Janja Garnbret: "When I am on the wall nothing else matters."

The Slovenian has dominated sport climbing for the last three years and will be the woman to beat on its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020

By Rory Jiwani

Sport climber Janja Garnbret is one of the most dominant athletes on the planet right now.

The Slovenian has rewritten the record books this year, winning all six bouldering events in the World Cup to complete the first season sweep in IFSC history.

She is also vying for her fourth consecutive lead World Cup crown.

And at the IFSC Climbing World Championships in Hachioji, Japan she is strongly fancied to complete a unique hat-trick of world titles after retaining her bouldering crown before winning the lead competition.

On Tuesday (20th August) is the combined where a successful title defence would secure her place at sport climbing's Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020.

Ganbret will be 21 when Tokyo 2020 comes around, and she'll be the hot favourite for gold in a competition combining the three sport climbing disciplines - speed, bouldering and lead.

Despite her position as the undisputed number one in her sport, she remains modest about her achievements and what makes her the best in the world.

"There is no secret recipe for my success. I’m a good listener, I learn quickly, I’m focused, motivated, I always give 100% and most importantly I love what I’m doing!" - Janja Garnbret speaking to Girlifornia

Janja Garnbret on her way to victory in the bouldering IFSC World Cup event in Vail, Colorado in June (photo courtesy of IFSC)

Reaching the top

The two disciplines in which Garnbret specialises - lead and bouldering - are contests between the athlete and the wall.

And perhaps the one characteristic which marks her out as the best climber of this generation is her ability to shut out everything around her and enjoy taking on the course.

She told Girlifornia, "I climb because climbing is a moment where I fall in love with life. There are no ways to cheat because when you are on the wall you are on your own.

"It's a challenge against yourself, physical and mental, what are you capable of. And I love that feeling you get when you reach the top after so many unsuccessful attempts."

"When I am on the wall nothing else matters, I can refresh and forget about all the problems I have."

That was shown perfectly in July, when she competed in the lead semi-finals at the World Cup in Villars, France.

At the start of her ascent, Garnbret lost the chalk bag from around her waist meaning she had to attempt the test without chalk to help her grip on the plastic holds.

The 20-year-old was even smiling and shaking her head at her plight but, despite having to resort to wiping the sweat from her hands on her shorts, she was the only woman to make it to the top.

(Garnbret's ascent starts at 2:00:19; this video may not be available in your region)

Even after completing victory in Villars, Garnbret was less than happy.

On social media, she expressed her dismay that the lead route in the final was too easy.

"I have to say that I'm disappointed about the routesetting in the finals. Where are hard lead routes where you have to fight hard against the pump and not just climbing routes for the show?" - Janja Garnbret on Instagram after her lead win in Villars

For this athlete, the challenge is more important than victory.

Being the best

Garnbret spends almost the whole year climbing.

When in her homeland, she trains largely in the gym and heads north to neighbouring Austria for outdoor practice.

She takes a three-week break every December to "go to tropical places" with her boyfriend, fellow Slovenian sport climber Domen Skofic, "to rest the body and mind".

While she is best known for her success in competition, Garnbret has also achieved great things in outdoor rock climbing.

Just before turning 16, she 'onsighted' the 8b-category Avatar climb at Pandora in Croatia.

That means she conquered an elite specification climb on her first attempt with no advice on how to do so.

She trains with Skofic who, like Garnbret, scored a podium finish on home soil in Kranj to take the 2016 World Cup lead title.

Janja Garnbret and Domen Skofic celebrate their 2016 lead World Cup titles in Kranj, Slovenia (photo courtesy of IFSC/Eddie Fowke)

Skofic will also be going for gold in Tokyo.

Garnbret "really likes" yoga, cooking, reading and spending quality time with her boyfriend. But she says "climbing is my lifestyle and my hobby".

"You need to train hard and never give up even if you don’t succeed at first. I do a lot of yoga and stretching. I don’t follow a special diet, I just try to eat healthy." - Janja Garnbret talking to Girlifornia

Tokyo Calling

When the combined format for sport climbing was announced, there was a concern Garnbret's weakness in the speed discipline might dent her hopes of winning gold on the sport's Olympic debut.

She put those doubts to bed last year when the competition at the Innsbruck World Championships took on the new Olympic structure.

Six athletes went through to the combined final after their placings in the speed, bouldering and lead competitions were multiplied together.

Garnbret was fifth in the speed but won the bouldering and the lead to secure gold in comfortable fashion.

Janja Garnbret celebrates winning the 2018 combined world title in Innsbruck (courtesy of Johann Groder/EXPA Pictures)

Her strength in her two best disciplines is such that it would take a big surprise for her not to win the first women's sport climbing Olympic title.

Garnbret's biggest threat in Tokyo could be teenage sensation Chaehyeon Seo.

The Korean, who turns 16 in November, has two World Cup lead victories over Garnbret in her first year up against the seniors.

But it is the woman described by dailyclimbing.com as a "reincarnated spider monkey" who remains the one to beat.

2019 World Cup lead podium in Villars (L-R): runner-up Chaehyun Seo, winner Janja Garnbret, third-placed Ai Mori (photo courtesy of IFSC/Daniel Gajda)


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