Olympic climbing dream could come true for Canmore twins

A pair of 18-year-old twins who just climbed their way to first and second place at a national competition are hoping to see their sport added to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Becca and Sara Frangos, 18, have spent half their lives scaling vertical obstacle courses

Becca Frangos and her twin sister, Sara, first began sport climbing at the age of nine, and have been competing since they were 12. (Matt Chapman/Instagram)

A pair of 18-year-old twins who just climbed their way to first and second place at a national competition are hoping to see their sport ascend to the Summer Olympics.

Canmore sisters Sara and Becca Frangos, who have spent roughly half their lives climbing and bouldering in Canmore, topped the podium at the 2016 Youth and Open Difficulty Nationals at the end of May.

"It's cool to have seen the sport evolve from something pretty small to something that could be a huge international deal," said Becca in an interview with CBC's The Homestretch.

The International Olympic Committee's executive board unanimously recommended the addition of sport climbing recently, along with skateboarding, surfing, karate and baseball/softball to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games. 

The committee makes its final decision in August.

Becca and Sara compete in difficulty events, which involve climbing as high a possible on an extremely challenging wall with a harness, and bouldering events that involve scaling a shorter course without ropes. (Shane Murdoch)

Mental and physical ordeal

The twins were first introduced to the sport at a local summer camp, and the town's climbing coach later invited them to join his competitive team.

"We haven't really looked back since," Sara said.

The sport is as mentally demanding as it is physical, agreed the twins, with plenty of problem-solving involved. 

In the so-called "difficulty" event for example, competitors are given six minutes to visually observe a wall with 55 to 60 holds so they can map their route.

They then climb as high as possible without being allowed to watch the attempts of fellow climbers.

Sara Frangos says the sport's constantly changing conditions demand strong problem-solving skills. (Sara Frangos/Instagram)

While both twins have been highly active in all types of sports, they've both felt an individual pull toward sport climbing.

"I've done many sports over the years, and I find that the community in climbing especially is really rich," Becca said.

That's not to say there isn't a bit of a sibling rivalry brewing in Canmore.  

"Of course there's some friendly competition, but we really like to see each other succeed," Becca laughed.

'I think it's really special that we're able to share the same sport,' says Becca, left. (Steve Frangos)

A goal to work toward

While sport climbing has its roots in the mountains, modern competitions take place indoors on courses built of fibre glass and plastic.

"I think that's really opened up the climbing community and the opportunity for more countries to become involved in climbing. It has morphed into something that's accessible to anyone, really," Sara said.

If sport climbing is approved for the 2020 Tokyo Games, the Federation of International Sport Climbing plans to send 60 of the world's best climbers to Japan based on international ranking. 

"It would be quite difficult to make it, but it's definitely a goal I can work towards over the next four years," Becca said.

"Absolutely," agreed Sara.

Sara took first place while Becca came in second at the 2016 Difficulty Nationals championship in Canmore May 28-29. (Shane Murdoch)

With files from The Homestretch