As the Paralympics in Tokyo drew to a close after a fantastic year for the athletes, we daren’t forget about paraclimbing. A sport that seemingly does not have the global infrastructure for Paralympic inclusion – yet. “Climbing is my physio”, how being a para-climber is impactful and the long rope to the Paralympics
Nevertheless, global and local committees are continuously pushing towards it. So climbing as a sport made it to the Olympics finally for 2020, is paraclimbing set for 2024? How does being a para-climber impact you?
Yasmin, also known as @the.climb.to.healthy is a para-climber sponsored by Dark Ventures on behalf of Rhino Skin Solutions. She is part of Para-Climbing London and EDS Climbers. She is a board member on United We Climb, an organisation promoting that climbing is for all and who address systematic barriers which prevent some groups accessing climbing. Yasmin is also the Diversity and Inclusion Lead and UK Coordinator for All in Beta, an organisation that seeks to ‘Change the Algorithm’ on social media so climbers of all types are represented.
Due to a genetic tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), Yasmin identifies as a para-climber. This means her joints and other parts of her body have a defect in the substance collagen. For Yasmin, her joints are laxed, prone to suffer dislocations, consequently, her inner organs, skin and muscles are affected. Having started climbing at 20, nearly seven years ago she never found a niche in climbing until she discovered the para-climbing community.
How has climbing impacted your life with your disability?
Being part of any community gives you a sense of belonging, comfort and familiarity. It’s actually very common to feel like you don’t fit in or even you stand out. For Yasmin the para-climbing community “is the most supportive and welcoming place, I feel really accepted, understood and I don’t feel alone, no one judges you, people celebrate you no matter what grade you are at and I’ve never experienced this in other sports”.
Yasmin didn’t actually know she had EDS until the Covid-19 pandemic hit and she was forced to stay indoors for months. Due to the lack of exercise and climbing she de-conditioned so badly that her health deteriorated. She had actually been climbing with EDS the entire time, but climbing had kept her so conditioned it had prevented the condition progressing, therefore she was only diagnosed in 2020 at the age of 25. “Stopping climbing meant becoming more disabled. Climbing is actually my biggest form of physio, and biggest way to manage my disability” she writes.
“I don’t know whether I found climbing, or climbing found me. Climbing is my physio”Yasmin
Is it important for climbing to be in the Paralympics?
“That’s a really interesting question and quite controversial, there are arguments for and against”, explains Yasmin. “For any sport to be in the Paralympics it gains mass publicity and to show that para-climbers can do this sport is incredible. The issue is the tough categorisation and eligibility which exclude some climbers who identify as para -climbers, but supposedly not disabled enough to compete as a para-climber”.
As it stands, Yasmin would not be eligible to compete as a para-climber as EDS is not ‘disabled enough’ which is invalidating for her as the disability impacts her everyday. “Categorisations are interesting and it’s hard as not enough people are interested in para-climbing to create more categories, and I believe to expand the amount of categories for people to compete would be fair. That’s why climbing in the Paralympics is a good thing to promote the sport, but then not if it’s an exclusive version” states Yasmin.
The Paralympics could be the ideal place to showcase para-climbers and their fantastic talents. Generating wider representation which can positively impact the sport and categorisations in the future. Yasmin details “it would be really important for para-climbing to be celebrated more widely in competitions and in its truest form from lots of disabilities rather than just the strictest sense of categorisations it has now”.