Olypmics 2020: Chaehyun Seo


© Eddie Fowke

Seoul, South Korea
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IFSC World Cup Wins Podiums
Speed 0PB: 10.706s 0
Boulder 0 0
Lead 4 2
View IFSC profile
  • IFSC Lead World Cup Overall 2019 - Gold
  • IFSC Asian Lead Championships 2019 - Gold
  • IFSC Asian Boulder Championships 2019 - Gold








Chaehyun Seo (KOR) Age: 17

Nobody expected 15-year-old Chaehyun Seo to unsettle the GOAT, Janja Garnbret, in her debut senior IFSC season in 2019 - especially not after Garnbret's clean sweep of the Boulder circuit. In Villars, Seo made herself known by finishing in 2nd place, just one move behind Janja most of the way. One week later in Chamonix, however, she demonstrated that Villars wasn't a one-off and put the pressure on Garnbret by matching her in qualification. The pressure seemed to get to Garnbret, with a shock 9th place in semis knocking her out of the finals. Seo won the round and set a precedent for the rest of the season: three more wins and a 3rd place, resulting in 1st place overall with four Golds, a Silver and a Bronze in each of the six rounds. 

Seo was born into a climbing family. Her father owns a climbing gym in Seoul and is a keen ice climber. In 2018 and 2019, Seo was selected for the national ice climbing team, ranking 4th in Korea. She has also climbed 9a on rock, with an ascent of Bad Girls Club in Rifle, USA. 

Qualification route

Asian Continental Quota Place (IFSC World Championships Hachioji 2019) 

Seo didn't make the Olympic cut in Hachioji, but was the next-highest-ranked eligible Asian climber. She didn't compete in Toulouse, meaning that her last chance would be at the IFSC Asia Continental Championship in 2020. The uncertainty surrounding the fate of the postponed event in Chongqing after China announced it wouldn't be hosting any international sporting events prompted some people to believe that the event was cancelled, which meant that Seo would earn a quota place on countback to Hachioji as the highest-placed eligible Asian competitor. Seo hesitantly revealed that she would be going to Olympics on social media, but the IFSC eventually announced a rescheduling of the event to Xiamen in December, which never happened. After a prolonged state of limbo, Seo was ultimately awarded the Asian ticket alongside compatriot Jongwon Chon. 


Seo is nicknamed "the second Jain Kim" due to her performances in Lead and similar climbing style to her older, 61-IFSC medal-winning compatriot. Kim appears to have taken the young star under her wing, as the pair are frequently photographed together and interact with one another on social media. 

UKC prediction

Given Seo's competence in Lead, a '1' beside her name in that round could put her in a strong position, especially as there are relatively few Lead specialists in the line-up. Although Seo won the Asian Boulder Championships in 2019, some key athletes were missing and we haven't seen enough of her in Combined events or indeed any Boulder events in the past 18 months or so. This disruption to the calendar and the resulting lack of competition experience due to her young age is a major disadvantage for Seo. If Lead and Boulder go to plan she could make finals, but realistically a top-10 or 10th-15th place might be more likely. 

© Eddie Fowke
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