Janja Garnbret - first climber with five gold medals

Author: Polona Prešeren

Date: 30. October 2019

Time to read: 3 min

Janja Garnbret is a climber. She is an exceptionally talented and successful young sports woman. It looks like in her chosen pursuit – sport climbing – she has already won everything. But her path is still leading upward, and next year Janja will compete for the first time in the Olympics, in Tokyo.

For Janja there is no longer any doubt, next year she will be competing at the Tokyo Olympics, since she convincingly met the requirements in her last world championship at Hachioji in Japan, where she became three-fold world champion – in bouldering, lead and combination.

She is the first sport climber to win three different golds, but her history-making is not confined to climbing. She is also the first climber to defend the title of world champion in bouldering.

Janja has high goals, but in this year’s season it seems that she has surpassed herself. "After every season I said to myself, I couldn’t have a better season than that. But this year came a season when I truly couldn’t do any better. I won’t ever repeat a season like this. I just hope that the next one will be at least half as good," said the very likeable Janja.

She won her first title of world champion as a 17-year-old secondary school student. She knows very well that only hard work pays off, as she has learned. She never lets up, training six times a week for around three hours. It wasn't easy, but she was able to coordinate sports, other activities and school. She took some time out from competing to take her matura school leaving exam, but now she is back at her sport with a vengeance.

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Focused on climbing

"In the beginning of the season I set myself goals and trained all year for this. I didn’t count on having so many wins, especially in bouldering, but I really enjoy it. You have to enjoy what you do. Also, if you want to achieve something in this, everything flows much more easily," says Janja, who carefully sets herself goals before each season. Although the rhythm is arduous, she never runs out of energy or skips anything. She focuses on her climbing.

"This year I didn’t know I could expect anything in lead climbing, since the competition is very tough and a lot of new, younger competitors arrived," said Janja, who also holds the Slovenian speed record, of the various climbing categories.

Then there is combination, a discipline where it is very important to be able to switch quickly between individual categories.

"You have to be ready and warmed up for everything, and this doesn’t pose any major problem for me anymore," says Janja, who is well aware that the competition never ends until it is truly over. Climbing is an individual sport, but Janja has an outstanding team behind her, helping and supporting her.

At the beginning of her career could she imagine being so successful? "No. I started climbing for one reason – I really did enjoy it. It was my hobby, my passion. The results are just the icing on the cake. If you don’t enjoy it, you haven’t done anything. I never thought that one day I would do sports professionally," adds Janja, who recommends climbing to everyone, from the youngest to the oldest. "There is always something for everyone that is just the right kind of difficulty and that they will enjoy," says Janja. "Apart from that, there will never be any shortage of challenges, and that’s such a draw that you’ll never want to stop."

After winning three titles, the most common question put to her by the media was: what goals can she set herself now? But Janja does not explain her goals out loud, she keeps them to herself. Usually in December, when the season is over, she takes a brief break from climbing and more time for herself. It is then that she sets her goals and simply pursues them.

She is characterised by exceptional climbing technique and outstanding psychological preparation, focus and calm.

Next year she will be climbing for the first time in the Olympic Games. And what does it mean to Janja that she will be representing her country in front of the world? "It’s the dream of every sports person to take part in the Olympics. That was my dream as well, and I am already looking forward to returning to Japan next year. The fans there are wonderful, they cheer for everyone, not just their own competitors." Janja has just a few more climbing challenges ahead, then she will have a well-earned rest at the end of the season and time to prepare for the Olympics.