Aussie scales unique path to Olympic debut

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·2-min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Tom O'Halloran's past 16 months are representative of the highs, lows and extreme uncertainty experienced by many of Australia's 487-strong Tokyo Olympics team.

O'Halloran and Oceania Mackenzie will soon become Australia's first representatives in the new Olympic event of sport climbing, with competitors squaring off in three disciplines of lead, speed and bouldering on August 3-6.

In 2016, climbing was awarded medal status for the Tokyo Games.

But the COVID-19 pandemic cast extreme doubt on the Olympic debut of O'Halloran, who is based in the Blue Mountains and formerly competed on reality TV show Ninja Warrior.

"I lost my job through COVID last year on the 19th of March then our qualification event got cancelled on the 23rd," O'Halloran told AAP.

"It wasn't a good week. It was tough but there were a lot of people going through much harder things.

"At that point it looked like maybe the Olympics were going ahead in 2020. It would have been gut-wrenching if Australia didn't send an athlete for the first time that climbing was in the Olympics."

The Games were ultimately delayed, while O'Halloran and Mackenzie booked their tickets to Tokyo at a qualifying event in December.

It was sweet reward for a lot of hard work from the 28-year-old, who bounced back from losing his tourism-dependent job despite being unable to access the sort of funding directed at other Olympic sports.

"I managed to put bits and pieces back together. Some friends own a brewery, so I helped them out with brewing and delivering," O'Halloran said.

"It was pretty tricky to train. We ended up building a little climbing wall under our house, which was a fun project.

"It meant that no matter what happened, I had access to some pretty good training. It was just a matter of adapting and moving through."

O'Halloran noted the support of partner Amanda Watts, a competitive climber and sports dietitian, had been key.

"What an epically crazy, stressful, anxiety inducing, exciting, hard, massive learning curve, exercise in resilience this COVID + Olympic Games prep has been. Inspired by Tom," Watts recently posted on Instagram.

O'Halloran and Mackenzie now have a golden opportunity to become more than simply trivia-night fodder.

An eye-catching performance will do wonders for the local profile of their sport, which has already been locked in to return for Paris 2024.

"It's insane to have that opportunity to be the first. It's incredible," O'Halloran said.

"Hopefully this is just the beginning for climbing.

"I'm definitely putting everything in to do as well as I can, while representing Australia and our sport."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting