At 5-foot-1 and 100 pounds, Ashima Shiraishi might not look like the elite, groundbreaking athlete that she is. But Shiraishi is quite possibly the best female rock climber in the world. Evidence: At just 14, she has already made history in the sport. She's won the American Bouldering Series Youth National Championship every year from 2010 to 2014. And in 2015, she won the International Federation of Sport Climbing World Youth Championship in both lead climbing and bouldering. Last March, she completed the Open Your Mind Direct course in Spain, which is a very big deal because it's widely considered one of the hardest climbs in the sport. In fact, it's since been rated "9a+/5.15a," which in climbing terms is about as hard as you can get. Her climbing technique looks like a dance: She bravely leaps off small holds and shoots up jagged walls, twisting and pulling her way to the top of a wall.
"It's a dangerous sport, but the only thing that I'm afraid of is not being able to get to the top," Shiraishi told The Great Big Story in a short film about her rock climbing skills. "I started climbing in Central Park when I was 6 years old. Now I don't think I could live without it." Shiraishi was born and raised in New York. Her father, Poppo, is her coach and mentor. In just eight years of climbing, she's been hailed as a "prodigy" and "wall dancer" by The New Yorker, and listed among Time's 30 Most Influential Teens of 2015. "I think people are shocked if I do something that they can't do or something because I'm still very young and I'm a girl," Shiraishi says. "Doing something that a guy can't do is pretty special."