6 reasons why Janja Garnbret is one of the best climbers in the world
Simply put, Slovenian ace Janja Garnbret leads the world right now in climbing. Find out what makes her so special and why she's only just getting started.
In 2020, Janja Garnbret won all six World Cup events in Bouldering to complete the first season sweep in IFSC history. In 2021 she claimed her sport’s first gold medal at the Olympics. In 2022 she dominated the climbing competitions at the new multi-sport European Championships, with gold medals in Lead, Bouldering, plus the Bouldering & Lead title, commenting: "Being three-times European champion sounds good, but it feels even better. When I look at my cabinet and medals I'm like 'Whoa, when did this happen?" Below, we break down why the Slovenian is the best-of-the-best.
Few climbers are made like Janja Garnbret. At 22, the Slovenian climber continues to amaze – and crush the competition – at pretty much any task she faces. Crowned world champion in both Bouldering and Difficulty climbing in 2019, she went on to bag a clean sweep of six World Cup wins in 2020.
Being three-times European champion sounds good, but it feels even better
Watch part one of Janja Garnbret's Reel Rock episode in the player above and part two below.
The perfect season part 2
Janja Garnbret has been dominating the climbing competition scene. Can she complete the perfect season?
She’s been climbing since she could walk
Garnbret is in this for life. In fact, she started out climbing the door frames in her childhood home in Slovenia. Naturally this became a bit of an issue for her parents, who encouraged her to take up climbing properly at elementary school, where she graduated from climbing trees and furniture to indoor climbing.
“As a child, I wanted to be the best in everything,” Garnbret says. “I wanted it to be the best in school. I had to have the best grades. Then I wanted to be the best in the school athletic competitions, in track and field. I just wanted to be the best. Then I kind of realised I can’t be the best at everything – I have to focus on one thing. And I chose climbing.”
Enrolling on a climbing course, she quickly mastered the techniques of the sport. By the end of elementary school, she had made the Slovenian Youth Climbing Team and she crowned her first season with the title of European Junior Champion in 2013.
As a child, I wanted to be the best in everything
She’s been collecting trophies from the start
As well as bagging European Junior Champion while still at school, Garnbret went on to win almost two dozen world class awards in her early years. Between 2014 and 2016 she had a remarkable triple gold streak at the World Junior Championships before going on to win most of her IFSC competitions in 2016.
She continued to make her mark into 2017, winning the World Cup in Lead and Combined; the Combined title in the European Championships and finishing second in Bouldering in both the World Cup and the European Championships.
She’s critically adored
It isn’t just the fans and judges who rate Garnbret so highly. The Slovenian Sports Journalists Association named her its athlete of the year in 2018 and rightly so. But the plaudits didn’t end there; in 2019 she was the recipient of the Bloudk Award for Outstanding International Achievement – a huge honour, especially for someone so young.
That same year, Garnbret went on to perhaps her biggest victory yet, winning six consecutive boulder-climbing victories, becoming the World Champion in both Bouldering and Difficulty climbing.
When I do climb, you can see the happiness in me
She made history in Tokyo
After a huge delay due to Covid, it’s somewhat of an understatement to say the 2020 Olympic athletes were feeling the pressure when the Games did eventually roll around in summer 2021. This was certainly true for Garnbret. Not only was she climbing as a woman and a Slovenian, she was also representing her sport in its first ever appearance on sport's biggest stage.
But, if she was feeling nervous on the day you would not have noticed it. Her bouldering and lead performances were assured, and she comfortably solved two out of the three bouldering problems while not a single other climber managed to solve even one. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, she then climbed higher than any other competitor to secure the victory.
“It feels like you're not thinking about anything,” she says. “You just enjoy yourself, enjoy being on the wall, enjoy the moves. You're just actually enjoying who you are – who you are and what you like doing.”
She’s an all-rounder
Garnbret isn’t just about competitions. In fact, she wants to climb as many of the world’s toughest rock formations as possible. Oh, and the occasional chimney…
Confused? Don’t be; in 2020 Garnbret teamed up with fellow Slovenian Domen Škofic to take on the 360 Ascent project, which saw the duo scale the world's longest artificial multi-pitch route 360m up Europe's tallest chimney.
Watch Janja Garnbret and Domen Škofic scale the tallest artificial multi-pitch route in the world.
Climbers Janja Garnbret and Domen Škofic scale the tallest artificial multi-pitch route in the world.
Skōfic had been trying to climb the chimney – the tallest of its kind on the continent – for six years. When he got the all-clear, Garnbret was his natural first choice for a climbing partner for the marathon ascent.
Garnbret is just getting started with a winning dedication that is almost unparalleled in the sport.
“There's nothing better than training hard, then doing what you couldn't do a month ago, three months or a year ago,” she says. “What motivates me is the progress.”
"My life would be pretty depressing without climbing,” she continues. “I know that’s true because when I do climb, you can see the happiness in me.”
Best of all, she knows that, like life, climbing is all about getting up again when you fall down. “99 percent of my training is falling,” she says. “Training for climbing means falling over and over again.” That, truly, makes for a winning attitude.
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