Campbell Harrison talks Olympics, pro-climbing in Australia and his career

Campbell Harrison is a 23-year-old competitive sport climber from Melbourne, Australia, and has been climbing for almost 14 years. Sportageous talks to Harrison in this exclusive about Olympics, competitive climbing and his routine amidst the pandemic.

In partnership with Sport Climbing Australia, we bring you the first in many features with professional climbers across Australia, vying for a spot at the Olympics from the region.

Photographed by Yvette Harrison
Campbell Harrison the wall. Photographed by Yvette Harrison.

Tell us about yourself outside of the climbing world.

Outside of my training, I don’t have a lot of hobbies. I’m a very social person, so I like to spend a lot of my spare time with my close friends.

Staying connected to loved ones is one of the most important aspects of balancing my life and staying engaged in what I do. Aside from this, I also work as an instructor in a climbing gym and have started learning French.

How did you get involved in the sport?

My introduction to climbing was fairly gradual. I’m not 100% sure what inspired me initially, but one day I asked my dad if I could join the kid’s club at my local climbing gym.

Over the years I slowly became more attached to the sport, and once I discovered its competitive side, I was hooked. It wasn’t until 2012 that I started competing internationally though, and my life really changed from that point onward.

Photographed by Yvette Harrison
Campbell Harrison on a lead route. Source: Yvette Harrison.

What levels do you compete at?

I compete at every level, from local competitions all the way to World Cups, World Championships, and multi-sport events like the 2017 World Games, or the 2019 World Beach Games.

Which climbing discipline do you enjoy and compete in? Why?

My favourite discipline is lead, and it is without a doubt the one I am best at. I really enjoy the way lead routes build in intensity. It’s a very strategic and considered discipline of climbing.

With only one attempt on the route, each decision you make builds atop one another, and a successful performance often has to be the culmination of a perfect run. It has exceptionally high stakes but is inherently very rewarding.

How often do you train? Could you walk us through your training, nutrition and exercise regimes for climbing?

I train intensely for 5 days of the week, and rest for 2, usually in a pattern of 2 on, 1 off, 3 on, 1 off. My week is built up of climbing, finger strength, strength and conditioning, and mobility sessions.

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As far as nutrition goes, I try to be mindful of eating a varied and balanced diet without depriving myself too much. I’ve learned over the years that in a sport like climbing, a healthy relationship with food is going to be key to my longevity as an athlete, as well as my physical and mental wellbeing.

Pro climbing is still relatively young in Australia, could you describe what it has been like for you to be a part of the sport?

Being a full-time climber in Australia hasn’t been an easy journey in a lot of ways. I am almost entirely self-funded and have relied on myself almost solely in the construction of my training regimen.

Things are without a doubt getting better here in Australia, though, as more time, money, and consideration is being put into the growth of climbing as an elite level athletic pursuit. Right now, I’d say that the level of support we receive is the best that it has been, but we still have a long way to go.

With climbing in the Olympics, what does a potential Olympic spot mean to you?

With the current coronavirus situation and relevant travel restrictions, a lot is up in the air when it comes to Olympic selections! To earn a spot at the Olympic Games would be a huge milestone in my athletic journey and surely an experience I would cherish.

What have you been doing to prepare for the qualifiers?

I’ve been doing my utmost to keep preparing as well as I can whilst adhering to the lockdown in Melbourne. It’s been really hard, but I’m getting the hang of things.

I’ve learned over the years that in a sport like climbing, a healthy relationship with food is going to be key to my longevity as an athlete, as well as my physical and mental wellbeing.

It has consisted of a lot of yoga, fingerboarding, and weightlifting to try and maintain my shape as best as I can. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get back to the gym with sufficient time to prepare for the event.

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What are your thoughts on Australian climbing at the Olympic Games?

Climbing featuring in its first Olympic Games is something I never thought I would see, as climbing until recent years had always felt like such a small, niche sport.

I think it has a lot of potential as a spectator sport! I’m not sold that the current format shows our sport in the best possible light, but with time it will surely become a spectacle!

Who has motivated you in life and encouraged you to be where you are today?

I have a lot of people to thank for getting me to where I am today. A huge inspiration for me is my dad, Russell. He suffered a spinal injury many years ago and was told he could never walk again.

His hard work and determination in overcoming the obstacles that life has thrown at him were very formative to me growing up. He also taught me a great deal in being vulnerable and asking for help even when it’s hard.

In recent years, he’s taken up climbing himself, even going as far as to participate in his first Paraclimbing World Championship event last year!

Australia pro-climber, Campbell Harrison Photographed by Yvette Harrison.
Campbell Harrison competing in an IFSC competition. Source: Yvette Harrison.

How have you kept yourself busy during the pandemic?

I’ve taken up playing a lot of video games, which is something I haven’t done much of for years. On top of training and trying to learn a language, it has looked very similar to many others - walking, walking, and more walking around familiar streets!

Where do you see your career headed in the future?

At some stage, I’d like to broaden my horizons and take in a little more of what life has to offer outside of elite sport, but I’m by no means on the way out yet.

I have some unfinished battles on the Lead World Cup circuit, and so I plan to focus a lot of my training efforts toward that for some time to come.

You can follow Campbell Harrison on Instagram.
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The curation of the article was supported by Kinza Tahir. You can follow her here on Twitter.

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