Ashima Shiraishi is a rock-climbing prodigy who started climbing at only 6 years old. Two years ago, at age 13, she was able to climb a sport route with a difficulty grade of 9a+ (5.15a), which very few athletes in the world can climb.
Very recently, she achieved another milestone in her young career by becoming the first female to overcome a boulder with a grade of V15 at Mount Hiei in Japan.
For a sport that is as physically and mentally demanding as rock climbing, such feats are incredible for a girl her age. With Shiraishi’s many accomplishments, many already consider her to be one of the strongest young climbers of all time, in either gender.
“In climbing, gender really doesn’t matter,” Shiraishi told Time. “You’re just facing the wall. Even if you’re bigger or smaller than someone, you’re tackling the same thing. It’s just your determination and focus and dedication, and that’s what makes you stronger.”
The climbing phenom, who was born and raised in New York by Japanese immigrant parents, discovered her love for climbing in Central Park where she first saw climbers congregating at Rat Rock. Enamored by the sport, she visited the site with her parents almost daily.
She also practiced and developed her skills in Manhattan Plaza Health Club and later at The Cliffs at Valhalla, in Westchester.
There, she honed her strength, endurance, agility and balance along with mental control. Her developed climbing style has been described as calm and focused.
“When I climb, I’m doing what I love to do,” she said. “I feel like a leader of myself, not a leader of a sport.”
Shiraishi, who is aiming for a V16 climb as her next target, is looking forward for the sport to becoming more recognized around the world.
“I feel like climbing is just going to keep on getting bigger,” she said. “In every country, everywhere, you’re surrounded by rocks. There are rocks everywhere in the world.”