ALBUQUERQUE — What’s better than watching someone win $50,000 on television?
How about watching someone you know and is in the same room as you win $50,000 on television.
That’s what went down in the Stone Age Climbing Gym in Midtown Albuquerque on May 30, making it a memorable Memorial Day for fans of Bernalillo teen Katie Bone.
Although the NBC-TV telecast of “American Ninja Warrior” telecast of the women’s national championship had been taped in Las Vegas, Nevada, last June, none of the 250 or so fans and friends of Bone – except her brother Drew and parents, Matt and Tammy Bone — watching on the big screen knew how the episode would turn out.
But there she was, finishing fourth and among six qualifiers from the first stage of the competition, which originally had a dozen competitors ranging in age from 15-45, with some being Bone’s early role models – competitors she looked up to.
She finished among the top four in the second stage, taking her to the championship round — the 75-foot tower climb, which featured a couple “switchbacks.”
One had to almost feel sorry for the competition; first Bone basically sprinted straight up and with a time of 24 seconds, beat her 32-year-old foe by several seconds in a semifinal, then raced against another 16-year-old and again made it “no contest” in the championship round.
Both girls hugged at the top, getting a breath-taking view of “Sin City” and the famous Strip from their vantage point.
As her mother told the audience at Stone Age Climbing Gym before the telecast, as a 9-year-old girl, her dream was to go on American Ninja Warrior.”
And as Bone appeared on the screen before the first stage, a loud cheer went up inside the spacious gym, as would happen a few more times.
Not necessarily to win, but to compete, which she did during the 14th season of the show, before winning the top prize in late May.
As ANW had done when Bone, now 17, was competing and qualified for the finals last season, it was reiterated that she is a Type 1 diabetic, with an insulin pump visible on one arm and a glucose monitor on her other arm during the competition. She learned in 2017, then only 11 years old, that she had Type 1 diabetes, but she wasn’t about to let that curb her dreams.
Oh, yeah: Her slogan, “I don’t need easy; I just need possible” was uttered by her on the big screen, too.
Quiet and unassuming, preferring attention paid to someone else, Bone wanted to make sure she honored a promise before the competition, pledging money to the national Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund – “They have done so much for me and my family,” she said on KOB-TV the next morning — and also to PumpedNM, a New Mexico charity.
“We wanted that money to have a New Mexico impact,” Tammy Bone said, explaining how PumpedNM raises money to help families who can’t afford insulin pumps obtain them for family members with diabetes.
Still taking aim at ’24 Olympics
Tammy Bone said the severity of an ACL injury and subsequent surgery require a day-by-day approach, and her daughter doesn’t want to hasten recovery and competition and lessen her shot at a future Olympics berth.
Katie incurred the injury at a USA National Women’s Team Climbing trials in Austin, Texas, in February, Matt Bone said. “She fell off a boulder” during USA Team Trials for rock climbing, on her fourth climb of four and in the last 30 seconds of that attempt.
She had reconstructive surgery on March 14, and “has been climbing on one leg,” he said, which wasn’t entirely untrue.
“Recovery and (physical therapy),” Tammy Bone says, along with “some light competing” won’t detract from being cleared for important competition in the fall.
The 2024 Paris Olympics may be less likely, due to the recovery process, than ’28, but Katie will only be 22 by then. She’s known beyond her success on ANW: She’s a nationally ranked rock climber and member of the 2022 Speed Youth National Climbing Team.
Increasing strength and staying strong mentally now are the keys, with hopes of competing at the last World Cup competition in the fall, so she can maintain eligibility to compete for a berth on the U.S. women’s 20-member team.
“Sport climbing” made its debut in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It will be a four-day event, with 20 men and 20 women competing. Three events are featured: lead climbing up a 40- to 60-foot wall; speed climbing, racing up a 50-foot wall; and bouldering, with climbers completing several short-climb routes in a set amount of time per climb.