Road To The Olympic Games

Teenager Babette Roy rockets to Canadian speed climbing record

At just 16 years old, Babette Roy is turning heads in the climbing community — literally. One second, the Outremont, Que., native is firmly planted with two feet on the ground. Then, in a flash, she's at the top of the wall.

16-year-old eyeing berth to 2020 Olympics in sport's 1st year on the program

Quebec's Babette Roy, 16, set a new Canadian mark for women's speed climbing on Monday and is now eyeing a spot in the 2020 Olympics. (Greg Locke/Climbing Canada)

At just 16 years old, Babette Roy is turning heads in the climbing community — literally.

One second, the Outremont, Que., native is firmly planted with two feet on the ground. Then, in a flash, she's at the top of the wall. 

Now, Roy is atop the climbing scene following this past weekend's National Lead and Speed climbing championships in Saanich, B.C.

On Monday afternoon, Roy was magnificent and without mistake, claiming her first-ever national title in the women's open speed category. 

In the process of winning, Roy also set a new Canadian women's speed record by stopping the clock at 10.72 seconds. 

"I can't believe that happened," she said. "I surprised myself with this result. My coach is proud of me. My family and friends are proud of me. I'm proud."

Sport climbing can be unforgiving and ruthless at times. Just a day earlier, Roy was devastated by her performance in the lead climbing competition. She finished sixth. 

There are three different disciplines within sport climbing: bouldering, lead and speed.

Bouldering provides short and technically challenging "problems." Climbers are unroped and there are padded mats below. Lead climbing involves a rope and longer routes that test endurance. The competitor who makes it the highest in the shortest time is declared the winner. Speed climbing is exactly what it sounds like — a pure race to the top.

Roy harnessed the disappointment from her lead performance on Sunday to dominate the speed event a day later.

"It's hard to be proud when you're a climber because it's a lot of falling," she said. "It's hard and it's humbling."

Olympic climbing pursuit starts now

Roy is more motivated and inspired than she's ever been about her sport. It's part of the Olympics now, added recently to the program. After her record-setting performance, Roy knows this is what she wants and needs to be doing. 

"I'm taking this very seriously. Maybe a bit too much," she admitted. "I want to be the best combined climber in this country."

What's important to note about being the best combined climber is that the Olympic champion is going to have to excel in all three disciplines. For many climbers, they'll normally focus specifically on one type of climbing technique — but that's all changed now because the Olympic climbing event will incorporate all three. 

That has Roy scrambling to be the best at everyone of them. 

"I'll train hard this summer and next year and try to qualify. It's exciting. I have a really big goal. I'm training for this really big goal of getting to the Games," she said.

Roy trains six days a week. Four of those training days include upwards of four hours spent on the wall. It's gruelling, frustrating and at times makes Roy question why she's doing this all in the first place. 

"It's really heartbreaking a lot of the time. It's hard emotionally," she said. "But when you have a dream or passion like this, it's all worth it."

Destined to climb

In a lot of ways, Roy was always supposed to be climbing. 

When she was young her parents watched her climb furniture, trees or anything she could traverse. So when a climbing camp in her community was calling on interested people years ago, her parents jumped at the opportunity to sign her up. 

"I was climbing everywhere when I was a little girl. My parents told me to go to a climbing camp. I started then and the instructor said I was good at at it. That's how it all started," Roy said. 

Roy's been climbing for half of her young life, having started at just eight years old. She started climbing competitively when she was 10. It's been a hobby at times, something she was good at and enjoyed. But now she's serving notice that this isn't a hobby anymore — it's a full-time job with the clock counting down on an Olympic dream she hopes comes to fruition in Tokyo. 

"I don't want to have false hope but I just keep dreaming about it. I'll train for it and if it happens I'll be incredibly happy. If it doesn't happen, I'll train for 2024."

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