|Date of Ascent
|Mori climbed this historic route in just one day.
La Sportiva Futura
Mammut Chalk Bag
Learning the Ropes
Ai Mori’s foray into the world of rock climbing began in a rather unassuming manner. As a child, she wasn’t particularly drawn to sports, but she possessed a competitive spirit that drove her to always give her best. This tenacity was evident even in her early years, when she would participate in sports day activities with full enthusiasm, regardless of her ranking.
The real pivot towards climbing, however, came from a childhood pastime – climbing trees. Mori’s natural inclination to climb was evident in her love for scaling the heights of trees. Recognizing both the potential danger and the opportunity in this inclination, her father played a huge role in steering her toward a safer and more structured form of climbing. He introduced her to a climbing gym, a decision that would set the course for her future career.
This transition from climbing trees to climbing walls in a gym marked the beginning of Mori’s journey in the climbing world. It was here that she started to hone her skills and develop a deeper passion for the sport. The climbing gym provided a structured environment where Mori could safely challenge herself and grow as a climber.
Mori’s early experiences in the climbing gym were not just about physical training; they were also about discovering a sport that she genuinely enjoyed. This enjoyment was crucial in her early development as a climber, as it kept her engaged and motivated to improve. Her father’s decision to take her to a climbing gym was more than just a safety measure; it was a gateway to a world where Mori’s natural inclination for climbing could flourish.
In these formative years, Mori learned more than just the technical skills of climbing. She learned about perseverance, the importance of enjoying what you do, and the value of a supportive environment. These lessons, learned while ‘learning the ropes’ of climbing, laid the foundation for her future successes and her approach to both training and competition.
Ai Mori’s competitive spirit was evident from a young age. In 2016, at just 12 years old, she made history by becoming the youngest Japanese athlete to win the Lead Japan Cup. This early success was a clear indicator of her potential and set the stage for her future accomplishments. Her dominance in national competitions continued, as she repeatedly claimed the title of Japan’s lead champion in subsequent years.
Mori’s international debut came in 2019, marking a significant milestone in her career. At the tender age of 15, she won two bronze medals in lead and one in bouldering at the World Cups. This impressive debut was further solidified when she placed third in the lead category at the IFSC Climbing World Championships the same year, becoming the youngest Japanese medalist in the history of the championships. Her performance not only earned her a podium finish but also broke the record previously held by her friend and mentor, Akiyo Noguchi.
In the same year, Mori ranked 5th in the Olympic Qualifiers in Toulouse and would have gotten her a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics. However, Japan had already picked its team with Miho Nonaka and Akiyo Noguchi.
A Brief Hiatus and a Triumphant Return
Following her initial burst onto the international scene, Mori took a two-year break from competitive climbing as she felt like she wasn’t performing well. She took advice from fellow climber Akiyo Noguchi who told her,
“If you want to climb, climb, but you don’t need to force yourself.”
This two-year period allowed her to focus and reignite her passion for the sport by enjoying it and not putting any pressure on herself.
Upon her return in 2022, Mori’s comeback was nothing short of spectacular. She won the lead World Cup in Koper, Slovenia, stunning the climbing world by defeating the formidable Janja Garnbret on her home turf. Mori’s victory was a clear statement of her exceptional abilities and her readiness to compete at the highest level.
2023: The Year of Triumph
2023 marked a year of unprecedented success for Ai Mori. She became the world champion in lead at the IFSC Climbing World Championships, a historic achievement as she was the first Japanese athlete to win a world title in this discipline. Her victory was a culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and an unwavering commitment to her craft. Her third-place finish in the combined event at the championships in Bern secured her qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics, setting the stage for her to showcase her talent on the world’s biggest sporting stage.
We can’t wait to see what Ai Mori has in store for us next August!
While Ai Mori has made a name for herself in the competitive indoor climbing scene, her achievements in outdoor climbing and bouldering are equally impressive, showcasing her versatility and passion for the sport in its most natural form.
One of Mori’s most notable outdoor achievements is her ascent of Catharsis in Shiobara, Japan. This boulder problem holds a special place in climbing history as the first confirmed V14/8B+ to be climbed by a woman, achieved by Tomoko Ogawa in 2012. Mori successfully climbed Catharsis in just one day in 2021.
Kampai & Hidra
In addition to Catharsis, Mori has also made significant ascents of other challenging routes. She conquered Kampai, a 5.14b/8c sport route in Futagoyama, Hakone, and Hidra, a V13/8B boulder problem in Shiobara, both in 2021. These ascents further cement her status as a versatile climber, proficient in both sport climbing and bouldering, and capable of tackling some of the most challenging routes outdoors.
Away from the climbing walls, Ai Mori’s personal life is a blend of relaxation, academic pursuits, and a journey towards independence.
Relaxation and Hobbies
On her days off, Mori finds solace in music and cooking. These activities allow her to unwind and forget about her troubles, providing a much-needed break from the rigors of training and competition. She also finds motivation and refreshment in tidying up her living space, a simple yet effective way to rejuvenate her mind and body.
Mori is a student at the University of Tsukuba, balancing her academic responsibilities with her climbing career. The shift from online classes to in-person sessions brought new challenges, such as commuting to school, but it also offered the joy of meeting friends and engaging in the social aspects of school life. Mori has adapted to having less time for climbing compared to her high school days, learning to train efficiently in shorter periods.
Aspirations for Independence
As she approaches her 20s, Mori is focused on becoming more independent. Currently living with her parents, she aspires to gradually transition to living on her own. This desire for independence is not just about her living situation; it extends to her growth as a person. Mori aims to develop herself not only as an athlete but also as an individual capable of handling life’s various challenges.
Future in Climbing
Mori envisions continuing her climbing journey throughout her life, regardless of the form it takes. While she anticipates competing internationally for up to a decade, she is also mindful of enjoying the sport beyond her competitive years. Her current challenge is to maintain her competitive edge while ensuring that her love for climbing remains undiminished after retirement.