Shauna Coxsey is relishing the challenge of scaling new heights in her sport despite being initially unconvinced by the decision to add climbing to the Olympic programme, writes Andy Baber.
Sport climbing will make its Olympic debut next year at Tokyo 2020 and will feature a combination of three different disciplines: speed climbing, bouldering and lead climbing.
Having made her name in bouldering, the introduction of climbing to the world’s biggest sporting event forced Coxsey to quickly adapt to and master two more variations of her sport.
And while the 26-year-old from Runcorn admits she was not on board with the concept at first, she has since embraced the opportunity to push herself to the limits like never before.
“My initial reaction to climbing being included was actually negative because our sport was combined from three disciplines into sport climbing,” she said.
“It’s very new and that didn’t exist before the Games, no one competed across all three disciplines, so that seemed like a shame initially. The reality is we had one medal to showcase our sport.
“The combined format really will do that and I think the best decision was made. I had achieved all the goals I set myself in bouldering so to now be taking on the two new disciplines is really cool.
“It’s a really different demand on the body and on the mind, so it’s been a challenge but I’m loving it - and I never thought I would say that I love speed climbing but I really do.
“It’s definitely not easy but it is a lot of fun and I’m someone who thrives of having a challenge, I like having goals and I like setting goals - I’ve achieved every one I’ve set myself so far.
“I’m not looking to stop ticking them off any time soon so it’s not easy but it’s been a lot of fun and the challenge element is what pushes me and what motivates me.”
A two-time Bouldering World Cup winner in 2016 and 2017, Coxsey concedes it has been tough to learn to new disciplines while remaining at the elite table in her signature event.
But with just one year to go until Tokyo 2020 kicks off, she is counting down the days until climbing makes its grand Olympic entrance as she bids to secure her place on the Team GB plane.
“I can’t believe it’s a year to go, it’s come around really quickly and we’re in the middle of selections now so I’ve had my head down and working really hard training and competing,” she said.
“Our sport was already growing in popularity and there was a lot of hype around it but now it’s part of the Olympics that has snowballed and grown even faster and faster.
“The more attention our sport gets the better in my opinion and it’s going to be an incredibly exciting time for our sport, so hopefully more people try the sport and find their passion.”
As well as the chance to showcase her sport on a global stage, Coxsey is also excited about being part of the Olympics due to its ability to bring the nation together in a collective celebration.
“It is going to be an historic occasion in Tokyo,” she said. “Growing up I watched the Olympics but I never dreamed of being there because I didn’t think it would be part of it in my professional career.
“It is unifying for our country and I think the Olympics transcends boundaries, it transcends countries, it’s such a global community and I really do love that about the Games.
“My family is a huge sport family and they really love watching sport. They are incredibly supportive and to think they could support me at the Games is almost more exciting than me being there.”