As climbing has been confirmed as an Olympic sport, people all over the world are rising to the challenge. Hannah Slaney, 17 is a hopeful contender for competing at the 2020 games.
It’s 7am and like any normal teenager, Hannah Slaney will be considering rolling out of bed, deciding what to have for breakfast. However, this is her 16th weekend she will have spent away from Bristol competing. Since the age of eight, Slaney has been passionate about Climbing. Training over 20 hours a week, she has competed in some of the most prestigious international competitions. With Climbing becoming the newest member to the team of Olympic sports, she now has the chance to compete for her ultimate goal, which is Gold in the 2020 Tokyo games.
Hannah commented, “I like how physically and mentally challenging climbing can be. When I’m climbing I guess there’s nothing else going on in my world at that moment but focusing on the moves I’m making, one move at a time until I reach the top. It’s always satisfying when you complete a boulder or a route. But if you fall off, it can be hard not to get frustrated or demotivated. You just step back and think about what went wrong and try again! I think climbing has taught me a lot of life lessons.”
Skateboarding, karate, surfing and baseball/softball round out the selection of five sports added to the next Olympic games. These sports have been chosen to fit the theme of ‘youth’ at the games. IOC president Thomas Bach wrote, “ The five sports are an innovative combination of established and emerging, youth-focused events that are popular in Japan and will add to the legacy of the Tokyo Games”.
Previous to the confirmation on the 3rd of August 2016 there have been mixed opinions surrounding the decision to include Climbing as an Olympic sport. The main concern is that the development into an Olympic sport moves it away from the traditional sense of climbing to explore the rock and test your personal ability.
Others are also concerned as to how these future Olympians will be adjudicated throughout the competition.
Slaney climbs for both the GB bouldering and lead climbing teams. Her biggest achievement to date was last year when she placed 1st nationally in the Junior British lead climbing championships. If anyone is behind climbing becoming an Olympic sport, it is this determined young lady.
Slaney reported, “Since the announcement of the sports inclusion things are starting to change within competitions. I can only imagine this is in response to the Olympic guidelines which will be preparing the athletes for the 2020 games.”
“It’s a possibility I could be competing in the Olympics and I’m really going to try but again, as athletes we are restricted with only 20 men and 20 women being picked worldwide.” She continues.
Bouldering consists of planning and climbing short problems within a short period of time. Without a rope, climbers use footholds to ascend the wall with safety mats below. The score is determined on how many problems you climb to the top of.
Whereas, lead climbing involves competitors attempting to climb a long route from bottom to top, clipping in pre-placed quick draws with a rope as they go. The climber’s performance is determined by the highest hold that is reached on the route.
Slaney said, “The rule of competing in all three disciplines has really challenged athletes and restricted many of those who only compete in one or two. It doesn’t help that there is only two speed climbing walls in the whole of the UK restricting our training.”
Speed climbing is all about ascending the wall as fast as possible with a rope. There is a standard speed wall, so wherever you go to compete in speed around the world, the route will be exactly the same in respects to the same holds and height.
“I’ve built my life around the sport. It used to bother me when I couldn’t hang out with my friends or I’d be missing school but not so much anymore. I have friends on the team and get to travel the world most weekends.”
Alongside the hard work of the IFSC in a bid to push for climbing to be included in the 2020 Olympics, the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) were also a significant support mechanism during the final push. The BMC is a representative body for England and Wales, which was created with the purpose of protecting the hill walkers, climbers and mountaineers of the two nations. The organisation was also behind the world’s first competitive climbing event, the World Cup series that took place in 1989, Leeds.
The International Federation of Sport Climbing was founded in 2006 and accepted as a new member of the General association of International Sports Federation. Since then, the sport has grown worldwide and competitions happen all over the world with the participation of over 75 different countries.
The most popular events include the World and Youth Championships, which Slaney has been competing in since the age of 13.
Philip Watson, a former member of the BMC, has been climbing since 1976. The 58-year-old discusses how traditional climbing has developed over the years and argues it should be classed as separate from lead climbing and bouldering.
He said, “Since a young age I have practised trad climbing, which was well before any indoor climbing centres were built. I would argue that recently, these two types of climbing have grown apart. The older generation know no different from traditional climbing whereas the younger generation don’t seem fussed about traditional climbing at all.”
Traditional climbing also known, as ‘trad’ is practised outside with the rock itself and unlike indoor routes, traditional routes have no bolts. The lead climber instead uses protection as they ascend the rock face, clipping in to the rope using a quick draw. This type of climbing is more dangerous and placing protection properly can be time consuming testing both strength and stamina.
Watson, who served for over 33 years in the Royal Marines band service, retired as a Major and progressed to achieve his Mountain Leader Award. The award encompasses learning a great deal about his hobbies including mountaineering and climbing which he then teaches to individuals of all ages. Watson uses his award to help promote the great outdoors whilst introducing people to the different locations and gradients.
He said, “I think it was and is still for me about getting out there and being at one with the rock. Exploring what the rock has to offer and advancing our own ability.”
“After 3-4 years of indoor climbing, I can only imagine youngsters would become more or less bored of the sport if they weren’t to venture outside to traditional climbing. Even though I would have thought after indoor climbing, your future goal would be to move outdoors. Since the sports inclusion in the Olympics it is promoting indoor climbing which may put traditional climbing at risk.”
“I don’t disagree with the sports inclusion – hopefully it’ll encourage youngsters and raise awareness of the sport.”
Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori said, “The inclusion of the package of new sports will afford young athletes the chance of a lifetime to realise their dreams of competing in the Olympic Games – the world's greatest sporting stage – and inspire them to achieve their best, both in sport and in life.”
Slaney finished by saying “I think the Olympics would be good for both athletes and the public. There has been an increase in centres all over the country which provides us, the athletes with more newly improved spaces to practise whilst raising awareness for the public who may be encouraged to try the sport.”