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Social CLIMBER; THE RISE AND RISE OF OLYMPIAN SHAUNA COXSEY Climbing.

Byline: RACHEL STEINBERG

IN AN alternate universe, Shauna Coxsey might have worked for the Royal Mail or found her vocation as a train conductor.

Thankfully, the three-year-old was not watching Postman Pat or Thomas the Tank Engine on the day her life changed forever.

Instead, she watched a show about free climber Catherine Destivelle. Something about the Frenchwoman, swinging with purpose off the side of the Mali cliff like the pendulum in a grandfather clock, transfixed the toddler.

She turned to her father and asked: "Daddy, can I do that?"

Her dad, Mike, could not think of any convincing objections, so he said yes.

"I just was obsessed with [climbing] from day one," recalled Coxsey, now 28. "I started going to a kids' open group.

"I'm not sure if I was any good when I started out! Maybe a few people said I was, but I think they were just being kind."

Coxsey started competing at the age of seven and was, she said, "super nervous". She added: "As time went on, I just got more obsessed with the sport, more and more fascinated." The ribbons attached to Shauna Coxsey's first medals were so long they dwarfed her tiny torso.

"I remember saying to my dad, 'I want to be world number one, and I want to be the best in the world at climbing," said Coxsey, who is one of over 1,000 athletes to benefit from

National Lottery funding.

"My dad was like, 'Perfect. Cool. I have no idea how we'll do that but we'll figure it out.'

So, Mike began to drive her to competition after competition and climb after climb.

Coxsey ascended Switzerland's New Base Line in 2014, becoming just the third woman in the world to complete a V14 climb - an elite grade challenge among the most difficult in the world. She placed second at the Bouldering World Cup that same year.

"I think my fascination is mainly with the movement side of the sport," said Coxsey.

"So, what is possible, and what your body is capable of on the wall.

"There's just endless potential to explore within our sport. Climbing is a term for so many different facets that exist, whether it is bouldering, lead climbing or speed climbing.

"But then we have all the different disciplines outdoors, and many ways to explore it indoors.

"We also have so many different categories of para-climbing as well, which we hope to be in the Paralympics in the future."

Coxsey has stood on 30 World Cup podiums and won 11 gold medals, sweeping back-to-back overall World Cup titles in 2016 and 2017.

She sits on the executive board for the International Federation of Sport Climbing and founded the Women's Climbing Symposium in 2010.

Becoming an Olympian was not something even on Coxsey's radar until 2016, when sport climbing was announced as one of four sports making an Olympic debut in Tokyo.

"It's indescribable," said Coxsey, the sport's lone British entrant in the climbing, which starts next week. "It's such a huge honour to be part of Team GB. Young people could look at this be inspired to be part of the Games, be inspired to be a climber, it's incredibly magical.

"My sport really deserves to be on that stage so I just can't wait for people to see it."

In June, Coxsey announced to her 422,000 Instagram followers she would retire after the Games - the same week she wed fellow climber Ned Feehally, with whom she shares a climbing wall scaling the height of their home.

"The wall will remain," Coxsey insisted, who said National Lottery support of GB's athletes has been vital throughout her career. "Climbing is going to be a big part of our lives forever. It's a lifetime sport."

There is just one final wall to climb.

| No-one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise around PS36 million each week for good causes including grassroots and elite sport. Visit www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk to learn more.

I'm not sure if I was any good when I started! A few people said I was, but I think they were being kind.

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Climber Shauna Coxsey, from Runcorn
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Author:RACHEL STEINBERG
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 31, 2021
Words:697
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