Known for her quick and aggressive climbing style, Kyra has been a force to be reckoned with on the US competition circuit for many years and is increasingly making name for herself on the world stage. In early 2019 she won USA Climbing’s Combined Competition of speed, bouldering and lead, and in December she earned herself a coveted spot at the 2020 Olympics by placing 15th at the Toulouse Olympic qualifying event.
Born and raised in Shoreview, Minnesota, Kyra was introduced to climbing when she was 11 years old at a birthday party at a climbing wall. After this she joined the local team and started climbing regularly. However, less than a year after her introduction to the sport Kyra was diagnosed with severe idiopathic scoliosis and had to undergo significant spinal fusion surgery to correct the 70° “S” curve in her back.
“I got back pain,” says Kyra, “but I figured it wasn’t bad enough for surgery. But then I got the call from my doctor saying I’d need to get surgery and [I] just burst into tears.”
It wasn’t until she faced surgery that Kyra realised how important climbing was to her. The first doctor she went to see told her to forget climbing, that it didn't matter and that she wouldn’t care about it later in life. In response Kyra and her family began to look for an alternative doctor. A different doctor was much more forthcoming, assuring Kyra that she would be back on the podium in no time and that she would be able to climb again four months after surgery if she followed his strict instructions.
And he was right. Only 18 months after her surgery Kyra won Youth Bouldering Nationals. This began a several-year stint of top finishes at national and divisional competitions—for lead, speed and bouldering, we might add—cumulating in her first World Cup event at Vail in 2013, where she placed 29th.
“I didn't know if I really loved climbing enough to pursue it,” says Kyra, “but surgery made me realize how much I loved climbing.”
Watching Kyra climb you would never guess that a large portion of her spine doesn’t bend as it should. She is powerful, dynamic and flexible. Indeed, there doesn't seem to be much holding her back, but she does admit that some comp-style problems do pose considerable challenges for one who can’t arch their back properly.
“I can only bend in the one spot below my fusion,” says Kyra. “I think I’ve mostly found ways round it. I’ve gained a lot of other strengths to get around it, so I think that makes up for it.”Along with numerous national competitions, Kyra won the infamous Psicobloc competition in Park City, Utah, in 2017, setting a new female record time of 44 seconds in the process and participating in the competition's first ever tiebreak against Alex Puccio. She won the Hueco Rock Rodeo bouldering competition the same year.>/p>
In terms of World Cups, Kyra has competed in the Vail Bouldering World Cup every year since 2013 and started to compete at international World Cups in 2016.
“I love the World Cup Series,” says Kyra. “It’s super cool to compare yourself to some of the best climbers in the world. And it’s not hugely cut-throat, everyone’s really nice”.
“I usually get less nervous at World Cups and more nervous at local competitions! We just had a competition at my home gym and it was the most nervous I’ve ever been!”
When it comes to training Kyra is known for giving 100% every session and derives motivation from big goals. Embarking on the World Cup circuit in 2013 she set her sights set on making finals. In 2018 she achieved this twice, placing 5th in the World Cup in Vail and 6th in Tai’an, China.
“The next goal would be to make the world cup podium,” says Kyra, “and then, I guess, the Olympics”.
In January 2019 Kyra won the national Olympic-style combined competition in Salt Lake City, winning both boulder and lead categories and placing 3rd in speed. By winning she became the first female member of the 2019 US Climbing Team, allowing her to compete in Olympic qualifying competitions. In December 2019 all her hard work paid off when she qualified for an Olympic spot at the qualifying event in Toulouse. Youjj can read more about Kyra's Olympic Goals in an article she wrote for DMM.
In 2018, aged 22, Kyra completed her four-year Bachelor of Science pre-vet degree at the University of Minnesota after finely balancing her studies with competition climbing. She is currently taking a year or so out to focus on competitions and to give her all to qualifying for the Olympics, but fully intends to return to veterinary school.
“Since first grade I’d say I want to be a vet—like lots of kids, but I’m actually going to be one!” says Kyra, laughing. “We always had a lot of pets and I’ve been vegetarian since I was seven because I just love animals.”
When she’s not off competing on the world stage or training at the gym, Kyra finds time to climb outside and has climbed up to V12 (8A+). She also enjoys a good old-fashioned jigsaw puzzle (“I love the sections of just sky!”) and finding good coffee shops in new cities.