Janja Garnbret: Olympic hope on her Tokyo dream and hopes for climbing in the future

As a child growing up in Slovenia, she was seen regularly running in the trees or climbing the door frames of her house, but it was on the climbing wall where she felt most comfortable and where her talent ultimately ended. shines.

She came last in her class at her first competition as a child, but says she loved the sport too much to care at this point.

“People always ask me if I’ve ever compared myself to other kids, in fact I haven’t,” Garnbret, who recently climbed Europe’s tallest chimney, told CNN Sport.

“I was just having fun on the wall and just climbing, trying to push my limits. I never thought to myself that I’m better than everyone else. I just enjoyed climbing.”

After a few years of practice and hard work, Garnbret quickly established herself as one of the best climbers in her country.

Her world-class abilities then became evident as she took part in international competitions and began to win them regularly.

She has won several World Cup events and has her eyes set on the postponed Tokyo Games set to finally take place this summer, which will see sport climbing make its Olympic debut.

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Slovenian Janja Garnbret has said she looks forward to making her Olympic debut in Tokyo.

“I learned a lot about myself”

The 22-year-old says the initial postponement gave her more time to work on her weaknesses, but admitted the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic was difficult to understand.

She was fortunate enough to have a rock climbing wall at home, which she used to keep in good repair while her country was locked down, but she was tested in a way that she did not know. ‘was not waiting.

“I could train but for me it was difficult because I was always the motivated person. I always had small goals and of course big goals and I never had fluctuations in motivation, ”she says.

“I’ve always been motivated but now it happened that I was motivated some days for training, others not because every competition was postponed. I didn’t know myself like that.

“It was just something different and I learned a lot about myself, but I got used to it pretty quickly.”

Organizers continue to insist that the Games will be held this year, but there is still an element of doubt that the pandemic could derail plans again.

Garnbret is trying to stay positive and is optimistic she will make her Olympic debut in 2021, despite the situation that seems to change every week.

“I think Covid last year was just, of course, something new for us and we didn’t know what to expect, how to deal with it,” she adds.

“But we arrived prepared this year with all the safety precautions and everything. It’s still not 100 percent, I understand that fully, but I will do my best and I will continue to prepare for the Olympics. “

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Drive four hours a day

While sport climbing makes its debut at this year’s Olympics, competition will take place in three disciplines, each with their own techniques and format.

The bouldering involves traveling as many fixed routes as possible in four minutes on a four-meter-high wall without safety ropes. Lead climbing requires athletes to climb as high as possible on a wall over 15 meters in six minutes using safety ropes, without a lift. Speed ​​climbing has two climbers ascending a parallel route at the same time on a 15 meter wall set at 95 degrees – sometimes in less than 8 seconds. The combined results will determine the medalists.

Garnbret says speed climbing is by far his weakest discipline, but has put in place a comprehensive training program to improve every aspect of his performance.

She trains six days a week, dividing her time between indoor work, speed climbing and her usual wall training. Due to the lack of centralized facilities in Slovenia, Garnbret often drives up to four hours a day to attend all of his sessions.

It’s a diet that takes determination, passion and a tireless work ethic, but winning a gold medal would be worth it.

“I really know that every girl will benefit from this extra year,” she says. “I know every girl’s eyes are set on gold.”

“I can’t say I’ll win the gold because I know everyone will be 100% prepared for it.

“I’ll definitely continue to train and be prepared as much as possible when the time comes and then we’ll see what happens. But, definitely, I’m looking forward to it.”

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Garnbret says the global pandemic first hit his motivation.

Promote healthy climbing

While other athletes will be supported by wealthy sponsors and a team of sports scientists at this year’s Olympics, Garnbret knows rock climbing isn’t quite at that level.

The Slovenian hopes the opportunity to compete in front of a global audience will help change that.

“I think it will be really good for rock climbing because rock climbing is still a young sport. It’s super young,” she said.

“So it’s definitely a huge playing field for everyone, for the sponsors, for some non-endemic sponsors who haven’t entered our sport yet. It’s definitely something huge.”

Because of her success, Garnbret is already a role model for young climbers around the world, and she hopes to lead the charge for better facilities in her own country.

She also wants to reinforce a healthy image of sport, which she believes is more important than anything.

Garnbret says the demands of rock climbing have led young people, especially girls, to try to get lighter. This has, she says, sometimes led people to develop eating disorders in an attempt to achieve better results.

Now she wants to use her platform to show the next generation of climbers that maintaining a healthy lifestyle can translate into success.

“I just want to set a good example in that you don’t have to lose extra weight to be successful,” she says.

“I really feel responsible for our sport. I just want to portray rock climbing as a fun sport, that it’s always fun, you just have to climb and have fun.”

She continues: “I remember I fell in love […] the first time I tried to climb because it was so light, and it was just me and the wall. I remember I was the only kid left on the wall who didn’t want to go out. “

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