By Flip Putthoff
Liam Anderson is making a rapid ascent in the sport of competition climbing, and he’s only 11 years old.
Liam, of Fayetteville, took first place in speed climbing in the boys 10 and under age group at the youth national championship held in Pennsylvania in July. Last February, he took sixth in his age group at the youth bouldering national competition in Oregon.
Speed climbing is all about getting to the top of a climbing wall the fastest. Bouldering requires performing technical maneuvers at a lower altitude.
Liam can be found after school hanging upside down at Ozark Climbing Gym in Springdale or scaling the gym’s climbing wall like it’s flat ground.
Jason Groves owns the gym. He coaches Liam and other youth members of the gym’s two climbing teams.
“They put in serious hard work on and off the climbing wall,” Groves said. “Liam has a clear grasp of the technique and practice it takes to excel in competition,” he added. “You have to be unusually strong, unusually intelligent because if you get a move wrong, there’s no undoing it.”
There’s a good reason the McNair Middle School student loves to climb.
“It’s fun,” Liam said (pronounced Lim). “I like competing. It’s really fun, and it’s a really unique sport.”
He has scaled the cliffs at Lincoln Lake, north of Lincoln, but does most of his practice indoors at the climbing gym.
“I started climbing stuff when I was little, about 2 or 3,” Liam said.
Trees, rocks, furniture got the toddler off the ground. His mom and dad, Chandra and McCree Anderson, are both climbers. They’re tickled to watch their son rise to the height of a national caliber climber.
Liam became more serious about training as his joy in competing grew. He was invited recently to train in Austria and spent a month there with a group of elite young climbers.
“That meant a month away from home, without his parents,” Mcree Anderson said.
Climbing “teaches self-awareness, self-discipline and learning to fail,” Anderson said.
Groves added, “Climbing is a lot like all skill sports. If you’re not failing, you’re not progressing.”
Liam has celebrated a birthday since the nationals and now competes in the boys’ 11 to 12-year-old division. He hopes to make the nationals and do well again next year.
He hopes to climb in the Olympics some day.
Sport climbing will make its debut as an Olympic sport at the 2020 summer games in Tokyo. Liam hopes to be competing at 2024 summer games in Paris.