Press Release

Release Date: February 01, 2024
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

In August, Chickasaw citizen Declan Calfy attended the 2023 International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) Youth Speed Climbing World Championship in Seoul, South Korea. Declan placed 10th in his age category against 25 of the finest speed climbers from across the globe.

“Traveling to South Korea and competing with Team Texas was amazing,” Declan said. “My teammates and their parents, as well as my coaches, are like a second family to me. My brother and sister have been on the climbing team in the past. Our experiences with competition, as well as outdoor recreational climbing, have provided us with memories that will stay with us throughout our lives,” Declan said.

Declan earned his position to compete in Seoul by having the second fastest time in his age bracket and placing third overall during the national USA Climbing 2023 Youth National Championship in Salt Lake City, Utah.

IFSC Youth Climbing competitions are broken down based on age. At 15, Declan competed in the youngest age group, 14 to 15 years old. Other age brackets included participants ages 16 to 17 and young adults ages 18 to 19.

Declan and his family discovered climbing when he was 7 years old. They made a couple visits to the climbing gym in downtown Oklahoma City. In 2018, Declan joined a nationally recognized and highly successful climbing team based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Team Texas.

“My parents took me climbing at the Oklahoma City Grain Silos when I was little,” Declan said. “The silos were converted into a climbing gym a long time ago. Another gym opened nearby in Norman. My brother and I needed a summer activity, so we tried it out and loved it. My entire family got involved, including my older sister and parents.”

“My brother Luke tried out for the Oklahoma Climbing,” he said. “I wanted to do it myself, so I decided to try out for the team as well. We both began competitive climbing with the team at USA Climbing Youth sanctioned events. Soon after, my sister joined the team as well. While she no longer competes, she climbs recreationally and coaches the youth climbing club at Stratus (Climbing, Fitness, and Yoga in Norman).”

Currently, he trains during the week at his local gym in Norman, Stratus Climbing, Fitness and Yoga, and travels nearly every weekend to Texas to train with his coaches and teammates at several different Movement Climbing Gyms and the Team Texas Training Center.

“I am separated from the team during the week because I live in Norman,” Declan said. “My coaches send me detailed lesson plans for training. I typically climb five days a week, averaging anywhere from 12 to 20 hours. My workout schedule is similar to the teams.”

As an online student at Oklahoma’s Epic Charter Schools, competitive rock-climbing fits seamlessly into Declan’s schedule and academic curriculum.

 Declan says his exercise and training routines are tailored for strength, power and endurance, all focused according to what discipline of climbing he is training for. There are three disciplines of climbing — bouldering, lead/top rope and speed.

Bouldering involves climbing shorter, more powerful routes which are anywhere from 15-20 feet high, while lead/top rope routes are more geared to test the endurance of the athlete on indoor climbing walls as tall as 65 feet.

Speed climbing is much different than the other forms of climbing. For this discipline, speed climbers sprint up a slightly overhung, mostly vertical wall which is 15 meters tall with climbing holds positioned very specifically on the wall. These unique climbing holds are always positioned in the same configuration for every competition.

“Training depends on what a climber is going for,” Declan said. “Bouldering is a shorter form of climbing, no ropes. You are physically doing the hardest individual moves to try to reach the finish or top hold on the route. Bouldering leans more toward strength and power.

“Sport climbing — also known as lead/top rope climbing — requires endurance. I really enjoy this type of climbing.” Declan said.

As the sport continues to grow, Declan would like to compete in indoor rock climbing at the university level. There is ample opportunity, as several colleges across the United States now offer climbing teams or clubs whose members have the access to sign up for events all over the nation sanctioned by USA Climbing Collegiate.

“Right now, climbing is not NCAA approved,” he said. “Rock climbing debuted in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics with bouldering, lead climbing and speed climbing all combined into one medal. With the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, speed will now be separated from the others as its own discipline. I believe the 2024 Olympic Games will give rock climbing another boost in popularity and support, like Tokyo did.”

“Whether I work with others as a professional coach or as a route setter in a gym or for competitions, climbing will continue to be a part of my life. If not in a gym, then outdoors,” he said.

The opportunities Declan had while in Korea created memories he will always cherish. Traveling with his mother, Crystal, tasting the amazing food, observing beautiful architecture and witnessing the sheer size of the city of Seoul, is an experience that will last a lifetime.

“While we have traveled a small amount internationally before, we have never experienced being immersed in a different culture like we experienced in South Korea,” Crystal Calfy said.

“Having the opportunity to observe everyday life for Koreans in and around Seoul was incredibly enlightening. I am glad Declan was able to experience not only competition at such an elite level, but also a culture outside of his own,” Mrs. Calfy said.

Declan is the son of Josh and Crystal Calfy. He receives his Chickasaw heritage from his mother. Historically, his Chickasaw family was from Muskogee. Declan’s hometown is Norman, Oklahoma. He has two older siblings, a brother Luke and a sister Macalan.

“It’s cool to know that I belong to a tribe, a community,” Declan said. “The Chickasaw Nation has done so much for Oklahoma and it’s special to feel so supported, not only in my sport, but in becoming successful in life.”

 Mrs. Calfy says her family is grateful for what the Chickasaw Nation continues to provide for them.

“My mother and father are both deceased, my children never got to meet them,” Mrs. Calfy said. “Before my dad passed away in 1999, he was able to register my name as a citizen. I received support (from the Chickasaw Nation) in college that helped me tremendously."

“The Chickasaw Nation is like family to us. I don’t take it lightly that my ancestors paid a price for me to be where I am today. I make sure my children appreciate that as well. Although we would like to be more involved, we try to take time to learn about our heritage by doing things like visiting the Chickasaw Cultural Center where we have played stickball, learned archery and enjoyed eating traditional tribal foods like pashofa,” she said.