British climber Molly Thompson-Smith hopes to capitalise on climbing’s new-found popularity to attract more diversity to the sport. After climbing made a thrilling debut at the recent Tokyo Olympics, Thompson-Smith believes that it now has a great opportunity to establish itself as a mainstream sport and hopes to see people from all backgrounds flocking to the nearest climbing walls.
The 23-year-old, who had just returned from the World Championships in Russia, told the audience at the Sport Industry Private Dining Club in London about her experiences as the only climber from a mixed background during her early days at the local climbing wall in west London.
“I was the odd one out when I was younger in the climbing world – it was a very white and male dominated environment, and I had a really hard time trying to fit in. So now, I just want to make sure that any child or person feels like they have a place within climbing, because it’s such an amazing sport and it shouldn’t be just for a certain group of people”.
Thompson-Smith feels passionate about the need for young people from mixed backgrounds to have role models that look like them to whom they can be inspired by, saying that she had to look outside of climbing – to Dame Kelly Holmes and Jessica Ennis-Hill in particular - to find athletes that she could look up to.
She continued: “Having more black climbers competing at the elite level of the game, especially at a global event like the Olympics, helps massively with younger kids from diverse backgrounds to get into the sport – something that I didn’t have myself.”
When asked about what she can do to become a role model herself and to drive change in climbing, she cited social media as a key platform to reach audiences around the country and encourage young people like her to take up the sport: “I try to be as creative with my social content output as possible – trying to make climbing look cool and to keep people engaged, whilst also balancing that out with the serious messages around being strong, training hard, and being motivated”
Now in her off-season, rather than spending her time resting and relaxing, Thompson-Smith will be heading to the mountains, spending her time rock-climbing in Switzerland, and aiming to be the first woman to climb the historical Hubble climb in the Peak District.
Long-term, it goes without saying that Paris 2024 is a huge goal, and after dealing with the bitter disappointment of missing out on Tokyo 2020, she is more determined than ever to get there.
During the event, which included senior figures from organisations such as Barclays, Aston Martin, Coutts, Cinch, ECB, EuropeanTour, and Sportradar, guests were captivated by her story, her poise, and a maturity beyond her young years. With her infectious personality and down-to-earth nature, combined with her steely determination and clear ability on the climbing wall, there is no doubt that Thompson-Smith will be a huge success in the future and will become a significant role model to many young climbers around the country.
Sport Industry Private Dining Club is an invitation-only members club that meets four times a year at some of the best venues in London, providing top level representatives from across the sport industry with the opportunity to network and socialise in an informal and relaxed setting.