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Sixteen-Year-Old “Spider Girl” Aiming to Become Rock Climbing Champion

Sixteen-Year-Old “Spider Girl” Aiming to Become Rock Climbing Champion

Posted November. 10, 2004 23:24,   


The Asian champion of sports climbing, Kim Ja-in of the North Face Climbing team, is only a 16-year-old high school student. On November 10, she left Korea in order to attend the UIAA World Cup in the Czech Republic. UIAA stands for International Council for Competition Climbing, which is an English transliteration of Union International des Association D`Alpinisme, and she showed a thumbs up and said, “People say that I’m a rising star and I feel a bit of pressure to meet the expectation. I want to become the world’s number one someday.”

Standing 152 centimeters tall and weighing 45 kilograms, Kim won first place in the women’s difficulty competition in the UIAA Asian Championship held in Yeongam, South Jeolla Province on October 31.

Go Mi-young, a 37-year-old veteran climber of Kolon Sports, had reigned as the best difficulty climber in Asia for the past several years. She has won the Asian championship title six times since 1997, but this time, was ranked second after Kim, who is 21 years younger.

After winning the Asian championship, Kim now dreams of becoming a world champion. The World Cup in the Czech Republic is another challenging place to test herself. Traditionally, Europeans have dominated sports climbing. There are only four Asians within the world’s top 50, including two Koreans, Kim and Go.

This is the third time that Kim has participated in the World Cup. Her first appearance was in July in Chamonix, France, and she finished 41st out of 45 participating athletes. The second time, in Shanghai, China in September, Kim finished an unexpected seventh and surprised the world.

Kim first started sports climbing in the summer of 2000 when she was a sixth grader. After watching her two older brothers, Ja-ha (20) and Ja-bi (17), who began sports climbing before Kim under the influence of their mother, Lee Seung-hyung (46), a mountain climber, Kim decided to take a physical diagnostic test for fun. The result showed that Kim was physically much more talented than her two elder brothers. In the Korean sports climbing field, people call them “Spiderman Siblings.”

Lee Seung-hyung, Kim’s mother, who is a referee at the Korean Alpine Federation, said that her daughter practices sports climbing for four hours everyday during the school season, and seven hours during vacations. “I want to buy some restorative for Ja-in, but she always refuses and only asks me to make kimchi soup for her,” said the mother. Kim likes to eat strawberries, which is also her nickname for her freckled face.

The ideal body size for a female sports climber is 161-162 centimeters in height and 45 kilograms in weight. Kim is a bit worried about her height because she grew only one centimeter since last year. However, Lee Jae-yong, the head of the North Face Climbing Team who trains Kim, said that even though Kim is short, her long legs and arms make it possible for her to go large distances at a time. Also, in areas where there is only a small space, Kim’s small body becomes an advantage. “Kim is a fast learner, so she will be able to be in the world’s top rankings soon,” said Lee Jae-yong.

Chang Jeon jeon@donga.com