26th Jun, 2022

Climbing the walls! Reporter visits Coventry's Sports and Wellness Hub ahead of Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Ashleigh Osborne 23rd Jul, 2021 Updated: 23rd Jul, 2021

WITH the Tokyo 2020 Olympics finally starting today after being delayed for a year, there’s never been more excitement around the summer games.

There’s a number of new sports added to the mix for the very first time – including climbing.

Yesterday, I was invited to the Sports and Wellness Hub, in Coventry, for a one-on-one session with the climbing team to try all three climbing disciplines (speed, lead and bouldering) and for a special tour of the facilities ahead of the Olympics.

To say I was nervous is an understatement, I’ve never been climbing before and I’m terrified of heights, but I received a warm welcome from climbing manager Alan Jephcott.

Alan started his tour by telling me some information about the centre.

“The Sports and Wellness Hub is home to one of the country’s best climbing centres, and is the only one in England to offer an International Federation of Sport Climbing approved speed climbing wall, alongside bouldering and lead climbing spaces.

“The centre has been used on many occasions for team GB athletes as well, in preparation for the games.”

The centre boasts 706 sqm of climbable surface, up to 15m high, 144 wall routes, a large 296 sqm bouldering area, two 15 metre speed walls and auto-belays so you can clip on and climb.

I started off on the 15 metre climbing wall, climbers of all levels are able to reach the top.

The routes are ranging from Grade 3 to 8a.

With Alan’s guidance I was able to climb all the way to the top of the wall on my second attempt.

Although initially scared, I was able to have fun, and managed to climb up another route further along the wall.

Alan then introduced me to Ciara O’Leary, the fastest female speed climber at the centre.

She demonstrated her climbing skill by scaling the speed climbing wall in 15 seconds in the video below.

After climbing down, Ciara looked exhilarated.

Smiling she said: “I like the fitness aspect and feeling like I’m in shape, but mostly I like it because you do it with your friends.

“Everyone wants everyone to do well, even if it’s a route that I want to do, I still want my friends to do well.

“And I’m really looking forward to the Olympics, it’s so cool as Shauna is training at the centre.”

Ciara is talking about Team GB’s first Olympic climber Shauna Coxsey, who has been preparing for the games at the Sports and Wellness Hub.

It shows how well equipped the centre is, and how popular it is becoming.

Next was my turn to try bouldering.

Bouldering is a great way to improve your balance, co-ordination and flexibility.

The centre has 296 sqm of bouldering area for all abilities with beginner routes through to climbing pros.

You can climb up to five metres high without ropes and crash mats cover the floor for protection.

Bouldering felt a lot more my type of sport, with minimal height and more problem solving involved.

But it was a lot harder than I anticipated due to the overhang, which required strength I didn’t have to reach the top.

Once again Alan was amazing with his guidance, telling me where to put my hands and feet and was full of praise when I finished.

He said: “Climbing gives people an opportunity to trust, grow confidence and build courage.

“It’s physical, intellectual, emotional and social.

“It’s one of the truest sports as in you’re not competing with anyone other than yourself and the problem that’s presented to you.”

I had a great day at the centre, it’s amazing the facilities that’s available and and I will definitely be watching the climbing events feature at Tokyo 2020.

Visit https://warwick.ac.uk/services/sport/active/climbing/#home for more information.

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