She overcame painful injuries and constant failures to become GB’s first Olympic climber.
So pregnant is not surprising Shauna Coxsey MBE has installed a mini climbing wall in its house to inspire the next generation of climbers.
Six months from Tokyo – and retirement from competitive climbing – Shauna is preparing for her next challenge: motherhood.
The 28-year-old, who is five months pregnant, says: “At first I thought I had post-Olympic blues because I was so exhausted, but maybe I was just pregnant!
“I go to bed every night and it’s like a dance marathon with all the punches. We are really excited.
“My husband even built a climbing wall for our child in our attic. I don’t think they’ll have a choice about dragging them around to go climbing. “
Next week, Apple and Amazon Prime will release the feature film The Wall: Climb For Gold.
It showcases Shauna’s emotional two-year preparation for the postponed Tokyo Olympics, along with three other elite climbers from around the world.
There are also cute shots of athletes training as children.
Cheshire-born Shauna is an 11-time gold medalist and Britain’s most successful competitive climber.
The documentary reveals her ups and downs, including coping with back pain and surgery during constipation.
During training, just days before the Olympics, Shauna scraped a piece of cartilage in her knee called the meniscus.
“It probably should have meant I wasn’t at the games,” he says.
“If I had made it to the finals, I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to compete that day because my body just couldn’t keep going. Coming in tenth place was really unexpected and great. “
Shauna initially had concerns about participating in the Olympics.
It specializes in bouldering, but the games require participants to compete in three very different categories – boulder, speed, and leadership. But failure was never an option when Shauna decided to continue.
“I dedicated myself to the Olympic trip and it was such an epic battle on so many different fronts,” he says.
‘There was a point when Leah, my coach, turned around and said,‘ You don’t have to do this, you know, ’and I said,‘ No, I have to. It’s not for anyone but me. I have to finish this’.
“It simply came to our notice then.
“I think the injuries are worth more because you suffered to get there, which must sound weird. That means a lot more because of what you’ve been through and that’s something I’m still working on.
“Everyone said, ‘Oh, you’re going to bring a medal,’ and I said, ‘No, I’m just trying to get off the ground … you have no idea!'”
Shauna is one of four women in the world who has ever climbed a bouldering route with a grade of 8B + – the third most difficult grade of all.
She is the most successful British competitive climber of all time.
And in 2016, as an MBE recipient, she was inducted into the Queen’s Birthday List – the same weekend she won the IFSC Boulder World Cup title. But Tokyo was not just the turning point in her career.
After making her way all the way to the semifinals, she also marked Shauna’s withdrawal from competitive climbing.
“It’s hard to explain to people, but I’ve never felt a failure at the Olympics,” he says.
“I was so happy to be able to do any of this. I am happy to have had this experience. With all the world titles, I achieved everything I wanted, but I decided whether to try for Paris or not [the 2024 Olympics] it was incredibly difficult. I had a really severe back injury and there was also this desire to focus on climbing – which still exists – and the desire to start a family.
“At the time, the decision to retire was certainly a difficult one. I am only now pregnant and I am expecting, because climbing is on the horizon, it is a decision that makes me feel more comfortable. ”
Shauna, who set a British speed climbing record of 9,141 seconds at the 2019 World Championships, describes qualifying for that year’s Olympics as “the most unexpected moment of my life”.
He explains: “In Japan, I got the flu and I was really sick. Getting to this event seemed so crazy, so it was actually just crazy to qualify. ”And in March 2020, the same day Shauna heard that Covid was postponing the Tokyo Olympics, she also learned that her wedding to her 10-year-old partner – climbing champion Ned Feehally – postponed.
Shauna, however, took matters into her own hands. He says: “Ned was actually relieved because he hates public events.
“And I’m one of those places where, if I can’t change anything in my situation, I just direct my energy to where I’m actually going to make a difference.
“The hardest thing was that until then, my diary was planned for every minute. I knew how much I would sleep, when I would eat and train. Suddenly, that schedule disappeared. “
When sports centers closed their doors around the world, training was limited to Shaun and Ned’s home in Sheffield, where Ned, amazingly, had just finished building two climbing walls. During the closure, Shauna also had knee and wrist surgery to improve the injuries she suffered after years of climbing.
Looking back on her career, she says her favorite moment was winning her first gold world title at the IFSC Bouldering Climbing World Cup in Switzerland in 2014.
Shauna says, “Before that, everyone called me a bridesmaid because I’ve been on the podium a few times already, but I’ve never won gold. It was pretty surrealistic to finally take that step and win. That first one was so magical and such a great thing. “
She now embraces the less orderly life of a former Olympian – and enjoys indoor climbing to stay active during pregnancy.
Shauna admits, “As an athlete, I know my body very well and feel good on the wall, even though I’m not used to having a baby inside me.
“I’m more likely to stumble on the street! I listen to my body, but I try as hard as I can to keep climbing. ”
Shauna first took up the sport at the age of four after being encouraged to do so by her father Mike, who always supported him.
The year before, she had watched a television program about French free climber Catherine Destivelle, who she says “changed her life”.
Shauna hopes the new documentary will inspire others to start climbing – or find a sport that inspires their passion.
He adds: “So many people have watched the Olympics and will now see this documentary. I just hope it gets some of them into climbing because it’s so accessible today. Finding something you love is so magical. “
The Wall: Climb for Gold will be released in digital form via Apple and Amazon Prime on January 18th.