Sasha DiGiulian is used to proving people wrong. She has done so throughout her life.
The 28-year-old took the rock climbing world by storm at an early age and has grown into one of the sport’s most famous faces — traveling the world and completing over 30 first female ascents.
But, despite the records and countless achievements, it hasn’t been easy.
Throughout the American’s intrepid career, DiGiulian has met resistance, forcing her to change the narrative of what a professional climber is “supposed to look like.”
“Climbing as a sport, traditionally, is a White male’s club and I’ve experienced that in my career. I know that we lack diversity in many ways,” she tells CNN Sport.
“As a woman, success in my career was often reattributed to climbing something with a male being present, or doing something and that achievement being negated by my weight, my circumstance, or people making assumptions of my background.”
DiGiulian, who started climbing aged seven, has spoken out about her experiences of being a woman in the sport, writing a lengthy Instagram post in 2018 after she said she was subject to bullying from fellow climber Joe Kinder, who later apologized via a statement on social media.
Kinder told CNN that whilst he accepted his mistakes, he felt “gravely misrepresented” and said that “public shaming” can cause serious mental health problems.
“I’ll never defend my mistake as there is no excuse for my actions. I own it and have learned a hard lesson. It was offensive and hurtful and cost me my career and everything that I had built,” he said in a statement.
DiGiulian says she has been subject to snide comments and remarks for her career choice for years.
An interaction she recalled with an alpinist when completing a first female ascent on the 5,900 ft north face of the Eiger — a mountain in Switzerland with one of the most technically challenging climbs in the Alps — still sticks in her mind.
“I won’t say his name, but it comes to the tongue, he said ‘little girls don’t belong on the Eiger’ and just little cuts like that that happen throughout your experiences,” she says.
“It doesn’t help and it doesn’t encourage more people like me to feel comfortable in the sport.”
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‘Heart of femininity’
Such experiences haven’t dampened DiGiulian’s passion for her sport. If anything, it’s motivated her.
With a significant, and growing, social media following — she has