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Slovenian Garnbret eyes more Olympic climbing gold

Published : Monday, 8 April, 2024 at 12:00 AM  Count : 241

VRHNIKA, APRIL 7: As a child she climbed doors, closets and trees -- then she started to win climbing competition after climbing competition.

At the Paris Olympics this summer, eight-times world champion Janja Garnbret is looking to win another gold medal, just like she did in Tokyo in 2021 when the sport made its debut in the Games.

"Once you have an Olympic medal, you want another one," the 25-year-old Slovenian spiderwoman told AFP in an interview between training sessions in Japan and China.

While in Slovenia, Garnbret spends most of her time in a tucked-away climbing gym near Vrhnika, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of Ljubljana.

Despite her success -- an illustrated childrens book about her life should be out later this year -- Garnbret keeps her feet firmly on the ground.

She believes she is blessed to be able to do what she has liked most since she was seven.

"When Im competing, I feel like nothing else matters," she said.

"I don hear the crowd... Its just me in my own world, my own bubble... My mind is clear.

"I don have any thoughts. I climb by intuition."

Garnbrets parents discovered her talent during one of their many attempts to keep their "hyper-active" daughter busy.

During one excursion, they came upon a five- or six-metre-high promotion climbing wall, which made Janja stop and "stare at it, tempted".

Once secured to ropes, "she just climbed to the top", her father, Vili Garnbret, proudly remembers.

She then joined a local climbing club near their home and eventually stopped her other hobby of dance classes to focus on climbing.

"I personally wasn so excited about her decision, but I accepted it," her mother, Darja Garnbret, recalls, adding they fully supported their daughter even though they initially "did not know about this sport".

Garnbret herself believes her first climbing steps happened much earlier, when she was "climbing doors, closets and trees as a little girl".

"One of the first feelings I remember when climbing was how strong and light at the same time I felt on the wall... And this is still the feeling Im looking forward (to) the most every time I go climbing," she said.

She adds in climbing she "found that spark, that fire in me".

One of her first coaches, Rok Malek, said Garnbret only took three or four months to outperform colleagues who had been training for two years or more.

"Her talent was exceptional. She moved intuitively," he told AFP.

Her current coach Roman Krajnik also remembers being impressed when he first saw her at a national competition.

"Shes definitely made for this sport," Krajnik said, lauding her tough training regimen -- with just one day off after three days of training -- while deeming her already "ready" for the Paris Olympics.    —AFP

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