She overcame excruciating injuries and constant setbacks to become Team GB’s first-ever Olympic climber.
So it’s no surprise that pregnant Shauna Coxsey MBE has installed a mini rock climbing wall in her home to inspire the next generation of climbers.
Six months after Tokyo – and her retirement from competitive climbing – Shauna is preparing for her next challenge: motherhood.
The 28-year-old, five months pregnant, said: “At first I thought I had the post-Olympic blues because I was so exhausted, but maybe it was just… to be pregnant !
“Every night I go to bed and it’s like a dance marathon with all the kicks. We’re really excited.
“My husband even built a climbing wall for our baby in our attic. I don’t think they will have the choice of being dragged to climb.
Next week, Apple and Amazon Prime will release a feature film, The Wall: Climb For Gold.
It charts Shauna’s emotional two-year preparation for the delayed Tokyo Olympics, alongside three other elite climbers from around the world.
There are also heartwarming images of the athletes training as children.
Cheshire-born Shauna is an 11-time gold medalist and Britain’s most successful mountaineer.
The documentary lays bare her ups and downs, including battling back pain and surgery during lockdown.
While training a few days before the Olympics, Shauna tore a bit of cartilage in her knee, called the meniscus.
“That probably should have meant I was kicked out of the Games,” she says.
“If I had reached the final, I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to compete that day because my body just couldn’t push it any further. Coming to tenth place was really unexpected and just awesome.
Shauna initially had concerns about her participation in the Olympics.
It specializes in bouldering, but the Games require participants to compete in three very different categories: bouldering, speed and advance. But failure was never an option once Shauna decided to move on.
“I embarked on the Olympic adventure and it was such an epic battle on so many different fronts,” she says.
“There was a moment when Leah, my trainer, turned around and said, ‘You don’t have to do that, you know,’ and I said, ‘No, I do. It’s not for anyone but me. I have to finish this’.
“Maybe it was just my stubbornness that got me through the ending.
“I think the injuries are worth more because you suffered to get there, which must seem strange. It means so much more because of what you’ve been through and it’s something I’m still processing.
“Everybody was, like, ‘Oh, you’re going to get a medal,’ and I was, like, ‘No, I’m just going to try to take off…you have no idea!'”
Shauna is one of only four women in the world to have ever climbed an 8B+ rated bouldering route – the third hardest grade of all.
She is Britain’s most successful competitive mountaineer.
And in 2016 she was named to the Queen’s Birthday Honors List as the recipient of an MBE – the same weekend she won the IFSC Boulder World Cup title. However, Tokyo wasn’t just a defining moment in his career.
After reaching the semi-finals, this also marked Shauna’s retirement from competitive climbing.
“It’s hard to explain to people, but I never felt like a failure at the Olympics,” she said.
“I was so happy to be able to do anything. I’m lucky to have had this experience. I achieved everything I wanted with all the world titles, but choosing whether or not to try for Paris [the 2024 Olympics] was incredibly difficult. I had a really bad back injury and there was also this desire to focus on climbing – which still exists – and a desire to start a family.
“At the time the decision to retire was a difficult one for sure. It’s only now that I’m pregnant and expecting, with climbing on the horizon, it’s a decision which I feel most comfortable with.
Shauna, who set a British women’s speed climbing record of 9.141 seconds at the 2019 World Championship, describes qualifying for the Olympics that year as “the most unexpected moment of my life”.
She explains: “I caught the flu in Japan and I was really sick. Getting to this event seemed so crazy, so qualifying was just crazy. And in March 2020, the same day Shauna learned that Covid would delay the Tokyo Olympics, she also learned that her marriage to her partner of 10 years – rock climbing champion Ned Feehally – would be delayed.
Shauna took it all in her stride, though. She says, “Ned was actually relieved because he hates public events.
“And I’m one of those people where, if I can’t change anything about my situation, I just focus my energy where I’m actually going to make a difference.
“The hardest part was that, up until then, my diary was planned every minute. I knew how long I would sleep, when I would eat and train. Suddenly that schedule disappeared.
As sports centers closed around the world, training sessions were limited to Shauna and Ned’s home in Sheffield where, incredibly, Ned had just finished building two climbing walls. During the lockdown, Shauna also underwent knee and wrist surgery to help improve injuries sustained after years of climbing.
Looking back on her career, she says winning her first gold medal at the IFSC Bouldering World Cup in Switzerland in 2014 was her favorite moment.
Shauna says, “Everyone used to call me the bridesmaid before that because I’d been on the podium a few times before, but never won gold. It was pretty surreal to finally take that step and win. This premiere was so magical and so important.
Now she’s embracing the less-regulated life of a former Olympian — and enjoying indoor rock climbing to stay active while pregnant.
Shauna admits: “As an athlete, I know my body very well and I feel good on the wall, even though I’m not used to having a baby inside me.
“I’m more likely to trip on the street!” I listen to my body, but I try as much as possible to keep climbing.
Shauna got into the sport when she was four years old after being encouraged to try by her father, Mike, who was always supportive.
A year before, she had watched a TV show about French free climber Catherine Destivelle, which she says “changed her life”.
Shauna hopes the new documentary will inspire others to start climbing or find a sport that sparks their passion.
She adds: “So many people watched the Olympics and are now going to see this documentary. I just hope it inspires some of them to go rock climbing because it’s so accessible these days. Finding something you love is so magical.
The Wall: Climb for Gold will be released on digital via Apple and Amazon Prime on January 18.