A cancelled wedding and two surgeries - Olympic hopeful Shauna Coxsey's lockdown

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter
Coxsey had wrist and knee surgery during lockdown
Coxsey had wrist and knee surgery during lockdown

British climber Shauna Coxsey hopes her sport will still make its much-anticipated Olympic debut next year, but says the Games should only take place if it is "truly safe" to hold it.

Tokyo 2020 was delayed by 12 months because of the coronavirus global health pandemic.

Organisers have since stated they will "simplify" the original plans for the Games, but at this stage they are not looking to decrease the number of athletes or sports.

"It's really important that sport goes on, but it's not right to risk the wellbeing or safety of athletes," world bouldering bronze medallist Coxsey said.

"It's a massive and exciting opportunity for my sport to be showcased at the Games, but I don't want anyone to be put at risk.

"We have to put trust in the federations and governing bodies to do the right thing."

The climbing discipline created for the Olympics is effectively the sport's version of a triathlon as it will combine the three disciplines of speed, bouldering and lead in one event with scores from each totalled together to decide the female and male medallists.

'I had to postpone my wedding'

It has been estimated two-thirds of the weddings scheduled to take place in the UK this year have been impacted by coronavirus, with 27-year-old Coxsey and her fiance Ned Feehally one of the many unfortunate couples forced to postponed their big day.

"It was hard to adjust to the [Olympic] Games being delayed and we'd gone into lockdown. Then my wedding was cancelled on the same day so it was hard," she said.

"I'm a really positive person though and I tried to make the most of the time so I decided to have surgeries that I needed on my knee and wrist, so I can get as healthy and fit as possible for when competitions do return."

'Covid has hit climbing hard'

When the United Kingdom went into a national lockdown at the end of March, Olympic, Paralympic and all public training venues were closed.

Most athletes who are funded by and train in UK Sport-funded facilities were able to return to those venues in some capacity within a couple of months, but as British climbers use private facilities they were not able to return to indoor sites until late July.

Coxsey adapted her home in Sheffield to provide her with the training tools she needed while venues were closed, but she is well aware of the struggles the industry is facing.

"Covid has had a huge impact on the climbing industry," she said. "Walls had to be closed to protect the public which was right but it's been hard and I can see the effect ongoing.

"Further closures [because of increased restrictions] could be devastating to climbing businesses around the country."

The government 'must support sport'

Earlier this week, leaders from more than 100 British national governing bodies wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning of a "lost generation of activity" because of coronavirus and requesting the creation of a government-backed "sport recovery fund".

"There's been a lot of questions about what happens to elite sport, but almost more important is grassroots and participation as that's the foundation," said Coxsey.

"We often think of sport as something for our physical fitness, but it's also about our mental wellbeing, so it's important the power of sport is recognised and the government supports the return to sport by keeping training centres open and boosting participation."

Coxsey is planning to return to competition and the rescheduled IFSC European Championships in Moscow in late November are a target.

But there is a strong possibility that the event will be delayed - like so many others - and moved to 2021.