Speed climbing king Danyil Boldyrev: I am the boss of this game

The Ukrainian caused a shock at the 2021 IFSC World Championships to win his second speed world title, but did you know he broke his leg just six months earlier, wrestles against jiu-jitsu world champions, and has a shark as an alter ego? Find out why below.
By Andrew Binner

Speed climbing world champion Danyil Boldyrev imagines himself as a shark when he competes. He is in control of his emotions and will fight for every millisecond to be the best.

The Ukrainian caused a shock on Thursday (16 September), when he landed his second speed title at the IFSC World Championships in Moscow, Russia, and told Olympics.com afterwards: “I am now the boss of this game.”

Boldryev won his first world title in 2014, and for those that don’t know him, can come across as arrogant.

But, as he explains to us below, he is a rather misunderstood character. Yes, he is forthright in his opinions and apologies for offence caused by that, but also believes in the power of hard work, and simply hopes to motivate others to work harder than their rivals.

The 29-year-old also revealed that his life is about so much more than climbing. He is a sports fanatic, which landed him in trouble with his mother when he broke his leg playing football months out from the 2021 world championships.

With only three years to go until speed climbing features at the Paris 2024 Olympics as its own sport (rather than as a part of the combined competition) for the first time, we find out the secrets behind early medal favourite Boldryev’s success.

1 - Mother knows best

There’s an old saying that ‘A mother always knows best.’ When it comes to Danyil Boldyrev’s climbing career, that is certainly the case.

The first thing the two-time world champ did in each of his post competition interviews in Moscow was thank his mother, who he credits for all of his success.

“This gold medal is not just for me, it’s also for my mother,” he told Olympics.com. “She is my coach, she’s my teacher, she introduced me to climbing at three years old and has supported me ever since.”

He even brought her in mid-interview for a big hug.

2 - A champion’s philosophy

Another key factor in Boldryev’s victory is his unbelievable dedication to training.

Even by professional athlete standards, it seems intense.

“My philosophy is to be a champion every second, every day. It’s not just about winning the trophy.

“I get up at 5 a.m. every day to do running sessions and I train three times a day, every day. I love it. And not just climbing, I also do jiu-jitsu and swimming.

“But it’s not just about climbing or lifting weights. It’s about mindset,” he continued.

“Today I’m the boss of this game. I respect and appreciate all the other athletes, but today I’m the boss. I have shown that my philosophy works.”

3 - Boldryev: “I had too much energy for swimming”

Climbing is often regarded as one of the few sports that tests every aspect of an athlete’s skillset, from explosive power to problem-solving ability.

Boldyrev put these skills to work initially in other sports, but was forced to go into climbing as he simply had too much energy for the others!

“I first started in gymnastics and swimming,” he said. “I could swim 25m by the time I was three years old, and that’s when the coaches realised I could be a good athlete.

“But I had too much energy for these sports, and I didn’t feel satisfied. So I started judo, karate, football, and boxing. I actually still participate in those sports as an amateur.”

4 - Athlete, coach, and fishy analogies...

Despite playing (and excelling) in so many sports, Boldyrev’s mother insisted that education always came first.

He now wishes to impart his wisdom onto the next generation of athletes and become their teacher.

“I coach kids in Germany,” he revealed. “They say I’m good at it and it’s all thanks to my mother, who helped me become the person I am today, and instilled the importance of school upon me.”

“I always tell my students to become the shark.”

More on that below...

5 - Danyil Boldyrev: The shark of sport climbing

The shark does not seem like a natural alter ego for a climber.

But when the Ukrainian explains the meaning behind it, suddenly it makes sense.

“Sharks control their speed, and control their feelings,” he told us.

“I enjoy competing, and I fight for every millisecond on the wall. I don’t focus on the time, I don’t focus on the (technical) details, or finding openings. I just compete to win. At that moment it’s just about getting up the wall first - it doesn’t matter how."

“I just flip into that mindset and let my body take over.”

6 - Not a fan of heights

Another reason Boldyrev likes sharks is probably because they don’t have to deal with heights.

That’s right, the man who is the best in the world at climbing up daunting 15m walls at an inverse angle in a matter of seconds, doesn’t like being up too high.

“I hadn’t flown in a plane until 2017 because I was too scared,” he continues.

“But I also believe that there is an energy in this world that protects us and that’s why I love life. I’m grateful for every day."

“I can now jump off the 10m (diving) board in swimming and enjoy mountain biking, but that’s as extreme as I go!”

We would still argue that speed climbing is only for the brave, which is another example of Boldyrev’s humble side.

7 - Miracle recoveries and wrestling masters

Boldyrev isn’t just quick at scaling walls. His body also heals at high speed.

“In March 2021 I broke my leg. The doctor said I won’t be (able to compete) in Moscow, but I said, ‘No, I will compete because it’s my leg and I’ll decide.”

“My mother argues with me about playing football. But I love it as it restarts my brain and I feel great. I love football and play in Ukraine all the time.

“I also have a friend called Ivan Nastenko who is a jiu-jitsu world champion and we wrestle. Whenever I feel anxious, I come to him, he puts me in some holds, and the emotions come out and I go home feeling great again.”

Don’t forget, Olympic Channel is the place to watch all semi-final and final action from the 2021 World Championships in Moscow, and you can watch it all online via Olympics.com right here.