|IFSC World Cup||Wins||Podiums|
Kai Harada (JPN) Age: 22
Kai Harada’s rise from promising youngster in late 2015 to qualified Olympian four years later, via a World Championship win, has been nothing short of meteoric. The progress of his career has been linear, but also incredibly quick; 2015 - World Cup debut (38th at a Lead event in Puurs, Belgium). 2016 - 2 Lead semi finals. 2017 - First Boulder final. 2018 - Another Boulder final, 3rd in the Youth World Championships in both Lead and Boulder, and then a senior World Championship win. 2019 - World Cup medals in both Lead and Boulder, plus Olympic qualification (ahead of a star-studded Japanese team which included Kokoro Fujii, Meichi Narasaki and Keita Dohi) and a win at the World Beach Games (yes, that is a thing).
Harada grew up in Yokohama - where the Rugby World Cup final was played last year - around 10 kilometres from where climbing will be contested in the Olympics. He’s long been tipped as a rising star in Japanese climbing but that is true of many others - Harada has actually followed through on that promise and is now the team’s second-best all rounder, behind Tomoa Narasaki. In a setup with as much depth as Japan’s, his ascent to the top of the pile has been incredibly impressive, and his altitude will be determined only by his attitude - he’s got a nasty habit of going for the show rather than the win. If his coaches and colleagues can drum into him that winning ugly beats losing spectacularly, he will be a serious contender in Tokyo.
Hachioji World Championships: 4th Place
As mentioned above, competition was fierce for the mandated two men's slots that Japan had available to them at their home Olympics. They were always going to fill them, it was just a question of who. Tomoa Narasaki seemed fairly nailed-on for one of them but the other was wide open and Harada stepped up when it mattered most, claiming his Olympic ticket and only narrowly missing out on a podium at the Combined World Championships.
Harada has 4 Youth World Championship medals, none of which are gold, and his only IFSC victory is the senior World Championships in 2018.
A place in the final, but not on the podium. However, he is likely to peak physically a few years from now, just in time for Paris 2024…