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Molly Thompson-Smith – Climbing, Diversity and the Olympics

The 24-year-old is one of her nation’s most successful competitive climbers, having won multiple British lead titles as well as historic World Cup and European Championship bronze medals during her sixteen years in the sport.

Image courtesy of @mollythompsonsmith

“You can’t be what you can’t see,” states Molly Thompson-Smith.

Thompson-Smith is understandably proud of those achievements, but she is also highly aware that her presence at international events can have a significant impact too.

“I definitely remember feeling quite alone as the only mixed race or black kid at the climbing wall when I was younger,” she recalls.

“We need role models and hopefully I can be that to some out there. Generally it’s hard though, you can’t create them out of thin air and it takes time for people to train and become someone who is visible and representing at the top (of the sport).”

Thompson-Smith was speaking to the Women’s Sports Alliance (WSA) at the opening of a new expansion to the ‘Depot Climbing’ centre in Manchester.

Over the last decade the venue has increased in size from one wall to six and that is reflective of the huge growth in climbing participation seen across the UK during this period.

“I think people have started to notice ‘oh that’s the new Olympic sport’ and I know speed climbing has totally taken off since the Olympics,” she says. “Generally there are more people taking it more seriously and suggesting it to friends and family too which is great.”

Images courtesy of @mollythompsonsmith

Getting to Know Molly Thompson-Smith

The five-time British champion was forced to take eight months out of the sport after undergoing reconstructive surgery on her hand in late 2017.

She competed at the final Tokyo 2020 qualification event – where she won European lead bronze – but missed out on a place at the Games where her sport made its Olympic bow.

The sport debuted in a ‘triathlon’ format which combined scores from speed, bouldering and lead disciplines. This will be revised for Paris 2024 with ‘speed’ now separate to a combined competition which will consist of the ‘bouldering’ and ‘lead’ events.

It plays to Thompson-Smith’s strengths and she is excited about the prospect of challenging for a place at the next Olympic Games.

“Tokyo was always going to be a battle for me as I was coming back from a bad injury and pretty much playing catch up on a new (combined) sport, so Paris is a lot more my thing with lead and boulder,” she tells the WSA.

“I think that after a year of challenges – and Covid which really put a lot of things into perspective for people around the world – I really know I have the passion for this and I do want to go to the Olympics.

“It’s a dream of mine and I’m going to put everything into trying to make that happen for Paris (2024) and hopefully even LA (2028).”


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