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When it comes to Women’s Speed climbing, there really isn’t anyone who can claim the crown besides Iuliia Kaplina. The 28-year-old Russian, hailing from the Siberian town of Tyumen, is one of three Russian climbers heading to Tokyo, alongside comp veteran Alexei Rubtsov and newcomer Victoriia Meshkova. Kaplina earned her Olympic ticket during the final women’s Speed race of the IFSC Combined Qualifiers in Toulouse last year.
Kaplina is a formidable Speed competitor with a wealth of experience. She holds 12 World Cup Speed gold medals, garnered over a career spanning back to 2012, in addition to multiple World Cup and World Championship podiums (over 30 World Cup medals in total). She’s been in fine form this year, as well. Though she landed a blistering qualifying time of 7.01 seconds in the Villars World Cup on July 3rd, she eventually took second place with a finals time of 8.39 seconds, coming behind fellow Russian Ekaterina Barashchuk. She also won gold in European Continental Cups in both Gaflenz and Innsbruck this year.
Her solid and longstanding track record aside, however, Kaplina is noted as the current holder of the Women’s Speed World Record. Her time, 6.964 seconds, was set during qualifiers at the European Continental Championships in Moscow last November (she came in 3rd in finals due to a fall) and marked only the second time a woman climbed a Speed wall in under 7 seconds.
That said, she’s not new to the record. Kaplina has held the Speed World Record on 10 separate occasions throughout her career, and has been slowly ratcheting down her time for the past several years. Most recently, she took the record with 7.46 seconds back in 2017 after the Chongqing World Cup, then knocked it down to 7.38 during the Nanjing World Cup only a week later. That summer, Kaplina beat her own record yet again, with a time of 7.32 at the World Games in Wroclaw, Poland.
The 7.32 record held for a whopping two years before it was beaten by YiLing Song (CHN) in 2019 with a time of 7.101, and then Aries Susanti Rahayu (INA) with a time of 6.995 that fall. Last November, of course, Kaplina returned to her throne with the current world record of 6.964 seconds.
“One month before the start of the Olympic Games!” Kaplina posted on Instagram July 4th, after Villars. “The pandemic is making its own adjustments to training plans + a week in Moscow before departure and a bunch of PCR tests … I understand that you cannot prepare for everything and everything will go as it goes, my job is to train and prepare for the start! This is the most important event in my life. The most anticipated climbing event! It just captures the spirit and excitement appears, but this is rather an anticipation of the upcoming start! 💜 See you in Tokyo!”
Kaplina is a Speed specialist through and through, so the Combined format is likely to make it difficult for her to do well overall. That said, if the Women’s Speed record is going to be broken in Tokyo this summer, Kaplina is likely the one who will do it.