Climber Molly Thompson-Smith tackles bouldering as part of Tokyo 2020 preparation
By Mark Ashenden
Last Updated: 08/03/19 10:34am
Do you love your job so much you'd be willing to have bleeding fingers as part of your training?
It's just everyday life for rising climbing star Molly Thompson-Smith who has to learn two new disciplines for a sport now included in the Olympics.
With the Tokyo Games just over a year away, the Sky Sports Scholar reveals all the pain and joy shes's going through trying to make it to Japan.
It's going to be a busy year for athletes dreaming of Tokyo and climbers are no exception. I've been training hard the last few months for GB selections and the start of the international season.
Climbing has a new format for the Olympics and there have been many changes in how we approach training and competition plans.
In Tokyo, we will see all three competition climbing disciplines - lead, speed and boulder, and with the majority of competition climbers being single or dual-discipline athletes, everyone has had to take on either another one or two new sports.
As a lead specialist, I have had to start training two new disciplines. It's been a challenge and all three require different physiques, training methods and structures.
Coming from an endurance background, this winter has been months of power, strength and skill training. Bouldering has a lot of parkour style, complicated moves that revolve around agility, body awareness and power - something I didn't really need when climbing a lead route!
Speed focuses on explosiveness and power. To acquire all these fundamental elements, I've added plyometric (jump training) sessions, plus more movement-based climbing on a bouldering wall.
On February 23, Team GB held its selection event for the 2019 Bouldering Season in Manchester with a top-five finish ensuring entry to this year's World Cup events.
One qualification path for Tokyo is via an event in Toulouse in November. To get to this you need to finish inside the top-20 of the overall combined World Cup rankings, and to get a combined ranking you need to enter at least two World Cups in every discipline. It will be a very busy season!
I was incredibly nervous for this selection event as it was the first time I'd competed against the top British female boulderers since I injured my finger, and it determined whether I could go to the World Cups I needed results at for Olympic qualification.
The day had two competition rounds on varying angles of wall and types of holds. In climbing competitions, we have an isolation rule which means that athletes must spend their competition time inside a room where they are unable to see other people climbing.
This means that you have to work the boulder problem out for yourself, without having any knowledge of the correct method, and under a time pressure. The scores from the two rounds were added to create a final ranking. It wasn't my best climbing day but I got my top-five spot so I got my World Cup qualification!
Last weekend, I competed at the Climbing Works International Festival - it's always the introduction to the World Cup season.
It's an international friendly but with the heat, quality of competitors and boulders of a World Cup. Last year I was on the mats volunteering due to injury, but this year I was psyched to test my shape and see if all the work I've put into my bouldering had paid off!
Despite some mistakes I qualified for the finals - something I'd always wanted but never really thought possible.
I felt battered after two rounds of climbing, and little rest between but I was still incredibly excited. It was a brutal round and I tried my hardest to dig deep but in the end it was my skin that let me down - pretty hard to climb when your finger tips are bleeding!
Despite not performing as I'd like to in the finals, I was still over the moon to be on the mats competing with World Cup finalists, winners and European champions.
I'm now more motivated than ever to work on closing those gaps and making the margins even smaller... season begins in April.
I'll be using that time to work on all the small mistakes and errors that cost me a performance I was completely satisfied with. The countdown begins...