The mammoth athletes Amruta Wyssmann and Lucia Capovilla were both born without a left forearm. A fact that doesn't stop them from climbing, nor from overcoming their own limits over and over again. A conversation about creativity in climbing, competitions and inspiration.
Amruta Wyssman is 30 and lives in Düdingen. Growing up in Graubünden, she came into contact with mountain sports at an early age. However, she did not make her first "real" attempts at climbing until 2018. Three years later she was the first to start paraclimber for the Swiss Climbing Team and is one of the Swiss hopefuls at the home World Cup in Bern 2023.
Lucy Capovilla grew up in Venice and has been a professional paraclimber since 2015. The 29-year-old tried out climbing more as a joke, but then very quickly found the challenge of moving in vertical terrain. This summer she quit her job and moved to the climbing mecca of Arco in search of new opportunities.
Tell me: When did you first come into contact with climbing?
Lucia Capovilla: I started climbing in 2015. I tried it more as a joke. True to the motto: "Tell me I can't do it and I'll prove you wrong". That day I went to a climbing gym with a friend of mine and I found a boulder that looked like a ladder, so I said, "Oh, that looks so easy, I could do that too!" I was then challenged to try it. No sooner said than done: I reached the top. The only problem was the descent as I wasn't planning on falling to the mat. This is probably why I still prefer rope climbing to bouldering.
Amruta Wyssmann: I grew up in Graubünden, so mountaineering was always an issue. My mom always says that I used to climb and scramble around. However, I only made my first "real" attempts at climbing in 2018. I used to be less daring because I thought it wouldn't work with "just" one arm. One of my best friends then took me to the climbing hall. I just thought to myself: if it works, then it works, and if not, then not.
What does climbing mean to you?
Amruta Wyssmann: It means everything to me! For me, climbing is more than just a sport. Climbing allows me to constantly surpass myself. My motto is: I can because I want to.
Lucia Capovilla: For me, climbing means freedom. I can use my whole body and turn my weaknesses into strengths. Climbing makes me more confident about what I can do with my "lucky fin" (Lucia affectionately calls her left arm) and increases my self-confidence.
When climbing, I feel free to be creative and find different ways to climb a spot. It forces me to think outside the box. Climbing is always exciting because it doesn't repeat itself and is different at every point, depending on the wall, hold and situation.
What do you particularly like about competitive climbing?
Amruta Wyssmann: It's a lot of fun, because the mood is very different than when I "just" train. Of course, I'm also driven by the thrill.
Lucia Capovilla: In competition climbing, the routes are explicitly designed for paraclimbing athletes. This means that care is taken to ensure that they are physically feasible. When I go climbing privately, I climb routes that are not specifically designed for paraclimbing. So sometimes it's hard for me to understand if I'm good at what I do or if I could be better. So competitive climbing is a great opportunity to meet people like me and learn about different approaches.
Which is better for you: rope climbing or bouldering?
Lucia Capovilla: I prefer multi pitch routes and lead climbing because here I can be more creative and find my own solution to overcome a crux in the route. In bouldering there is a mandatory sequence and the discipline is very demanding in terms of distance, power and dynamics of movements. I would like to boulder if the routes were bolted at intervals based on my arm span and the holds that my "lucky fin" can grab.
Amruta Wyssmann: In the beginning I only bouldered. When I became part of the paraclimbing team, I also started rope climbing. Now I enjoy doing both equally. For me, the disciplines complement each other.
Do you prefer to climb indoors or outdoors?
Lucia Capovilla: I prefer outdoor climbing because of the contact with nature and because it allows me to relax better. I just love being outside and I don't always push myself to the limit. Indoor climbing is more physically demanding because it allows me to push my limits and push myself to the extreme. I love training and growing.
Amruta Wyssmann: At the moment I still prefer indoor climbing, but I think that's because I haven't had that much outdoor experience yet. In view of the upcoming World Climbing Championships next summer, indoor climbing is also a priority at the moment. But I would really like to get out on the rocks more. Because outdoor climbing is an exciting challenge. Especially since the routes are not precisely specified compared to indoor climbing and you have to look for them yourself.
What are your goals for the Climbing World Championships in Bern?
Amruta Wyssmann: I always want to do my best. Above all, it is important to me to keep climbing fun.
Lucia Capovilla: I want to have fun and push my limits. I want to show at the World Championships that I have improved my technique during the training phase and have become physically and mentally stronger.
Where do you see your strengths and weaknesses?
Lucia Capovilla: My strength lies in the precision, the fluidity of my ascents and my determination. I'm not that strong in terms of muscle strength, resistance and confidence in my left arm.
Amruta Wyssmann: Perseverance. I have a lot of fun climbing, which is why I also enjoy the training – even when it's exhausting, I don't give up. I use my physical limitations to my advantage because I approach routes in a more unconventional and creative way.
My nervousness poses a challenge for me. I'm often very excited, especially before competitions, and I can't always perform as I would like and could. I do regular mental training so that I can reach my full potential. This includes breathing exercises and keeping a training diary.
What does working with Mammut mean to you?
Lucia Capovilla: I was delighted when Mammut contacted me and asked if I would be interested in working with them. Mammut is a well-known brand with high-quality products. What makes me particularly happy is that Mammut is more interested in my story than in my achievements. I feel like we can help each other spread my message «Limits are only in our heads».
Amruta Wyssmann: I was lucky that Mammut approached me. It is important to me to work with a Swiss brand that does a lot in the area of sustainability. The issues of environmental pollution and unfair wages are particularly close to my heart. I want to take responsibility by working with a local brand like Mammut that shares these values with me.
Who or what inspires you?
Amruta Wyssmann: All the other athletes who take part in the Paraclimbing World Cup. But all the other participants, from juniors to the elite at the World Cup, also inspire me.
Lucia Capovilla: Lynn Hill and Janja Garnbret inspire me with their approach to life and their climbing technique.
How do you rate the public perception of paraclimbing?
Amruta Wyssmann: Here in Switzerland, paraclimbing is still not well known. I hope that will change with the home World Championships in Bern next year. By representing the sport as actively as possible, I want to positively influence the perception of the sport and show the world that you can achieve anything if you are determined and enjoy what you do.
Lucia Capovilla: Paraclimbing is not very well known, not even in the climbing community. I hope that one day it will be "normal" to think that people with disabilities can do everything that people without disabilities do - especially climbing. I would be happy if I could help people with disabilities to approach rock climbing.
Finally, what have you always wanted to say but never been asked?
Amruta Wyssmann: If I could turn back time, I would have started climbing as a child.
Lucia Capovilla: How difficult it is. Nobody has ever asked me how difficult it is for me to push my limits again and again. Following your heart and pushing yourself is the best gift you can give yourself. That can sometimes be difficult. Every step is uncertain, but in the end it will be worth it because it will be real.
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Credits: Cover photo: Dimitris Tosidis and Christopher Zundel