TASS help climbers across the country to hit new heights
We caught up with Zoe Spriggins, Competitions Programme Manager at the British Mountaineering Council, to find out more.
TASS: Welcome to TASS…is this a significant move for climbing in England?
Zoe Spriggins: We’re a relatively new Olympic sport and, as a result, we’re eligible to join the TASS network. It’s a great opportunity to help progress our athletes who also want to remain in full time education. We have a well-established pathway in place and look to work with athletes from the age of eight, preparing them to move through the age groups. But knowing that TASS support is available from the age of 16 will help to secure that pathway.
Photo credit: Sam Pratt Photography
TASS: What’s the primary motivation for partnering with TASS?
ZS: We don’t want our most talented athletes to have to choose between a career in elite sport or an education. The TASS programme encourages athletes to do both and shows them that they can have the best of both worlds.
TASS: Are the country’s best climbers already benefiting from TASS support?
ZS: We have five climbers who are part of the TASS community. They can get stuck into their studies and continue working towards Paris 2024 safe in the knowledge that the extra support and advice is there.
TASS: Is climbing reaching peak popularity in England?
ZS: Climbing is definitely a sport on the rise! There are more than 360 climbing walls in the UK now so if you think there might be one in your town then have another look – there probably is! As a national governing body we run all of the national competitions and our biggest series is the Youth Climbing Series which involves more than 1,400 children. We have a development squad which is for 10-18-year-olds and then there are the senior teams and the para team. There’s plenty of potential from grassroots level through to elite level.
TASS: How important is your Olympic status?
ZS: Gaining Olympic status has given the sport a fresh boost. There’s definitely been more interest in climbing since that happened. Many people have climbed before but being on the Olympic stage gives the sport a greater profile. Participation has soared and the number of climbing walls opening up has reflected that interest. These are exciting times for climbing and we have a very talented group competing at elite level.
TASS: Are we a nation capable of achieving Olympic success?
ZS: I think we’ve got at least three or four athletes who could make a big impression at the 2024 Olympics in Paris but I’m hopeful we can make an impression at Tokyo next year. There’s still an opportunity to qualify two more athletes for Japan so fingers crossed. But we have set our sights on making a significant impact in France in four years so watch this space.
TASS: Is now the time to pursue your dream as an elite climber?
ZS: I’d say so. Climbers coming through have a fantastic opportunity to stay involved in the sport they love and progress at college and university. There is so much additional support available and that includes the package on offer to TASS athletes. Climbers can prepare for a future beyond their sport by studying at the same time as they are competing at the highest level. It’s a great time to be a young climber in this country.