It is hardly how you would expect a bride to spend their wedding morning. Far from the usual ritual of having hair and makeup styled, sipping champagne and posing for pictures, Shauna Coxsey prepared for her nuptials earlier this summer by doing what she does best.
‘I was just dangling away,’ grins the Team GB climber, explaining the hour-long finger-strength training session she completed in the basement of their house before going off to get married.
‘I didn’t realise how bizarre people would find that but my other half and I are both pretty chilled and there was a session we both wanted to do. So I did the training session, put a bit of mascara on and walked to the local park where we got married!’
Team GB climber Shauna Coxsey qualified for the Olympics way back in August 2019
It was actually Coxsey’s sixth attempt at marrying Ned Feehally, who is also a professional climber and former British champion. Their original wedding date was scheduled for March 2020, just two days after the first national lockdown was imposed.
‘We always planned on having two weddings – a legal wedding in the city and then a big wedding in the Peak District,’ says Coxsey. ‘The legal wedding got cancelled five times because of lockdowns.
‘This time, I didn’t organise anything until a week before because I didn’t know if it was going to happen. I flew back a little early from competing and training in the United States so I could quarantine and be out in time for this wedding and it finally happened.
She was officially confirmed as Team GB’s first ever Olympic climber in February 2020
‘We had 30 guests and they all came back to our garden afterwards and were gone by about 9 o’clock. It was very civilised and very chilled out. Now we can look forward to our big wedding in September.’
Of course, Coxsey’s wedding is not the only postponed event she has to look forward to, with sport climbing making its Olympic debut in Tokyo.
The 28-year-old actually qualified way back in August 2019 when she won a bronze medal in the combined climbing event at the World Championships.
She was then officially confirmed as Team GB’s first ever Olympic climber in February 2020, but, with the Games delayed by a year the following month, she spent the next few weeks back in that basement.
‘We have got a gym down there and climbing walls,’ explains Coxsey.
‘The walls are super steep – they are 56 degrees overhanging – and are designed for training strength and power. We also have a Beastmaker, which is a wooden finger-strength training device. We actually put it in before lockdown but when lockdown hit I thought, “Wow, this is very fortunate”.’
As well as keeping her in shape for the Olympics, Coxsey’s training wall helped alleviate boredom in her Sheffield home, which is without a television.
‘We have never had a TV,’ she says. ‘We have been together for about 10 years and it’s not something that I’ve ever felt I’ve needed. That said, I love going on a plane and I’m like, “Yes, I can watch a film!”.’
Ironically, it was actually television that got Coxsey into climbing at the age of three, when she watched a documentary on the Adventure Channel about legendary French free climber Catherine Destivelle.
Coxsey’s training wall helped alleviate boredom in her Sheffield home, which is without a TV
She never expected to compete on an Olympic stage but her life instantly changed when her sport become one of five new additions for Tokyo 2020 – along with surfing, skateboarding, karate and baseball/softball.
‘It has been incredible, the journey for the sport is just insane,’ she says. ‘I didn’t expect climbing to become an Olympic sport during my professional career and then to receive National Lottery funding was a surprise. The sport is now growing at an exponential rate.’
At Tokyo, climbing’s three disciplines of speed, lead and boulder have been combined into one medal, something which has already been changed for Paris 2024 when speed has been separated from lead and boulder.
‘It is going to be so exciting to watch,’ says Coxsey. ‘Speed climbing is an incredible display of explosive power and it is going to be the new fastest sport in the Games. The current world record is 5.2 seconds.
‘Bouldering is about power, flexibility, problem solving. You don’t know what’s coming. Lead climbing is much more fitness based. You are fighting against forearm burn and gravity.’
Coxsey, whose strongest discipline is bouldering, heads to Tokyo with doubts over her fitness
Coxsey, whose strongest discipline is bouldering, heads to Tokyo with doubts over her fitness, having struggled with a back issue since an epidural for a knee operation last year. However, having revealed she will retire from competition climbing after the Games to concentrate on outdoor rock climbing, she is desperate to go out on a high.
‘My journey to the Games has been a rocky one and I’m not in the shape I want to be,’ adds Coxsey. ‘I had a couple of surgeries last year and my back is bad from one of them. It’s not ideal but we are training around it.
‘I know how to compete and I know how to perform. It’s my last competition so I will go out there and give it my all. I don’t feel like I’d ever get a bigger event to retire on – my sport’s first Games – and to win a medal would be insane.’
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For more info on Shauna check out her athlete profile on redbull.com.