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Brooke Raboutou (USA) Age: 20
Colorado-born Brooke Raboutou undoubtedly has one of the best backstories of the Tokyo 2020 Games. Given her heritage as the daughter of competition climbing’s early superstars in the ‘80s and ‘90s - Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou (4x World Cup champion, 1995 World Champion) and Didier Raboutou (3x World Cup champion) – Brooke Raboutou seemed destined to become a talented climber, and her participation in the sport’s Olympic debut is a perfect highpoint in the family narrative. Along with many of her Team USA contemporaries, Raboutou is a product of her parents’ ABC youth climbing program in Boulder, Colorado, arguably the most successful of its kind in producing successful rock and competition climbers, of which Brooke and her brother Shawn are the poster-kids.
Raboutou’s immersion in the world of climbing from a young age combined with her parents’ expertise – and a dose of good genes – has led to multiple World Youth Championships medals. As a relative rookie on the senior circuit, she is still figuring out how to give consistent performances in her main disciplines of Lead and Boulder (2021 edit: now she's up there with the best, with three World Cup medals ahead of Tokyo), but given her relative inexperience, she’s an up-and-coming all-rounder thanks to the majority of her competition experience being rooted in the Combined discipline. Raboutou’s movement is gymnastic, combining dynamic skills with tidy footwork and smooth transitions, which play to her advantage in Lead, her strongest discipline. In the Speed World Cups prior to Hachioji, Raboutou was cutting her PB down with each event she entered and in Hachioji it turned out to be her best result, which all bodes well for Tokyo in a field where Speed is generally the weakest link.
Hachioji World Championships: 9th place
A rocky World Cup season with erratic results – especially in Boulder – didn’t place Raboutou high up the list of names expected to break into the Olympics at the first opportunity. Her mother Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou remarked in an interview following Hachioji that although things hadn’t gone her way earlier in the season, everything came together at the right moment for Raboutou after months of hard work: “She wasn’t performing her best throughout the season. She was pretty down on herself for not having the strong mental game that she’s used to having and I think that came to a head as this competition arose. I think that frustration really is what produced the results that got her into the Olympics.” Raboutou placed 6th in Speed, 7th in Lead and 10th in Boulder in the Combined qualification, to finish one place outside of finals but still earn a quota place due to the excess of Japanese climbers.
Raboutou grew up alongside fellow Team USA Olympian Colin Duffy in her parents’ ABC Kids climbing team.
With another year of maturation, strength gains and competition experience, we expect Raboutou could finish in the top-15 if she pulls off another performance like the one she gave in Hachioji. She’ll be a stronger contender for the Boulder/Lead Combined event in 2024.
2021 update: Raboutou is in the form of her life, with two Boulder World Cup bronze medals and a Lead silver. We take our 2019 prediction back - Raboutou could make finals in Tokyo, perhaps even the podium.