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Georgia Climber Emma Hunt Is Breaking Records, Winning On World Stage For Team USA

by Joshua Koch

Emma Hunt after competing in the women's speed climbing finals at the 2022 IFSC World Cup on May 27, 2022 in Salt Lake City.

 

Keith Hunt went and tried a portable rock-climbing wall one day and enjoyed it. So, he found a gym near his Woodstock, Georgia, home that had one. 
Tagging along with dad to that gym to climb the wall was then 5-year-old Emma. 
“We all started going, and it grew from there,” Emma said. 
Two years later at 7, she joined a team and “just loved it.” She started competing at 8, and the rest is history. 
Now, 19 years old, Hunt has taken her climbing skills to the world stage and has gotten extremely fast — record-breaking fast.
Hunt competes primarily in speed climbing, an event in which the athletes race up the wall like spiders in an exciting head-to-head format. In May, at the IFSC World Cup in Salt Lake City, Hunt broke and re-broke the U.S. record in her qualifying round, ultimately hitting the button in 7.05 seconds. Currently, the world record for a female is 6.53, a mark that Hunt is hunting for. 
“At this stage it is refining my beta, which is the path we take up the wall,” Hunt said about chasing the world record. “Everyone has more or less an individual beta. I think refining my beta and just more training in general and refining everything will make me drop some time.” 
In her most recent competition at the World Games on July 14 in Birmingham, Alabama, Hunt took first in the women’s speed competition, which was bracket-style. 
Hunt qualified with a time of 7.31 but then took first place overall when she hit the button at 7.24 in the final, beating out Poland’s Natalia Kałucka. 
“As soon as I saw the timer was green, I knew,” Hunt said. “It was so exciting and kind of relieving. It was a long day. We had a weather delay and we got pushed back several hours. It was a nice deep breath.” 
The first-place finish is the first of this season for Hunt, but it’s her third top-three finish of the year after taking second at the world cup in Seoul and second at the Salt Lake City, both in May. She’s coming off a seventh-place finish at last year’s world championships.

Emma Hunt competes during the women's speed climbing finals at the 2022 IFSC World Cup on May 27, 2022 in Salt Lake City.

These 2022 results come in a season that started with her getting stiches in her knee. She later had to take some time away due to COVID-19 as well. 
“It is still pretty unreal; I wasn’t expecting too much,” Hunt said of the season. “There have been a couple of hiccups this season too. … I’m very happy with how the season is going so far.” 
Hunt admits that there are short-term goals in her speed climbing career, but a long-term and ultimate one comes in just a couple of years — the Olympic Games Paris 2024. 
Sport climbing was added to the Olympics for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 with a combined event in which athletes competed in all three disciplines: bouldering, lead and speed. The climbing program for the 2024 Games in Paris will include two medal events for men and women: one combining bouldering and lead, and the other a standalone speed competition.
Hunt wants to be there with USA across her chest. 
“It would mean so much to me,” she said. “I would be so excited and so happy. That’s the long-term goal.” 
Hunt is currently back in her home state of Georgia training, while also taking online only classes at Kennesaw State University, where she wants to eventually get into their nursing program. 
Outside of training physically for speed climbing, Hunt admits there is a mental side of the sport that is just as crucial to hone. 
“I can’t really think of too many big challenges but more little ones,” Hunt said. “If I had to choose one, it would be my mental space, because you can be your own worst enemy. 
“Constantly practicing and really trying to pay attention to where I put my focus. Speed climbing it is so fast. You can lose it so quickly, and then it is game over. So, really trying to focus is the biggest thing.” 
With all the success that Hunt has experienced to start the 2022 circuit, one could think that the target is firmly on her back and she is more the hunted than the hunter. 
She doesn’t agree. 
“I still feel like I’m more hunting than being hunted,” she said. “I have noticed at some competitions I am more noticed than I was used to.”


Joshua Koch is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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