Sarah Larcombe: Australian Paraclimber and Bogong Sponsored Athlete
Help Sarah get to the IFSC World Cups.
Victorian Paraclimber and new Bogong Sponsored Athlete Sarah Larcombe is competing in the 2022 International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) - Paraclimbing World Cups, and needs your help. She’s had a remarkable journey, from starting out as a beginner to representing Australia in just two years. Sarah now takes on the world’s best.
A self-confessed ‘inside child,’ swimming was Sarah’s original sport of choice, being one of the few available parasport programs until recent years. Climbing was not on her radar. It wasn’t until 2019, while having an ice-cream at IKEA, that Sarah and a friend agreed to give climbing a go. Like many before her, it only took a trip to the local gym to become hooked.
“It’s hard to not get obsessed with climbing,” Sarah confesses. “Once you get going and start connecting with the community, you never look back.”
Sarah acknowledges her disability was an initial barrier between her and climbing – even simply getting into the gym. Disability access in almost all sports has been a long discussed issue; climbing is no different. Something as simple as getting onto the mats is an inherent obstacle for those with disabilities.
“My disability was a major reason why I didn’t start climbing when I first got interested. Growing up disabled you can sometimes feel like your body is betraying you. You feel broken, wishing you could just be the same as everyone else.”
A testament to her nature and drive, Sarah didn’t let this stop her. Climbing not only became a passion, but offered her a new outlook on life.
“Climbing has given me an entirely different perspective on my body and my disability. Now I can celebrate all the amazing things it can do instead of being disappointed in the things it can’t.”
With all journeys, there are learning curves and roadblocks. For Sarah, this came in the form of a Type A fibula fracture to her left leg after losing her footing on an overhang in the bouldering gym. This was near the start of 2020. With lockdowns and curfews put in place, gyms closed, and Sarah’s budding passion was once again put on hold.
Despite these setbacks, with her leg fully recovered and the world beginning to reopen again, Sarah got back into the gym.
“It wasn’t until early 2021 that I was able to really start exploring everything climbing had to offer. I made a conscious decision at that time to set some big goals and work as hard as possible to achieve them.”
With “big goals” in mind, Sarah committed. Climbing became a major part of her day to day.
A catalyst for this was Adaptive Climbing Victoria (ACV). This community is filled with climbing enthusiasts who encourage those with disabilities to give the sport a go. Guided by the motto ‘Because walls are for every body!’ the ACV run events for those with disabilities to participate in climbing, while educating the wider community on Paraclimbing.
“My first attempt at rope climbing was at an ACV Come and Try Day. There, I met friends that I still climb with today. They’re a community that has supported me and provided me with so many opportunities.”
Climbing is loved for its sense of community and camaraderie. Sarah knows how important it is to be welcomed into the sport; the ACV provided that guiding hand. She now works with the group to get others with disabilities involved.
“In 2021, I joined ACV as a board member. Now I get to work alongside an amazing team of adaptive climbers and allies to help make climbing more inclusive and accessible for all.”
“ACV is where I met Katie Kaminsky, the founder of the club, who was the first person to tell me about Paraclimbing competitions, and persuaded me to give it a go.”
This friendly push into competitive climbing propelled Sarah into the growing sport of Paraclimbing. In the space of two years, Sarah went from a beginner to the top ranked female Paraclimber in Victoria. She has taken home wins in the Victorian and NSW/ACT state titles and was the top-performing athlete in the national Paraclimbing Team Selection event. In fact, she was the only athlete to top out on all the routes.
After a meteoric rise, Sarah now looks ahead, with more extraordinary goals in mind. Being the best athlete at the selection, Sarah was chosen to be a female competitor at the IFSC Paraclimbing World Cups in 2022. The competition travels from USA, to Austria, then Switzerland, where she will go up against the world’s best Paraclimbers.
“This will be my first time competing internationally. I’m really looking forward to seeing how I stack up against the other climbers, many who have been competing at this level for years.”
Competing in an emerging sport with a disability means that funding is at a minimal, almost non-existent level. You can help Sarah represent Australia by donating to her fundraiser. Your help means Sarah can continue her stringent training, travel and find suitable accommodation as she competes on the global scale.
Sarah embodies resilience, perseverance, and maybe even stubbornness. Time and time again, challenges have arisen that would cause many of us to decide it’s all too tough. It could have been the inaccessibility, her initial apprehension, the incessant Covid lockdowns or even a broken ankle that made her reconsider her passion. But no, Sarah continues at the highest level.
Join us at Bogong in supporting Sarah get to the IFSC Paraclimbing World Cups.
Photo credits: Yvette Harrison, Rachelle Co, Martin Cooksley, Jo Lee
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