Sport climbing becomes newest Olympic sport, Aussie teen Oceana Mackenzie set to compete

Most Melburnians had to make some compromises to their workout routines during the long, dark lockdown of 2020.

For Oceana Mackenzie, the answer to her problems was an unusual one: building an indoor climbing wall in the garage with the help of her dad.

“During the COVID [lockdown]I was doing two or three [training] sessions a day, “she says.

“It was pretty hard and a lot of days were not fun, but we got through it.”

Luckily for her, the struggle paid off. In December last year, she earned a spot in the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The 19-year-old will make history at the Tokyo Games as the first female athlete to represent Australia in one of the newest Olympic events: sport climbing.

“I’m feeling super excited. It’s been a while since I’ve done an international competition so I’m just keen to get on the wall,” Oceana told ABC Radio Sydney.

How it all began

Oceana’s interest in sport climbing began at the age of eight, when she would join her mother and sisters at a local climbing gym in Melbourne.

Oceana Mackenzie says she enjoys the problem-solving aspect of sport climbing. (Instagram: @oceana_climbing)

She spent her time after school playing on the smaller walls in the gym and quickly fell in love with the sport.

“I’m an introvert, so climbing is really great for me,” she says.

“We have to see the climbs and figure out how to get them up – it’s almost like working out a puzzle.”

Years later, she joined the local squad and began entering competitions.

Oceana Mackenzie says it was difficult to train during Melbourne’s lockdown in 2020. (Instagram: @oceana_climbing)

In 2017, she was awarded an Olympic Scholarship – which aims to help athletes in sports that aren’t well funded to qualify for the Tokyo Games by relieving some of their financial burden.

But it wasn’t until the 2019 Bouldering World Cup in Switzerland that she truly realized she had Olympic potential.

After finishing in sixth place, Oceana became only the second Australian female climber to make finals.

“I knew that I could compete pretty well, but then when I made finals and came top six, it was a bit more motivation,” she says.

Olympics’ newest sport

Sport climbing will make its debut at the Tokyo Games this month. (Reuters: Jeffrey Swinger / USA TODAY Sports)

Sport climbing is among six new sports at the Tokyo Games, including skateboarding, karate, surfing, baseball and softball.

It features three combined disciplines – speed climbing, lead climbing and bouldering.

This year’s Olympics will see 20 men and 20 women competing in the event, with gold medals awarded to those who perform best in all three disciplines.

  • Speed ​​climbing: This involves two athletes competing to climb a route on a 15-meter high wall. The aim is to be the fastest to reach the top of the wall. According to the Tokyo Organizing Committee, winning times for men’s events tend to be around five to six seconds, while women’s events are usually won in around seven or eight seconds.
  • Bouldering: Athletes scale as many fixed routes as they can on a 4-meter-high wall in a specified time. The routes are called “boulder problems” and can be quite challenging. Whoever solves the most problems in the lowest number of attempts wins.
  • Lead climbing: Athletes try to climb as high as they can on a wall over 15 meters high within six minutes. If climbers reach exactly the same height, the fastest is declared the winner.

For Oceana, while bringing home a gold medal would be ideal, she’s trying not to think about where she’ll place in the competition.

“It’s been hard to know where I’m at compared to everyone else because I haven’t been able to compete,” she says.

“I’ve been training pretty hard and I’ll just try my best.”

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