Top fe­male rock climber wins gold, again and again

China Daily (Canada) - - TIBET - By PALDENNYIMA in Lhasa palden_ny­ima@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

One of China’s most ac­com­plished ath­letes, a 26-year-old Ti­betan woman with dozens of gold medals, is poised to el­e­vate the na­tion’s stand­ing in a grow­ing global sport: rock climb­ing.

Rinchen Lhamo, a lead­ing mem­ber of the Ti­bet Moun­taineer­ing Team, won a dou­ble crown, in boul­der­ing and over­all dif­fi­culty, at this year’s 23rd Na­tional Rock Climb­ing Cham­pi­onships.

A renowned des­ti­na­tion for moun­taineer­ing, Ti­bet has only been de­vel­op­ing a home­grown team ca­pa­ble of chal­leng­ing the world’s best rock climbers since 2006.

Born into a farming fam­ily in Ti­bet’s east­ern Ny­ingchi pre­fec­ture, Rinchen’s se­lec­tion as a mem­ber of Ti­bet’s first rock climb­ing team changed her life.

“I have spent all my time and en­ergy on climb­ing, and it has given­mea strong body and a stable job,” she said.

Rinchen was se­lected as a mem­ber of the China Na­tional Climb­ing Team in 2010, and two years later won­sec­ond place at the 20th Asian Women’s Rock Climb­ing Cham­pi­onship.

The fol­low­ing year, she wona dou­ble crown in­women’s boul­der­ing and dif­fi­culty at the 21st Asian Rock Climb­ing Cham­pi­onship in Te­heran, Iran, break­ing records for Chi­nese women in speed and dif­fi­culty.

The num­ber of gold medals she has won to­tal al­most 50, in­clud­ing 10 golds she tal­lied in 2014. This year alone, she won the cham­pi­onship in dif­fi­culty and sec­ond place in boul­der­ing in the 2015 Na­tional Rock Climb­ing Club league, won the boul­der­ing cham­pi­onship at the 2015 Adi­das Rock­stars and the cham­pi­onship at the Qinghai-Ti­bet High Plateau Rock Climb­ing World Cup.

Rinchen’s hard-won skill be­lies her name, which trans­lates as “pre­cious fairy”. Train­ing is re­lent­less and she has given up count­less week­end and hol­i­days to main­tain her top form.

“I have called my fam­ily many times in the past and told them I wanted to quit climb­ing, be­cause it is a hard work and there are no hol­i­days, but I al­ways stick it out,” she said.

“Ti­bet has rich re­sources for climb­ing,” she said. “I hope more peo­ple will par­tic­i­pate in the out­door sports, and let’s make friends with na­ture to­gether.”

Rinchen’s re­mark­able achieve­ments and skill in rock climb­ing dif­fi­culty matches en­cour­age Ti­bet’s rock climb­ing elite, in­clud­ingNy­i­maTser­ing, the deputy head of the Ti­bet Sports Bureau, a ground­break­ing moun­taineer and the founder of the Ti­bet Moun­taineer­ing School.

“Cur­rently, China’s speed climb­ing is al­ways in the lead in the world, how­ever in dif­fi­culty, there is still a huge gap be­tween China and other coun­tries,” he said. “De­spite all that, in phys­i­cal ad­van­tages, such as en­durance, Ti­betan ath­letes have more in­born ad­van­tages.”

Ny­ima, whose moun­taineer­ing school has trained sev­eral na­tional level climbers, said it is pos­si­ble that the Asian Games or the Olympic Games could add rock climb­ing, pro­vid­ing fu­ture op­por­tu­ni­ties for Ti­bet’s rock climb­ing ath­letes.

For Rinchen, rock climb­ing al­ready has pro­vided re­wards. Just a few years ago, her fam­ily’s fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion was dif­fi­cult. But with a stable salary as a coach at the Ti­bet Sports Bureau, she is able to sup­port her fam­ily, and con­di­tions are im­prov­ing.

“I have met so many dif­fi­cul­ties and fail­ures with climb­ing in my life, but I de­serve great hap­pi­ness at the same time, and I love it now,” she said. “My fam­ily, friends, awards and ap­plause have en­cour­aged me to go on.”

Sonam Gy­atso, Rinchen’s col­league, who is from the same home­town, also wishes he could spend more time with his fam­ily. As a com­peti­tor and coach for the Ti­bet Moun­taineer­ing Team, he has given all of his time and en­ergy to the sport for more than 10 years. At 25, he said he re­grets not spend­ing enough time with his fa­ther, who died some years ago.

“It is painful when­ev­ermy dad ap­pears in my mind, and I be­gin to think about whether what I have been do­ing is wor­thy,” he said.

De­spite those feel­ings, he said he has never given up, as he has a duty to train more climbers and to work for a stronger Ti­bet.

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