of the top speed climbers in the U.S. and is hoping he can get fast enough to make the Paris 2024 U.S. Olympic Team. It’s why he was a part of the National Team Training Camp in Salt Lake City, which was held this week.
Speed climbing is now its own discipline in the Olympics, instead of being mixed with boulder and lead climbing like it was during the sport’s debut during the Tokyo 2020 Games.
It means the need for fast climbers is as vital as ever.
“It puts a whole new focus on speed,” explained John Muse, Vice President of Sport for USA Climbing. “It’s a whole other team that we’re now having to support, having to find resources for, get coaches for, and find opportunities for them to train. It gives us an opportunity to collect a couple more medals from the Olympic Games.”
USA Climbing did well in the recent Tokyo Games. Three of the team’s four athletes reached the finals, with Salt Lake City’s very own Nathaniel Coleman winning a Silver Medal.
To prepare for the Paris Olympics, USA Climbing hired Oleksii Shulha to help train climbers.
“We are working on the very subtle precise accuracy and everything involved,” Shulha said.
Shulha was a speed climber and knows the little differences that could shave a little time off of competition climbs. The best male climbers finish the 15-meter climb in the 5-second range and female climbers in the 6-second range.
Shulha is also from Ukraine and said the sport is growing in his home country.
“Even schools, the regular public schools, have gyms. Climbing gyms. So, kids can do physical education classes, not just soccer or track, or volleyball. They can do climbing too,” he said.
Shulha still has a lot of his family members in Ukraine. He was able to convince his sister to move to the U.S. just as the way was starting.
“It was shocking when we first saw the news. Very terrible,” he said.
Other family members and friends decided to stay in Ukraine.
“A lot of Ukrainians don’t want to leave. They’re Ukrainians. They’re patriots. They want to fight for that independence,” Shulha said.
That drive to work as hard as possible to get what you want is passed on to the climbers he helps train. It’s an intensity that is needed to be an Olympian.
“It would be incredible,” said Ernsberger. “This is my dream.”