High Drama: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of American Competition Climbing

Triumph. Mar. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9781629377759. pap. $19.95. SPORTS
Leading up to the debut of climbing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Burgman (Why We Climb) presents the untold and rocky history of the sport, from the 1970s to present, exploring how it went from a niche sport to the mainstream, evolved not to include actual rocks but human-made rock fabrications, and how its carefree roots made way for it to be a competitive sport. While the work primarily focuses on the U.S. sports scene, a common theme throughout is insight into the long-standing elite European tradition and how the desire to compete against athletes abroad has motivated American climbers. Burgman details the key players who organized climbing organizations and competitions with varying degrees of success, the creation of youth programs to foster homegrown talent, the rapid spread of climbing gyms, being showcased (albeit as extreme) in TV specials and movies, and the controversies that threatened to derail the sport’s momentum, all of which contributed to U.S. climbers succeeding on the world stage.
VERDICT Leaving no stone unturned, this exhaustive history will find an audience with climbing enthusiasts.
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