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Allison Vest, 24,
of Vancouver, is well-known for her entertaining—and borderline ludicrous—social-media challenges. Standing splits, while using—or attempting to use—her foot to pour water in her mouth. Acroyoga with friends. Weighted hangs with a mini fridge on her harness.
The Canadian National Bouldering Champion in 2018 and 2020, and the National Lead Champion in 2019, Vest is the kind of climber who pulls hard and keeps on smiling.
“My mantra,” she said, “is, ‘Have fun, try hard and be kind.’”
Last summer she shook off a disappointing performance at the World Championships and turned her attention outdoors. Vest went on to “terminate,” as she put it on Instagram, The Terminator (V13), in Squamish. Not only was it her hardest boulder problem, she became the first Canadian woman to climb V13. Vest continues to find inspiration both outside and in the gym.
“I’ve always really enjoyed the gritty, hard parts of training, like hangboarding and working on weaknesses,” she said. Although the competition schedule is uncertain right now due to the world pandemic, Vest is still on the job, saying, “I’ll just want to be ready to get back into it whenever that’s gonna be.”
When Vest isn’t climbing or training, she plays guitar with her little brother and draws or paints mountains.
Lučka Rakovec, 19,
of Ljubljana, is one of Slovenia’s top climbers. She started climbing in 2007 at the age of 6 and as a competitor has made finals in four Lead World Cups and one Bouldering World Cup. In the 2019 Combined Qualifier in Toulouse, France, Rakovec went head-to-head with her best friend, Mia Krampl, for Slovenia’s last Olympic spot. Rakovec had the clear lead after Speed and Bouldering. On the lead wall, the result came down to one move to one crimp. Rakovec fell, Krampl stuck the move, and based on a multiplier score, Krampl took home the coveted ticket.
Still, their friendship remains strong—they still meet often to train.
Rakovec has said she believes that from every failure comes a lesson.
“Sometimes you make mistakes, and the best thing you can get from ‘bad’ competitions is to learn from your mistakes,” she said. “If you try to see it from a positive point of view, you can see your weak points and stuff you have to work on, so one day everything will click together, and the results you want will come, too.”
Alejandra Contreras, 19,
of Santiago, Chile, narrowly missed out on becoming the first Latin American climber to earn an Olympic berth earlier this year at the PanAmerican Championships. First place was needed for the coveted ticket, and she got second.
Disappointed but undeterred, she now has her eyes set on different goals in future World Cups. “I don’t know when we’re going back to ‘normal,’” she said, “but I’d like to make semifinals and eventually finals.”
Contreras’s career began in 2008, when she celebrated her 7th birthday at a climbing gym while visiting her aunt in Rochester, Minnesota. She went on to become a well-rounded comp climber, with solid skills in both lead and bouldering, and a knack for speed. She won silver at the 2019 Youth World Championships.
“I was surprised because we don’t have an official speed wall in Chile, so my coaches and I weren’t expecting my first world medal with Speed,” she said. In the same way that her coaches have helped her to excel, Contreras wants to pass that help along some day. She emailed us that she is studying to become a coach. “I want to train people and help them to be great athletes.”
Feature image: Vest takes a breath after her speed run in the 2020 Pan American Championships, where she placed 11th. Photo by Luke Webster