Monday, 25 February 2013

Shauna Coxsey: the interview


Back in 2011 I was asked to interview two rising stars in the British rock climbing scene for the BMC's Psyched! magazine - which focused on Team GB's competition news. Unfortunately, this issue was never published. I got in touch with the editor a few weeks ago to find out what was going on and, with no publication date in sight, as well as the interviews becoming dated, I asked whether I could publish them here, on my blog. This is the first of those interviews, written in November 2011.

Shauna Coxsey: the interview

Credit: Alex Messenger

The phrase natural talent is thrown around like confetti when it comes to describing anyone performing at the cutting edge in sport. And the world of rock climbing is no exception. But it is a phrase that applies to 18-year-old Shauna Coxsey more than most.

Shauna’s successes this year have included a near podium finish at the Bouldering World Cup in Munich, Germany, and a successful ascent of the hardest boulder problem ever by a woman in the UK. No mean feat. And considering she hardly trained for a year ahead of the World Cup and was in the middle of exams when she pushed UK female bouldering standards to a new level, the only possible explanation can be an abundance of natural talent.

Providing the finger injuries that have plagued Shauna’s 2011 don’t continue into the new year, her ambition and motivation to compete and climb outside seem boundless. Here, she gives us an insight into her successes and plans for the future.

How long have you been rock climbing? What got you started?
I started climbing at the age of four. When I was three years old I saw a French free climber named Catherine Destivelle on the TV and my first reaction was to turn to my Dad and ask if I could do it. A few months later we went into The North West Face in Warrington. However, they told me I was too small, but I kept going back to tell them I had grown. My persistence was successful and I have been climbing since then.

Can you remember your first climbing competition? Where was it and how did it go? 
My first competition was at my local climbing centre when I was only seven, so memories are quite faint. However, I do remember being really scared and not really knowing what was going on. I came 3rd (I think there might have only been 3 in my category). This competition contributed to my qualification in the national finals for that year, which was possibly the most daunting experience I have ever had.
Credit: Heiko Wilhelm
Why competitions? What motivates you to take part?
I have a drive to achieve and I like to better myself. I guess this is where my motivation comes from. I don’t do it for anyone else. I have always had the support of my family, allowing me to put the time into training and get me to competitions even when this meant missing birthdays and other events.

You've had a very successful year: coming 1st in both the BBC's and BLCC's and coming just shy of the podium at the Munich Bouldering World Cup. First of all, how do you feel about your performances? And what do you put your success down to?
I have been asked how I feel about these performances on multiple occasions and my answer is always the same: I am extremely surprised and quite shocked! This year was my final year of college so I made the decision to lay off the training and focus on exams. I then suffered from multiple finger injuries when I attempted to train again in summer, so rest both by choice and then forced by injury has taken practically all of my year. I therefore had no expectations on myself and just had fun.

What are your plans for future competitions? Do you have your sights set on next year's World Championships? Any goals?
I am really excited to compete in as many comps as I can get to next year. Unfortunately, lack of sponsorship/funds means that it is not possible for me to complete a full series of World Cups. My goals are always to better what I have already done and I definitely feel that this is possible. I am psyched more than ever for climbing both indoors and out. I really want to push myself (as soon as the finger injuries are out the way)! I am a competitor; my goal is to be the best! Hopefully I will be able to make it to all the competitions in years to come.

Obviously, there is a lot of discussion around sport climbing's inclusion in the Olympics. Is this something you'd like to compete in? What do you think the World's biggest sporting event would do for rock climbing?
Who doesn’t want to compete in the Olympics? It would be such an amazing experience and it would be an honor to have the opportunity to do so. I hope that the inclusion of climbing in the Olympics will push standards and also improve the funding available for talented climbers.
Credit: Heiko Wilhelm
Not only has 2011 been a successful competition year but you also achieved the feat of hardest boulder problem climbed by a woman in the UK. First of all, can you tell us a bit about the problem? How did you feel after you sent it? Did you have a sense of pushing boundaries at the time?
Pilgrim (V12) links parts of three problems at Parisella’s Cave, [near Llandudno, Wales] – an almost local climbing area. Starting off the Left Wall Traverse (V8) then in to a reverse of the crux section of Cave Life (V9) to the starting holds of Rock Atrocity (V9). I was at the cave one day and asked a friend what to try he suggested Pilgrim. I asked the grade and laughed. I decided to have a play on it anyway, and to my surprise the moves seemed okay, but then I didn’t return to the cave for a few months. It was during my exam period that I did Pilgrim, whilst on exam leave from college. I used trips to the cave as a break from revision. I did not feel as if I had pushed the boundaries as I didn’t have much time to think about it, I had an exams coming up.

Overall, outside or in, what has been your highlight from 2011, in terms of rock climbing?
I think my highlight would have to be placing 4th at the Bouldering World Cup in Munich, mainly because it came as a total surprise and has got me so so psyched! Competing in a World Cup final was such an exhilarating experience and I can’t wait to be there again.

With the winter season here, do you have any projects on the go? Any trips planned?
A trip to the beautiful forest of Fontainebleau in November. I have no projects there or in the UK really. I just want to climb!

Shauna is sponsored by 5.10.