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Why Brooke Raboutou Is So Much More Than Just A Child Prodigy

Why Brooke Raboutou Is So Much More Than Just A Child Prodigy
Photo: Julien Jarry
Brooke Raboutou is only 16 years old and has already accomplished more than most climbers could ever dream. She has stood on top of the podium at some of the largest competitions in the world, broken numerous climbing records, and, along with her brother, Shawn, represents the next generation of child prodigies looking to raise the bar for future climbers.

Brooke is heading to the Dominion Riverrock in Richmond, VA, this weekend to compete in the ninth annual Boulder Bash and Speed Competition. She will be looking to defend her title, as she won in both events last year over a field of the some of the nation's top climbers.


You couldn't ask to come from better stock if your goal is to become a world-class athlete. Brooke's parents have both at one time been considered as the best competitive climbers in the world. Her mother, Robyn Erbesfield, was a five-time U.S. national champion and four-time World Cup champion. Her father, Didier Raboutou, is not only a former three-time World Cup champion but also considered to be the top-ranked climber in France from 1985-90. After retiring from competition and getting married, they passed along their climbing genes to their two children, Brooke and Shawn.

In 2005, Robyn and Didier founded ABC Climbing in Boulder, Colorado, a climbing facility and program designed to train and develop the next generation of kid climbers. Team ABC has been a dominant force in the youth climbing circuit, winning more than half a dozen national titles and producing such stars as Margo Hayes, Megan Mascarenas, and, of course, Shawn and Brooke.

Brooke and Shawn have both been members since the program's inception, allowing their mom to double as their head coach. Under her tutelage and acquiring an endless desire to be the best, the Raboutou siblings have both developed into two of the top competitive climbers in the country today.

There is no doubt that Brooke was given every opportunity to climb from an early age. According to her team bio, she climbed for the first time when she was only 1 but didn't take to the sport regularly until she was 4 years old. Soon after, Brooke was able to utilize her uncanny flexibility and superior finger strength to start climbing her way to the top.

The first world record that Brooke broke was at the age of 8 when she became the youngest female to climb 5.12. Since then, she has gone on to break multiple world records including:

  • First 9-year-old to climb 5.13a​ and V10
  • First 10-year-old to climb V11 
  • First 10-year-old to climb 5.13c, 5.13d and 5.14a
  • Youngest female to climb 5.14b at the age of 11

Though she has obviously been extremely successful on real rock, Brooke has also found great success pulling on plastic. Her consistency at making it on the podium year after year is a testament to her hard work and dedication to becoming the best.

While Brooke found success at multiple local competitions at the beginning of the season, it was her incredible performance at the IFSC Youth World Championships back in November that set the tone. Up against the best youth climbers in the world, Raboutou took home the title of overall champion in the Female Youth B category. This pivotal moment propelled Brooke into the spotlight and solidified the young phenom as a force to be reckoned with in competitive climbing.

Following her success in Gangzhou, China, Brooke came home to compete in her first USAC Bouldering Open Nationals. Despite coming in third behind Ashima Shiraishi and Alex Puccio, Raboutou showed a level of poise and experience well beyond her years. Her performance also earned her a silver medal in the inaugural season of the USA Climbing National Cup Series, a five-comp series used as a ranking system for professional climbers in the United States. Her silver medal at nationals secured Raboutou second-place overall behind only the legendary comp climber Puccio.

At the USAC Bouldering Youth Nationals the following week, the showdown of the night came in the Youth A category between Shiraishi and Raboutou. Both competitors placed on the podium the weekend prior at Bouldering Open Nationals, and both battled hard once again, topping all three boulders. Immediately following finals, it appeared as though Raboutou had it won; however, a appeal and review of the live-stream feed revealed a mistake was made when scoring a fellow competitor. After corrected, Shiraishi was bumped ahead of Brooke once again, leaving her just a step behind her fellow climbing prodigy.

Check out Brooke tackling 'The Stack' on Final 3 at Bouldering Youth Nationals:

Fast forward one month to the USAC Sport and Speed Open Nationals where Brooke once again found herself near the top of a lineup consisting of the nation's best rope climbers. Brooke managed a third-place finish in sport and a top 10 showing in speed--another monumental showing for her first appearance as a pro.

Brooke has shown consistency and elite performances across all three disciplines--something that could come in handy at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, where competitors will be ranked on their performances overall. If given the chance, Brooke is near the top of a short list of Olympic hopefuls and could very well find similar results to Youth Worlds in a near identical scoring metric.

In a vacuum, her performances on both rock and plastic would place her among the nation's elite climbers. So when will Brooke no longer be viewed as a child prodigy and given the title of rock star? Answer: she already has.

IFSC World Youth Championships (Lead) - Silver Medal (2016)
IFSC World Youth Championships (Boulder) - Bronze Medal (201​6)
USAC Sport Open Nationals - Bronze Medal (2017)
USAC Bouldering Open Nationals - Bronze Medal (2017)
USAC Bouldering Youth Nationals - Silver Medal (2011, 2014, 2016-2017), Bronze Medal (2015)
USAC Sport Youth Nationals - Silver Medal (2015-2016)
USAC National Cup Series Rankings - 3rd Place (2017)

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God's Own Stone 5.14a - Red River Gorge, Kentucky
Southern Smoke 5.14c - Red River Gorge, Kentucky

Brooke is heading to the Dominion Riverrock this weekend to compete in the ninth annual Boulder Bash and Speed Competition. She will be looking to defend her title as she won in both events last year over a field of the some of the nation's top climbers.

You can watch the 2017 Dominion Riverrock Bouldering & Speed Competitions LIVE on May 19-21, only on FloClimbing!


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