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BBC Olympic reporter Nick Hope speaks to Shauna Coxsey about the Tokyo Games and I Am Team GB’s commitment to inspire the next generation of climbers
“The Olympics are the highlight, they create this incredible, magical buzz and it still feels totally surreal that I’m going to be a part of it!”
Even 16 months after Shauna Coxsey was officially elected to the Team GB Tokyo 2020 squad, the 28-year-old admits that she is still “incredulous” that her dream will finally come true next month.
“I started climbing when I was four and competed when I was seven, but I was always a bit sad that my sport wasn’t part of such a prestigious event,” recalls the double third place in the World Cup.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect it to happen during my professional career, but when the announcement was made (in 2016) it was a big surprise for most of my sport and to be here now, on my team GB- Jersey is insane and may never sink! ”
Britain’s most highly decorated elite climber emphasizes that while not everyone will become an Olympian, she believes the movement can be used to “overcome” traditional barriers to participation.
Because of this, Coxsey believes the “I Am Team GB” campaign will play a vital role in getting the nation back to regular physical activity after a “challenging” 16 months since the initial lockdown.
Team GB and presenting partner Toyota are celebrating a month before the Tokyo Olympics with the launch of “I Am Team GB”, which is intended to inspire people across the UK to “get up and get active” through the Festival of Sport. .
Free and fun events are held across the country on the weekend of August 14-15.
“I think it’s so important what Toyota and Team GB are doing to encourage the people of the UK to ‘get up and take action,’” she says.
“The Olympics begin that participatory process and provide easy opportunities for people to get involved, come together and try things that can become passions or hobbies.
“The UK public is absolutely great and so supportive that a campaign like this is a great way to give back and I can’t wait for people to come to the events and get involved in all sports.”
Coxsey was only three years old when she got hooked on the sport after watching a film about the death-defying rope-free achievements of French free climber Catherine Destivelle in Mali.
She was inspired and after earning her first national title at the age of nine, she competed internationally in her early teenage years.
In 2012 she won overall World Cup bronze in her preferred bouldering discipline. That proved their potential and Coxsey took the overall title in 2016 and 2017.
During that time, and in the years since climbing was officially recognized as a place in the Tokyo Olympics program, the sport has changed in the UK.
A 2016 survey by Sport England found that weekly climbing participation numbers are similar to football, and before the first lockdown last year, indoor climbing center usage is said to have increased by around 20% annually.
“It has grown to a point I never expected in my entire life,” says Coxsey.
“When I started it was a really small sport and I spent all of my time explaining what ‘climbing’ actually meant, now that has totally changed. The recording was amazing and the more it grows the more excited I get!
“To see more climbing walls open is incredible and there is also a really big boost to more inclusivity and accessibility around climbing, which is great to see.
“This is a sport for everyone and it is amazing that I have women and girls who feel that they can achieve as much as everyone else and nothing stands in their way.”
The Sheffield climber is keen to increase participation in all climbing disciplines in the years to come and has recently revealed her own ambitions beyond competitive climbing.
Earlier this month, she announced that Tokyo would be her first and last Olympics as she would like to experience other aspects of the sport – like climbing.
“Climbing in the Olympics is a three-discipline sport and I was only a specialist in one discipline, so it took an incredible amount of dedication and dedication to transition,” she said.
“It was difficult and I had a lot of minor injuries along the way, but I don’t regret it for a minute and I’m proud of everything I’ve achieved in my career.
“Although Paris (2024) is not far away, I don’t think I’ll ever get a bigger event to close and while it was a tough decision, it feels like the time is right.”
And what about a golden goodbye to competitive climbing?
“The idea of winning a medal is really nice, but it was never the focus, it was always about performance,” she says.
“It was a great honor and privilege to be a part of this monumental time for the sport, and if by attending the Olympics I can inspire a few people out there to try the sport, I am incredibly proud.”
Nick Hope – @NickHopeTV
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