After years of lobbying for inclusion, the sport will be on the Olympic programme for the very first time next summer when a troop of climbing superstars will be testing the limits of human strength in their bid to make it to the very top.
We got in touch with the Association of British Climbing Walls Training Trust to learn more about this niche sport that has very quickly become a worldwide sensation.
How excited are you that climbing will be making its Olympic debut next year?
Very! It’s great that climbing will be on the world stage. It’s actually a little known fact but a form of climbing, alpinism, was first in the Olympics in 1894!
The amount of work that has gone into preparation for these athletes is phenomenal. They usually specialise but for this Olympic debut, competitors need to compete in three disciplines: bouldering, lead sport climbing, and speed climbing, for one medal.
You can get an idea of what climbers will be doing at the Olympics for its inaugural year by watching this video from the IFSC Climbing World Championships in Hachioji, Japan.
What are your hopes for the 2021 Games?
That it goes ahead safely and successfully for all involved. Spectators love to watch the Olympic Games and it is certainly an event that we are all desperate to watch and enjoy in 2021. It will be a great sense of occasion and a chance to catch-up after the much-affected sporting calendar of 2020.
For climbing, my hope is that the public will be enthused by watching it and that it gives people the buzz to try climbing themselves having gained some more information about what it is all about.
We will be keen, along with our partner organisations to promote and signpost lots of opportunities to get involved in our sport. We’ve already started this, with Mountain Training taking the lead on a handy graphic on where you can go with climbing: for fun, for a coaching career, or as a competitor.
Who is climbing ideal for?
Everyone! That sounds crazy but it’s true! Young children naturally love to climb and many climbers are still going well into their 70s and beyond. You don’t need to go super high to get a lot out of climbing so don’t let the idea of heights put you off trying. Climbing benefits the body and mind and offers a lot to people such as:
- A Mental Challenge: working out the best route to climb
- An Achievement: when you make progress
- A Workout: an all-over body workout, accessible yet challenging
Along the way, teamwork, problem solving and fun with friends are fantastic rewards. You can climb inside at climbing walls or outside, with options ranging from climbing small natural boulders to large rock faces. It’s definitely a sport for all.
What do I need to get started?
You don’t need anything other than a desire to give it a try. At the moment, climbing walls are just starting to reopen (in England, they can open from July 25 with Scotland and Wales to follow) after lockdown restrictions ease.
Climbing walls have been busy preparing for reopening and a set of reopening guidelines have been produced. There are also options to climb outdoors. Once your local climbing wall or climbing coach is able to take your booking, you’re good to go. Just ensure you’re in comfortable clothing that allows freedom of movement, and you can usually hire equipment such as climbing shoes.
(Image by Patricia Novelli)
How do I find my local club?
As a great starting point for your climbing journey, join a learn to climb scheme. Our organisation (NICAS) accredits climbing centres all across the UK to run nationally recognised indoor climbing schemes that teach you the skills you need and set you up for wherever you want to go with climbing.
One piece of advice for someone dreaming of becoming an Olympian in your sport?
There is no limitation on who can climb! If you are dreaming of the Olympics, my advice is to take the first step. Visualise yourself on that podium and make that first move towards achieving your vision! "Vision without action is just a dream, action without vision just passes the time, and vision with action can change the world." (Nelson Mandela).
Our UK Olympic hopeful Shauna Coxsey was inspired at age 4 by watching the French climber Catherine Destivelle climbing on tv. She insisted she wanted to try it out and after giving it a go at a local climbing wall, the rest is history.