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Campbell Harrison bio photo

Campbell Harrison

Age

26

Place of Birth

Dandenong, Victoria

Hometown

Seaford

Senior Club

Urban Climb Collingwood

Olympic History

Paris 2024

 

Campbell's Story

Sport climber Campbell Harrison is used to tackling pretty steep obstacles, but the ones that blocked his dream at the Tokyo Olympics – where his sport made its Games debut – were insurmountable.

That’s why his relief at securing a spot at the Paris Games, by winning the boulder and lead events at the Oceania selection trials in 2023, was palpable.

Campbell started climbing when he was eight, because he thought it would be a “cool hobby to take up”, and says he was the sort of child most parents feared would end up in an emergency ward.

“I was always running and jumping over everything,” he says. “To be honest it was nothing I had ever expected to do in the Olympics, climbing was such a niche little sport … but when the opportunity presented itself it was something I couldn’t say no to.”

Campbell, who grew up in the Melbourne suburb of Seaford, was Australia’s top-ranked climber and on track for Tokyo selection when COVID-19 lockdown border closures forced him to cut short his qualifying competition.

“The first day with the speed climbing didn’t go well and then it was announced the border between NSW and Victoria would close that night,” Campbell said of the 2020 Oceania trials.

“On top of that, my sister had just been diagnosed with breast cancer.

“We were about a week out from Christmas and my whole family was going to be together before our lives were turned upside down with her chemo and everything like that.

“I had a couple of hours to make this decision, ‘Do I keep pushing for the Olympics?’.

“I knew that I basically had to win boulder and win lead to be able to take the spot, and in that moment I decided I would go home and be with my family.

“It was a really, really hard decision that I took a long time to reconcile with.”

But as the world opened up again after COVID, Campbell returned to competition and revived his Olympic dream.

After winning his first Australian title in 2015, Campbell won two titles at the 2022 Sport Climbing Australia national championships – lead, where climbers get as high as possible on a fixed course on an overhanging wall in a set time, and the combined event.

He has consistently placed in the world top-40 in lead climbing and bouldering and has reached the semi-finals in multiple World Cup events.

In an emotional social media post after he qualified for Paris, Campbell wrote: “This was the culmination of more than a decade of blood, sweat, tears and utter heartbreak. The pressure I felt going into this final was physically painful, to the point where I didn’t know that I could stand it.

“Coming into the Lead round, with everything on the line, I completely disappeared within myself and just climbed. The part of me that erupted at the top of the wall was pain, fury, joy and pride. I cried like I’ve never cried before, because this accomplishment is of a magnitude I could never truly comprehend. I’m going to the Olympics.”

Campbell, who came out as gay in 2021, hopes to be an example to other LGBTQI athletes.

“Competing as a queer athlete, I always hope that I can show other young queer climbers that being gay doesn’t have to be a barrier to participation in sport, but we can also be the best if we set our mind to it,” he says.

Campbell says he maintains his passion for climbing because it was the “first thing that really showed me the correlation between hard work and success.

“The kinds of goals that I was able to accomplish when I put everything into my training inspired me, not only in a sporting context, but in other aspects of my life too.”

Campbell juggles training around his work teaching climbing and also as a barista, After training in Melbourne early in 2024, he heads to Europe for a few months on the road competing ahead of the Paris Games.

In 2023, Campbell was elected to the Athletes’ Commission of the International Federation of Sport Climbing.

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