McColl, Yip set to be 1st Canadians to compete in sport climbing at Tokyo Games

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Sean McColl, centre right, is set to be among Canada's first representatives in sport climbing, along with Alannah Yip (not pictured), when the sport makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo. (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Sean McColl, centre right, is set to be among Canada's first representatives in sport climbing, along with Alannah Yip (not pictured), when the sport makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo. (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Sean McColl and Alannah Yip will be the first Canadian athletes to compete in sport climbing at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

The two were nominated Friday by the Canadian Olympic Committee and Climbing Escalade Canada to be the lone representatives for Canada in the combined events.

Sport climbing is set to make its Olympic debut at the Aomi Urban Sports Park and will be taking place from Aug. 3 to 6.

"I am thrilled to welcome these talented athletes to our team," said Marnie McBean, Team Canada's Tokyo 2020 Chef de Mission. "To be named to an Olympic Team is such an exciting moment for any athlete.

"For Sean and Alannah – the moment is tripled as they will be part of the first Olympic Sport Climbing competition, at their first Olympics, all of which is happening after a year long delay. Game[s] on!"

McColl, who is a four-time world champion in the combined event, has won 34 world cup medals across multiple disciplines as of February 2020, and 12 open national titles dating back to 2007.

The 33-year-old punched his ticket to Tokyo with a 10th-place finish in the combined event at the 2019 IFSC Climbing World Championships in Hachioji, Japan.

"It has been my dream since before I can remember to be an Olympic athlete; to have this come true in climbing, something I fell in love with at 10 years old, is truly the highlight of my life," McColl said. "Joining Team Canada with Alannah is a dream come true. I grew up with Alannah before she started climbing. I introduced her to the sport and now we are becoming Olympic athletes together in the inauguration of our sport."

Yip, 27, who will also compete in the combined event, has competed in all six editions of the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) Youth World Championships before finding her way onto the IFSC World Cup circuit. Her best finish at a worlds IFSC event came in 2019 when she made the bouldering semifinals and finished seventh.

She booked her ticket to Tokyo with a win at the 2020 IFSC Pan American Championships in Los Angeles. Yip posted a first-place finish in boulder, a third-place finish in lead and fifth place in speed to take the win and secure the last available Pan American qualification spot for the Tokyo Games.

"When I was young I dreamed of getting to compete in the Olympics," Yip said. "I was lucky enough to watch the Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremony in person, and my favourite part was the athlete parade. Watching all of the athletes proudly representing their countries, and thinking about how much work and sacrifice each and every one of them must have put in to get there was so emotional for me.

"Now that my sport is for the first time a part of the Olympic Games, I am beyond excited to get to be a part of it. It means the world to me that I will get to go with my family friend Sean McColl who has been like an older brother to me my entire life and my coach Andrew Wilson who I have been working with since the age of nine."