Keen observers might have already known that Tom O’Halloran and Oceana Mackenzie would be on the plane to Tokyo as Australia’s Sports Climbing team but the official announcement from the Australian Olympic Committee came on Thursday.
Both O’Halloran and Mackenzie each earned a quota spot by winning the Oceania Championships in December last year.
28-year-old O’Halloran joked about how he’d be a trivia night question, as one of the first Australians to compete in Sports Climbing at the Olympics.
“To be the first to represent a sport is even more special and something I’ll remember forever,” O’Halloran said.
“I’ll be one of those Bowls Club trivia night questions, ‘who were the first Australians to represent Australia in climbing at the Olympics?’ How cool is that!
“I’m so keen for Australia to see how different our sport is from so many others. Our challenge is always different, and we never know what we have to do until we step out onto the mats – we spend our entire lives training for unknown challenges.”
Climbing came naturally to O’Halloran from a young age, and when he first joined a gym in 2004 it was the start of something special.
“I was always climbing, but I never knew what it was. I was climbing out of the cot when I was 18 months old, up the door frames of the house a few years later and would watch Tarzan and Aladdin then try and do what they did in the mango tree in the backyard.
“A climbing gym opened up in Brisbane in 2004, some family friends were already climbers and they suggested my Mum and Dad should sign me up, I’ve never looked back.
“Climbing is so great – everyone gets to be a part of it. There’s no parents on the sidelines in climbing, they’re there with the kids, getting their hands chalky too! I hope after seeing climbing at the Games, more kids and families signing up to the gym and having it change their lives in the way it did for my family.”
Mackenzie, who represented Australia at the 2019 Doha World Beach Games, is also an IOC Scholarship holder, with the scholarship program supporting athletes in sports striving for the Olympics.
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Mackenzie expressed her excitement at the chance for the world to see sports climbing on the Olympic stage.
“It feels surreal to be the first Australian sport climbing Olympian alongside Tom,” Mackenzie said. “It’s such a big step for our sport and for us as athletes!”
“I started climbing when I was about eight years old with my family at our local climbing gym – and now I’m getting to climb in the Olympics!
“I’m so excited for everyone to see how amazing this sport is. I love how mentally and physically challenging climbing is. I think a lot of Aussies will want to give it go after watching us at the Games.”
The chairs of Sports Climbing Australia Naomi Cleary and Romain Thevenot welcomed the announcement and were excited to see the sport in Tokyo.
“The sport of Climbing is entering a new era,” Mr Thevenot said. “We are very pleased that Tom and Oceania will be Australia’s first Sport Climbing Olympians. Let’s get ready for Tokyo and cheer for them to reach the top!”
“We are pleased that Australia will soon see our climbers representing us and our great sport on the world stage,” Ms Cleary added. “Tom and Oceana will be Australia’s first Sport Climbing Olympians.”
The Sport Climbing competition will run from 3-6 August at the Aomi Urban Sports Park.