Stories of Ambitions
A year of ups
We caught up with Angie Scarth-Johnson, our Australian athlete from the Blue Mountains, to see how she’s doing and how she’s adapting to the postponed Olympic date of 2021.
Tell us about life after the camp – what did you learn?
ASJ: The camp was an amazing experience and I came away with a very different idea of how far I wanted to go in sport climbing. It really opened my eyes to what was possible, but also the amount of work that needed to go into getting there.
When I got back to Sydney, it made we wonder if I was doing enough. I began to realise just how much goes into that higher level. But it all really became clear when I went to the Australian National Team Qualifiers.
Tell us about that competition, were you able to make the national team?
ASJ: This was a big moment for me. I wanted to be number one. I was coming first in the semis. Then, when it came to it in the finals, I couldn’t read the technique from the ground effectively. I didn’t read it right and lost it. That’s when it really hit me that I needed to step things up. I placed second which was still enough to make the team, but it was a wakeup call for sure.
I had thought I was doing enough. But I wasn’t. I realised, if I really wanted this, and I did, I had to really work for it.
That’s a lot of pressure you’re putting on yourself – how did you move forward from the disappointment?
I knew I needed to do something to get out of my comfort zone and truly test myself. I had heard I’d find the best facilities and coaches in Innsbruck, Austria, so I knew that’s what I needed to do. But when I got there, I got a real shock. I hadn’t appreciated just how intense it would be.
Tell us more about the training in Innsbruck. What did you focus on?
The programme was crazy, with long days of training switching between building power and working on the endurance and the mental side of things as well. I’d seen how this could let me down in nationals, so knew how important this would be.
The final phase of training was all geared towards being ready for competition, ensuring the athletes peaked in time for the upcoming Olympic qualifiers. Having adjusted to the level of the training and started to make some good progress I was feeling great coming out of the training. But obviously, timings have changed with the Olympic qualifiers, so I’ve had to adjust my plans.
Like so many athletes, it has been a disruptive year. Firstly, with the Australian bushfires and now with the covid-19. How has that affected you?
It was while I was in Innsbruck that the fires escalated back home and became global news. Fortunately, my family were kept safe and managed to stay out of danger and my house wasn’t affected, but it definitely shook me up and made me think about going home. It was difficult being so far away from everyone, knowing what was happening.
Then with everything that’s happened with the pandemic and how it’s obviously led to everything being cancelled. When I found out about the Olympics and the qualifiers, it really hit me how hard it would be on a lot of athletes. I feel like I understand the struggles of an Olympian now. I feel the pain that other athletes are having. Especially the older athletes perhaps on their last cycle.
When I found out about the Olympics and the qualifiers, it really hit me how hard it would be on a lot of athletes.
It’s like my mum says to me – what you see on TV is just a tiny part of it. There’s a whole story before that, so much sacrifice and work. I really understand that now.
It hasn’t been an easy journey, who and what has helped along the way?
I can’t say enough how thankful I am to my mum and dad for everything, and we couldn’t have done it without sponsors like JLL. My mum can’t work because she has to take me to training and comps, so the support makes a big difference. You know when athletes do make it to the games, it’s also about the people that helped them get there.
We’re proud to support you, Angie. Finally, how are you staying focused during these tough times?
With everything going on I’m just trying to focus on staying fit, sharp and prepared. My dad’s been great as always and has even helped me build a training wall in the garden so I can still get some climbing time in.
Once everything gets back to normal it will all be about getting back on track, returning to Austria and kickstarting the cycle again. I’m still set on the same Olympic ambition, even if the road to Tokyo has become a little longer.
See more of Angie’s story of ambition in our short film here and stay up to date with all of our climbers’ progress as we follow their journeys throughout the year