|IFSC World Cup||Wins||Podiums|
Miho Nonaka (JPN) Age: 24
Tokyo-born Miho Nonaka discovered climbing aged 9 through her father and sister. A competitive rivalry with her older sibling pushed Nonaka to improve, before she moved to a private school in her teens to focus on her climbing career. She burst onto the IFSC scene in 2014 as one of the first of a new wave of young, strong Japanese female climbers following in Akiyo Noguchi’s foothold among the world’s best. A habitual finalist in the Boulder World Cups, Nonaka worked her way up the overall rankings from 3rd in 2015, 2nd in 2016 to 1st place in 2018.
Recurrent shoulder injuries have prevented Nonaka from reaching her full potential in 2019 and previous seasons, though, as a climber whose powerful style has clearly taken a toll on her body. Nonaka is in many ways the antithesis of Noguchi, with a skillset representative of the more dynamic nature of modern bouldering in opposition to Noguchi’s static poise and finesse. When it comes to Combined, Nonaka has the edge over Noguchi in Speed climbing, with her staggeringly fast – for a non-Speed-specialist at least – PB of 8.20 seconds, making her one of the most versatile female athletes who will be competing in her home town of Tokyo. A Speed World Cup medal in Salt Lake and multiple finals in the three disciplines ahead of Tokyo stands her in very good stead indeed.
Hachioji World Championships: 5th place
Having sat out the first half of the Boulder World Cup season in 2019, Nonaka was somewhat of an unknown quantity when it came to the first Olympic selection event in Hachioji. Two 4th places in Boulder World Cups, two semi-finals in Lead and a 10th place in Speed events suggested that she might not be at her best, but her all-round capabilities were strong. Although she didn’t excel in any one discipline, a 5th, 4th and 4th place in the Hachioji Combined Finals ultimately ranked her in 5th – narrowly beating younger compatriot Ai Mori – and secured her Tokyo qualification.
Nonaka is one of the most high-profile climbers in Japan, boasting sponsorship deals with Beats by Dre, Tag Heuer and featuring in major advertising campaigns including billboards for Adidas, Red Bull and even Japanese yoghurt commercials. She’s also a fan of good food and fashion.
We reckon the delay of one year to the Tokyo 2020 Games could play to Nonaka’s advantage in giving her time to recover from her shoulder injury and get back to the top of her game, putting her in 3rd place, just behind her more seasoned compatriot Noguchi.
2021 update: Her results in the lead-up to the Games have shown consistency at a high level, and her SLC Speed medal was a breakthrough for Nonaka. Here's hoping her recent knee injury doesn't slow her down.