Today we have our first interview! Fran Brown became a Paraclimbing World Champion in Paris in September 2012, and is we catch her just after winning gold at the Paraclimbing Bouldering International Open 2013, in Laval in France. Fran climbs in the NPD B class classification and you can find out much more about her at either http://www.franbrown.org.uk/ or on Twitter as @franrbrown.
So most of our readers haven’t got much experience of climbing – can you tell us how big a sport paraclimbing is, in the UK and the world?
In the UK, it’s still a relatively new sport and therefore quite small in comparison to, say, able bodied climbing or more mainstream sports. It is however growing every year. Internationally, the sport is starting to be integrated into main able bodied competitions thus giving us greater exposure which is also helping the expansion of the sport. This year there were five international competitions, four of which were IFSC comps and next year there are plans for even more.
You’ve been world champion in one sport, and you’ve had heavy involvement in others – you also took part in the Paralympic opening ceremony – it’s quite the impressive list. What would you say was your greatest moment in sport?
Winning the para climbing world championships was definitely my greatest moment to date . I really enjoyed the paralympic opening ceremony but I was working as a performer so it wasn’t really a sports thing, more of a job.
A lot of outdoor climbing takes place in areas of incredible natural beauty, but they can be quite remote – do you find that there are some places that it’s just not possible to reach with a wheelchair?
Some places are impossible to get to, which is frustrating. Others are difficult but manageable with a lot of support and planning. It helps that I am willing to accept a piggyback where maybe others wouldn’t but it is a pain sometimes having to rely on others and to ask for help, but if thats the only way I can get somewhere then I am happy to accept help. Thankfully the people I normally climb with are pretty clued up on what I can and can’t do so we work well as a team when trying to get to less accessible places. I’d like to get an off-road wheelchair which would make things easier but they are thousands of pounds so I can’t afford one right now.
Any world champion has to commit to a gruelling training session. Can you take us thought a typical training week?
My exact training schedule depends on the time of the year and which training phase I am in but roughly when I am full time training, its 5 sessions of climbing a week, 2 fingerboard sessions and 2 gym sessions, a swimming session and a rest day or two.
Living in London you are somewhat spoilt for choice with climbing places you can train – have you got a ‘home’ gym, and what makes that place so appealing to you?
I climb predominantly at The Arch, located at the biscuit factory in Bermondsay. They are a bouldering wall which I love as I can train there on my own and the atmosphere is great. The guys there support me wherever they can and have been sponsoring me for a couple of years now, helping with travel and accommodation for me and my coach for competitions. The vibe at the Arch is also great and there are always friendly people to climb with which makes it a cool place to train.
Lastly – if one of our readers wanted to get involved in paraclimbing – what do you think is the single most important piece of advise to have?
Persevere. It’s sometimes frustrating when people don’t understand how climbing works for someone with a disability and perhaps not knowing other disabled people who climb but it’s worth it in the end. Also contact the BMC who can advise about any local clubs and competitions for those with disabilities. The best advice I can give is that having a disability need not stop you climbing or accessing outdoor crags, it just means you might need to be more inventive and openminded.