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Rock Climber Brook Raboutou Doesn’t Want You to Know She’s Going to the Olympics

In the lead up to the Olympics 2020, Teen Vogue caught up with some of the brightest Team USA stars heading to Tokyo. Here, learn about rock climber Brooke Raboutou and her reluctant stardom.

For someone who has been in the spotlight for over a decade, 20-year-old professional climber Brooke Raboutou is surprisingly reserved. Brooke has been, on several occasions, the youngest female to complete elite routes up cliffs that must look unscalable to most adults, let alone most nine or 10-year-olds. At 11, she was featured in an episode of the Prodigies web series — a video that now has almost 16 million views on YouTube. She has won multiple youth championship titles, and she just scored her first silver medal in a world cup in June. In a few weeks, she’ll make history again as one of the four American climbers competing in the Tokyo Games, where climbing will make its Olympic debut.

She’s clearly no stranger to attention — she has been featured in Rolling Stone, and even modeled for her sponsor, Adidas Terrex — still, she’s almost embarrassed about all the popularity. “I used to be really shy. I mean, I still am a little bit about my accomplishments,” she tells Teen Vogue. “In school, I never wanted anyone to know I was a climber.”

Everything changed after she qualified for the Olympics. “Those worlds really collided.”

The non-climbing world has glimpsed into the intrepid realm of ‘big wall’ rock climbing in recent years through The New York Times’ viral coverage of the first ascent of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall and the Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo. But climbing is a sport that encompasses many disciplines, often far from Yosemite’s granite monoliths. Soon, with the addition of climbing in the Olympics, new viewers will be drawn into the competitive side of the sport, performed on artificial walls designed by professional route setters.

Raboutou is a household name in the contest scene. Brooke’s parents — both former professional climbers — operate a climbing gym in Boulder, Colorado where many of America’s strongest competitors (including National Champion and Brooke’s best friend Natalia Grossman and Olympian Colin Duffy) were coached by Brooke’s mom, Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou. Brooke’s brother, Shawn, is also a world-class climber. “Because of the Raboutou name, in general, people have always been watching both Brooke and Shawn,” says Meagan Martin, a professional climber and climbing analyst for NBC, who will commentate the climbing events at the Olympics.

Martin has been a longtime friend of the Raboutous. “At an early age, they could probably tell that people were paying attention to them, so they probably became more reserved because of that,” she says. “And I mean, I think that it is really cool that both of them can be so humble because they are such accomplished athletes.” Martin — over 10-years Brooke’s senior — recalls a 12-year-old Brooke saying something along the lines of I hope I can be as strong of a climber as you someday. “I was like, you’re already better than me, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she says, “It was so funny that she didn’t even know that.” Martin says it’s a good characteristic. It keeps Brooke working hard. “The minute you see yourself as the best, I think it might be harder to maintain that work ethic. But I think it’s pretty adorable that she’s embarrassed when people make a big deal out of her.”

One evening in mid-June, while Brooke was out at dinner with Robyn, Martin, and two other climbers, a woman came to their table to compliment their strong biceps. Someone at the table pointed to Brooke and said “this one is going to the Olympics.” Martin says laughing, “Brooke immediately went beet red. And she was like: oh my gosh, don’t do that.

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