Paris Olympics 2024 (Team USA): Meet Jesse Grupper

Jesse Grupper is a 27-year-old American sports climber who has Qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Grupper first came into the climbing world as a junior, earning podium finishes at the youth level before he was even a teenager. After joining the senior US National Team in 2022, he rapidly established himself as America’s top lead climber.

Jesse grupper’s Early Years and Family

Jesse Grupper was born on January 6th, 1997 in New York to parents Jonathan and Cathlin Grupper. His father Jonathan is a documentary filmmaker and guitarist, while his mother Cathlin is a preschool teacher who also plays guitar and sings.

He has one sister named Maddy who plays the ukulele and banjolele. He also has an uncle who is a Broadway actor. His uncle has spoken to Jesse about subtle performance changes he incorporates each night he’s on stage.

As a child, Grupper had a tremendous amount of energy and developed a passion for climbing after his parents introduced him to a rock climbing gym along with his sister.

Jesse Grupper Early Life
Image: Jesse Grupper with Young Gun Rookie Team in 2015 (Source: Jesse’s Instagram)

He started competing in climbing competitions at 9 or 10 years old. Despite his sister’s initial annoyance at his interest in her activity, Grupper knew from the start that climbing would be more than just a passing hobby for him.

Most recently, Grupper graduated from Tufts University with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. He managed to balance his academic course load while also passionately pursuing professional climbing.

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Grupper currently climbs full-time professionally, pursuing Lead Climbing competitions across the globe. He most recently completed competing on the Lead World Cup Circuit where he successfully made two Finals and four Semi-finals.

Jesse Grupper Qualify for the Paris Olympics 2024 After winning Gold Medal at the 2023 Pan America Games

Last October, American climber Jesse Grupper won the gold medal in the combined bouldering and lead climbing event at the 2023 Pan American Games held in Santiago. His top score of 161.5 points was enough to finish ahead of fellow Americans Sean Bailey (141.6 points) in second and Zachary Galla (138.5 points) in third in the sport climbing competition.

Grupper’s standout performance at the Pan Am Games secured him qualification for the upcoming 2024 Summer Olympic Games set to take place in Paris, France. An ecstatic Grupper commented, “This is truly unreal, a dream since I was a child…something I have waited for a long time.”

Coming in 7th place in the combined event was Chile’s own Benjamin Vargas. Despite not finishing on the podium, local favorite Vargas delivered an inspiring performance in front of a raucous home crowd. Chants of his nickname “Pichon” could be heard throughout the arena as he dynamically scaled the climbing wall.

The combined bouldering and lead climbing competition for women took place in the afternoon on the final day of sport climbing events at the 2023 Santiago Pan American Games. Jesse Grupper’s gold medal finished off a successful showing for the American climbing contingent.

Jesse Grupper Dealt with ulcerative colitis

American climber Jesse Grupper has revealed he lives with ulcerative colitis, a chronic autoimmune condition that causes inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract.

Just over two years ago, Grupper endured a flare-up so extreme he was hospitalized for a week. Bedridden and unsure if he would ever compete again at an elite level, it was a frightening time for the young climber. Before hospitalization, Grupper managed symptoms using oral medication.

Since the serious health scare, Grupper has worked closely with his medical team to better manage the ulcerative colitis. He now receives bi-monthly infusions which have worked fairly well over the past two years to reduce symptoms and allow him to keep progressing in his professional climbing career. However, the chronic condition could still worsen over time.

Though his treatment plan helps mitigate symptoms, Grupper has admitted that stressful triggering events like climbing finals can still randomly prompt his ulcerative colitis to flare up. When he experiences flare-ups, symptoms like urgent and bloody bowel movements can rapidly incapacitate him. In one past episode, while climbing in Red River Gorge, Grupper even had to urgently descend halfway up the wall he was scaling.

To better handle the mental toll and pain of unpredictable flare-ups, Grupper has adopted coping mechanisms like meditation, yoga, and dietary changes under the guidance of a nutritionist.

Jesse Grupper’s Career So Far

Grupper’s Early Passion for Rock Climbing Through His Sister

Jesse Grupper’s introduction to rock climbing came in 2006 when his parents brought his sister Maddy to their local climbing gym after seeing it featured in a magazine. Though it started as an activity intended for his sister, a high-energy young Grupper quickly took to it even more fervently.

“I had a ton of energy as a kid,”

“I started competing when I was like nine or 10. I guess I haven’t really stopped since.”

he said.

He began accompanying his sister and her friends to the climbing gym every week.

By age nine he had advanced to join the gym’s Senior climbing team and started competing in regional youth competitions soon after.

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This craziness of Jesse for climbing initially annoyed his older sister, Maddy, as climbing had previously been her unique domain amongst friends. But Grupper was undeterred, later stating:

“My sister was a bit annoyed when I started climbing, actually. It was kind of her thing, and her friends, but when I started, I knew I wasn’t going to stop.”

He said

When Grupper began entering climbing competitions at age 11, his skill and drive set him apart from his peers. In 2015, a stellar performance earned him 2nd place in the lead climbing discipline at the revered Youth World Championships held in Arco, Italy.

He quickly qualified for the senior US National Sport Climbing Team, now facing world-class adult competition rather than peers. Undaunted by the challenge, Grupper went on to medal twice at the US Nationals in 2017.

His Professional Career as he Won the 2023 Pan American Championship & Qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympics

In November 2021, Grupper achieved a career milestone by “flashing” a climb of the 5.14c rating in Rumney, New Hampshire. “Flashing” refers to successfully climbing a route on the first try without having previously attempted it.

On the heels of his 5.14c flash, Grupper went on to claim his second straight national championship in the lead discipline at the 2021 US Nationals.

After qualifying for the esteemed US Sport Climbing National Team in March 2022, he finished 3rd in the World Cup lead climbing competition held in Innsbruck. In the same year, he went on to capture his first-ever World Cup gold in Briançon, France.

Capping a dominant 2022 season that saw him reach four World Cup podiums, Grupper won the overall sport climbing title at the October 2023 Pan Am Championships. The gold medal also sealed Grupper’s qualification for the upcoming 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

With his Olympic team spot locked in well in advance of the 2024 Games, the 26-year-old now turns his intense focus to Olympic preparations.