When photographing an elite athlete, it would be easy to focus on their muscles. That’s what makes them champions, right?

To some extent, that was my goal while capturing Olympic climber Brooke Raboutou, who is extraordinarily strong. But more importantly, I wanted to convey her warmth and her tenacious spirit, which I believe are the hallmarks of a true champion.

It was an honor to photograph Brooke for Southwest Airlines Magazine’s latest cover story. Brooke will be competing for the USA in Tokyo this summer for rock climbing’s Olympic debut. She was the first American to qualify from a fierce field of competitors—a huge accomplishment at age 18.

Oympic Climber Brooke Raboutou photographed for Southwest Airlines

Brooke comes from a family of professional climbers. I grew up following the feats of her mom and dad, Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou and Didier Raboutou, both climbing World Cup champions.⁣

The past year has seen a lot of heartbreak for many exceptional American climbers, as only two men and two women, max, can compete for each country in Tokyo this summer. To qualify, you have to beat out all but one of your fellow countrymen or women. And you have to excel at each of the three Olympic climbing events: bouldering, lead climbing, and speed climbing.⁣

Brooke Raboutou reaches up and grabs a hold on a bouldering wall at Mesa Rim Climbing Academy.

Two additional U.S. climbers have also qualified for the Olympics so far: Kyra Condie and Nathaniel Coleman. I’m excited to see these stars represent USA Climbing this summer!

See the full story on a Southwest Airlines flight this month or online here, and click here for the full gallery of images from the shoot.

Portrait of Olympic climber Brooke Raboutou.

Finally, keep scrolling to check out some of the behind-the-scenes action from my day photographing Brooke at Mesa Rim Climbing Academy in San Diego, CA. Thanks to Brooke and the Southwest Magazine team for an amazing shoot!

Olympic climber Brooke Raboutou hangs off a hold on a bouldering wall while photographer Tyler Stableford gives her direction.

Tyler photographs Brooke posing in front of an American flag.

Olympic climber Brooke Raboutou hangs off a hold on a bouldering wall while photographer Tyler Stableford stands on a ladder.

Tyler balances himself on a ladder and the climbing wall as he photographs Brooke.

Tyler reviews photos on his camera with Brooke and Creative Director Kevin de Miranda.
Tyler and Brooke smile at the camera.