I’m back in business, exceeding expectations and making up for lost time in Olympic bid
Things are very different from a year ago.
I’ve recently enjoyed some time off before winter training and the Olympic year, having come through so many challenges since breaking my ankle last September.
I decided to finish my season two months ago with the penultimate World Cup competition of the season in Slovenia, and not take part in the European Olympic qualification event at the end of October.
There was one place available for the Games and, with this year being so intense and fast-paced, I realised I needed a rest.
Instead I spent the last month rock climbing, not caring too much about competition and getting myself ready for the winter training that lies ahead.
The target is next year’s Paris Olympic qualification events, and I’m remembering the routines of full-time training, convincing myself that it’s always the first couple of weeks that feel the hardest!
I wouldn’t say my ankle is 100 per cent but I’ve come to realise that it will probably never be the same as it was before.
Walking is still quite painful, so the next few months are going to be spent working on mobility and building up the strength in my legs. For most of this season, I felt I was working at more like 50 per cent capacity, and by the end of the world championships, the little leg power I had felt depleted.
But I couldn’t be happier with how this year has gone for me; when I stop to think about how far I’ve come in such a short space of time after injury, I’m just proud.
I had my most consistent season ever, making a World Cup and world championships final, and finished fifth after my hand slipped in one final. But that happens sometimes, and as frustrating as it was at the time, it still represented my best result in five or six years.
I didn’t know what to expect from the world championships but I made my first ever international semi-final in bouldering. Bouldering was not a discipline I was expecting to excel in this year as it’s my weaker discipline, and a lot more intense on the ankles than lead climbing.
So to finish an overall 12th made it a fantastic championships for me and sets me up nicely for 2024.
Maybe it has been such a promising year for me because I went into it without big expectations, on the back of my injury.
I worked really, really hard to come back and it is so amazing when you see that graft paying off, and the confidence boost I needed for the last Paris qualification push.
But of course, nothing is ever a given in sport and there is still a long road to go to the Olympics. After a far from ideal start to the calendar year, I am pleased to just be in with a chance at qualification.
Next year is shaping up to be my quietest competition year ever, which may sound strange given it is the Olympics but the World Cup circuit is taking a back seat for me as I prioritise the Games.
The season begins with the first World Cup event in Shanghai in April and then it’s China again for Olympic qualifying in May, Budapest in June, another World Cup event and then the Games in Paris.
I have a clear goal which is giving me the focus I need to go all-in with my training, and with no physical injury limitations on what I can do as I enter that winter training phase which will be so important in building me up for an important year.
Compared to a year ago, it is so different. This time around, I am thankfully injury free and ready to make up for lost time. I feel closer than ever before to an Olympic spot and I’m ready to do all I can to take it.
A van-tastic way to enjoy the calm before the storm
MY partner and I bought a van and have been on trips to the Lake District, having friends over in Sheffield, playing board games and – wait for it –
staying up late. My friends will tell you how unusual it is to see me up after 9pm!
It’s nice to be doing different things and having different routines, allowing time for more of the other ‘jobs’ I sometimes do like motivational speaking and hosting events.
The next one coming up for me is the Kendal Mountain Festival, which I always love as it brings so many parts of the outdoor industry together in one outdoorsy place to celebrate people’s achievements, discuss and watch some great outdoor footage.
It’s all a bit different to the training grind but this is the calm before the storm of 2024.
Molly Thompson-Smith is an ambassador of The North Face – Never Stop Exploring