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Iuliia Kaplina (RUS) Age: 27
Tyumen-born Iuliia Kaplina is one of a long line of Russian Speed climbing athletes to have made their mark on the sport. She is a nine-time World Record holder, and one of the best and most decorated Speed climbers in history, with 31 World Cup medals and a remarkable six-year run of being on the overall World Cup podium from 2013-2018.
Kaplina is the very definition of a Speed specialist, since she has only competed in four World Cups across both Lead and Boulder to date, all of which were in 2019. Kaplina did the bare minimum to qualify for Toulouse (two World Cup events in each discipline) and as such lacks the breadth of other competitors, but her Speed queen status earned her a ticket and she is one of four Speed specialists who will be vying for the top of the Speed ranking in Tokyo. In Combined, Speed really can be anyone's game, and given her track record and depth of experience, Kaplina could clinch a win - and she'll really need it given her lack of experience in the other disciplines.
Toulouse Combined Qualifier event: 6th Place
Having not made the Combined cut in Hachioji, Toulouse was Kaplina's first big chance at qualification. Although Speed specialist Aleksandra Miroslaw (POL) had already qualified, there nonetheless remained four other Speed speclist women in the running in Toulouse. However, a win in the Speed round of the qualifying competition secured Kaplina a place in the final and with it an Olympic ticket.
Given the uncertainty surrounding Russia's participation in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games due to the ongoing doping scandal, Kaplina may have to compete under the neutral Olympic flag. Kaplina's hometown of Tyumen in Western Siberia is a Speed climbing hub and is home to many former and current Russian Speed stars hailing from the town's climbing school, who train under respected national team head Speed coach Sergei Sergeev.
Competition will be fierce among the Speed specialist women in Tokyo, and Kaplina will have to place in the top one or two in Speed to guarantee a ranking in the top half or three-quarters of the field given her weaknesses in Boulder and Lead. That said, with an extra year to train, Kaplina could potentially gain some ground in these disciplines and outrank her competition. We reckon a 15th-20th place finish, or top 15 if Speed qualification goes her way.