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Ribble Valley climber aims for Rio
5:32pm Wednesday 5th September 2012 in Sport
AS one of the country’s best young sports climbers, Connor Byrne knows all about following routes.
Now the 16-year-old is hoping to set himself a course all the way to the 2020 Olympic Games.
With climbing on a shortlist of sports to be introduced in eight years time, Connor – the current British Youth Lead Climbing champion – is ideally placed to make his move for the top.
Connor, who leaves Bowland High School to study his A Levels at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School, has been a part of the Great Britain climbing team for the last two years.
He has competed both home and abroad in the European Youth Cup, where he has been the leading GB climber, and has climbed in the national championships since 2006.
While Connor shows he has a head for heights, his feet remain firmly on the ground knowing that his education is his main priority.
“I want to go to university but I won’t necessarily plan it around my climbing,” said Connor who trains under Paul Dewhurst at Bolder UK in Blackburn.
“Of course climbing is very important for me and competing in the Olympics would be my ultimate goal but my studies come first.
“My short term aim is to continue to do well in the British Championships and get selected for the GB team for the World Youth Climbing Championships in Canada next year.
“But the Olympics would be something to aim for should sport climbing be chosen as one of the new sports.”
What makes his success all the more remarkable is that Connor was out of the sport for two years after breaking his leg in 2007 after falling down the stairs at the family home in Waddington Fell near Clitheroe.
However, the injury was not diagnosed for another five months and when it was, it was discovered that Connor had broken his fibula and shards of bone had damaged tendons and muscles in the leg.
“It was a very nasty injury, one which the doctors could not diagnose for some time,” said mum Caroline. “But once they realised the seriousness of the injury, Connor basically couldn’t do anything for two years.
“He was told by doctors not to run, climb or do PE in school. He had to build up his fitness again from scratch.”
But Connor did come back and finished third in the regional British Mountaineering Council (BMC) finals and was 12th in the nationals. The following year, he was successful in the GB team trials and despite a strenuous selection policy each year, he has been a part of the national set-up since.
Again his success is all the more impressive as he receives no major funding and in November, the family will have to dig deep again to send him to the European Youth Championships in France and the European Youth Cup in Slovenia.
“I know it is the same for other sports but it is a shame that funding is not provider, especially when you are representing your country,” added Caroline. “At the moment we are funding it ourselves so it would be great if we could find a sponsor to help.”
Byrne first took to a climbing wall when he was eight-years-old at Roefield Leisure Centre when he decided gymnastics was not for him.
“He was very good at gymnastics but when he saw the climbing wall at Roefield he decided to give it a go,” added Caroline who says Connor is the only climber in the family. “It turned out he was pretty good!”
Should climbing see off the likes of karate, baseball, squash and roller sports for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics it remains to be seen which form of the sport will be chosen.
Speed climbing, lead climbing – which involves climbers attaching themselves to a rope, and ‘freestyle’ bolder climbing would all be in contention.
Connor added: “Lead climbing is my preferred discipline but if they were to chose one of the others then I would swap if it meant the chance of going to the Olympics.”
n Anyone wishing to help Connor with his funding can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org