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Katharina Saurwein: climbing the Final Frontier, Tainted Love and coaching

Katharina Saurwein is a professional rock climber and coach from Austria. She has won Rock Master Festival in Arco, climbed Final Frontier and Tainted Love.

We had a quick catch up with Katharina to talk about climbing in Austria, coaching and much more.

Katharina Saurwein (Credit: Andreas Rottensteiner)

Kinza Tahir: Tell us about your likes and interests outside of climbing?

Katharina Saurwein: I’m a coach at the Austrian Climbing Federation, I finished my Masters in Sports Science and am currently studying Interior Design. Besides that, I love to travel and explore new places.

How did you get involved with the sport?

At a summer sports festival at the University in Innsbruck, I saw a climbing wall and really wanted to try it, so I did. The climbing coach asked me if I want to join his team and ever since then I climb.

READ: Angy Eiter: Elite climbing in Austria and overcoming injuries

What has been the highlight of your career and why?

It’s hard to pick a specific highlight but winning the Rock Master Festival in Arco and being on the podium at the European Championship in Innsbruck were definitely some highlights regarding competitions for me.

Looking at climbing outside, I’d say climbing ‘Final Frontier’ (8a, 400m) and climbing ‘Tainted Love’ 5.13d were some of my biggest achievements.

Katharina Sauwerain
Katharina Saurwein (Source: Supplied)

How do you think climbing is perceived in Austria? Do you think the sport has grown over the years since you started climbing?

In Austria, climbing is booming. More and more people start to climb in gyms as well as outdoors and the competitive sport, as well as the rock climbing scene, are growing.

How do you train young players in competitive climbing? Tell us about your experience as a coach.

As I coach I try to pass on what I learned from studying sports science. I learned from training for so many years for myself and what I learned from my former coaches.

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Every athlete is different and the challenge is to find the right concept for every single one of them.

What discipline do you focus on the most and why?

I started off basically only lead climbing, then after many years of competing I switched to bouldering and now I love to do a mix of lead climbing, multi-pitches, trad climbing and bouldering. I love that climbing is so versatile!

Climbing is what keeps me fit, mentally and physically. It challenges me a lot and I often have to leave my comfort zone.

Tell us about your time when the World Championship took place in Austria. How do you believe it enhanced your climbing and evolved your understanding of the sport?

Competing at the World Championships in Innsbruck was my last big goal in competition climbing. It was a very special event for me as first of all climbing at the WCH in my hometown Innsbruck was a great honour to me and secondly because I decided to retire from international comps after it.

What has been the most challenging moment of your career and why?

Like most athletes I had several struggles including personal incisions as well as injuries. Coming back after an injury is hard work and a lot of motivation is needed.

Personal incisions make you realise that there are more important things in life and that makes you question everything.

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What has been your training, nutrition and fitness routine like amidst the pandemic?

During the pandemic, we made several live streams to keep the motivation high within the athletes and that also helped me to stay fit and focused. Also, we got creative, climbed around our apartment, did body workouts and trained a lot on our hang board.

How does climbing affect your mental and physical health? How do you overcome any barriers, develop the confidence to grow and keep moving forward?

Climbing is what keeps me fit, mentally and physically. It challenges me a lot and I often have to leave my comfort zone. The daily training is a full-body workout, where challenging yourself to always improve is constant.

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Climbing outside when you risk a big fall is the biggest mental challenge for me and what I learned that helps me a lot is talking to myself.

Katharina Saurwein
Katharina Saurwein (Source: Supplied)

Who are your role models in the climbing world or athletes that you look up to?

One of my biggest models is Jorg Verhoeven, my husband. He is able to totally focus on his climbing also in an extreme and dangerous situation which I’m struggling with a lot.

How is the quality of coaching, gyms and infrastructure in Austria? How do you think the facilities and opportunities have developed in the past few years?

The Kletterzentrum Innsbruck is one of the best climbing gyms I know, built in 2017, it became the new performance training centre for Austria. Reini Scherer who used to already coach me when I was a youth athlete is still providing training plans and expertise.

Having Kilian Fischhuber, a former world cup winner as a coach there, offers many possibilities and also several other well-experienced coaches are working for the federation to guarantee a good training environment.

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What are your aspirations for the future?

I’m looking forward to many more years of coaching. Besides that, I’m keen to travel more and get to see climbing areas I haven’t been to yet.

What advice would you give to upcoming climbers?

Stay psyched, have fun and train hard.


Follow Katharina Saurwein on Instagram and Facebook.
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You can follow Kinza Tahir here on Twitter.

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