Climbing her way to the top

  • Mackenzie Palmer
  • American-Statesman Staff
11:00 p.m Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016 Lifestyle
Award-winning climber Maya Madere, 17, boulders in the cave at Crux Climbing Center on Dec. 6. Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Maya Madere was first introduced to rock climbing at the age of 10 after her parents took her to a rock gym because “she would climb everything.”

“It started out as an extracurricular thing,” Madere said. “None of us thought it would go beyond that.”

Soon, though, Madere was begging her parents to let her join the local youth rock climbing team at Austin Rock Gym. After three years, when she was 13, they agreed.

Madere, an Austin native, started looking for competition events she could attend within the state. Before long, she was qualifying for divisionals, then nationals, then world.

She was one of the youngest people to win the annual Granite Gripper Climbing Competition at Enchanted Rock, and she made it to finals at the 2015 Psicobloc Masters in Park City, Utah. In February, Madere made an even bigger name for herself when, at 17, she dominated the 2016 USA Climbing Youth National Championships in Madison, Wisc., placing first in her division of the competition.

“I ended up placing well, which is not what I expected,” Madere said. “But it was the icing on the cake.”

Her success at U.S. Nationals qualified her for the 2016 IFSC World Youth Championship — she spent a week in Guangzhou, China, and placed third.

This is all a very sudden progression into climbing — a sport that was recently added to the roster for the 2020 Olympics — for Madere, who said her interest “just kind of exploded” within the last three years.

“It turned into something I wanted to compete in instead of just have fun,” Madere said.

These days, Madere said, bouldering is her life. She visits the gym three hours a day, five days a week, practicing with her team, Team ATX. Madere said her training revolves heavily around “just climbing,” but often her coach will also include floor workouts, ab exercises, some cardio and yoga to loosen tight muscles.

Madere said the hardest part to train for was her mental game.

“I had confidence issues,” Madere said.

She realized this was a weakness, she said, and used 2016 to tailor her training to build confidence. After winning Nationals and making it to World, Madere met great climbers from around the globe. “I learned so much,” Madere said. “I had a major breakthrough.”

Her coach, John Myrick, a local rock climbing pioneer and founder of the Collegiate Climbing Series, said he has seen the tremendous improvement in her mental stamina.

“Her ability to stay poised and positive and not let the pressure of big events get to her has really shown,” Myrick said.

Myrick praised Madere for her continued fight to succeed even after facing some injuries. Madere said hand injuries are very common and that “something is always tweaked,” usually in her wrist or fingers.

“You’re never completely injury-free for any sport,” Madere said.

Madere said she has a great support system in her family, who push her just the right amount. Her mother, Monica Flores, said she’s impressed with the work and determination she has put into the sport.

“She must have it in her blood,” Flores said. “She really locked onto the competition part of it and stayed really focused and driven.”

Her next big competition will be in February, when she will compete in Open Nationals as in adult. After Madere graduates from Anderson High this spring, she said she plans to take a gap year before college to focus on climbing and, she hopes, travel the world.

“I have quite some years,” Madere said, “but I don’t want to wait.”