The Girlifornia Athlete of the Year 2018 is Slovanian climber Janja Garnbret!
Janja is becoming a legend in her own sport and also in the world of sports at a young age. Last year she came on top of our Athlete Index, above the fastest women on a downhill MTB, Rachel Atherton(2) and Tahnee Seagrave(3).
We had an interview with Janja for you to get to know the best female climber in the world.
Where are you born and live?
I was born in a small village Šmartno pri Slovenj Gradcu in Slovenia and I still live here. The village is located in a small valley, surrounded by hills.
How did you get involved with climbing? What got you inspired?
I found climbing when I was seven years old in my hometown. I found it on my own and I began to climb on trees, closets and doors at first. Soon I became introduced with real climbing holds, my parents signed me in the club and I began to climb through my own determination. When I started climbing I never knew I would be this successful in my career and of course I didn’t know that I am a talent. I was inspired by a variety of moves and the movement of the body.
When did you start doing it on an amateur base and what age did you start at the Pro’s?
First, I got introduced to climbing in the gym. I started climbing when I was 6 or 7 years old and one year later I already started competing at small national competitions. At that age I didn’t know that I would be successful, I just loved climbing. When I was 14 years old I got into the Slovenia Youth Climbing Team and I already had great results. Two years later I competed at my first ever World Cup in a senior category and I was second.
Can you explain how it works in your sport, you have rock climbing, lead and Boulder?
In a competition climbing, you have Lead, Boulder and Speed. Out of competitions you can go outside and climb on rock.
What are the differences, and which are for competitions? Which do you like the most?
In Lead climbing, you climb on high walls, which are usually 15-20m long, with a rope and the one who climbs the highest wins. In Bouldering, you climb on shorter walls, which are usually 4m long, and you fall on mats. The one who climbs more boulders wins. In Speed climbing you always have the same holds and the position of holds, the wall is 15m long and the one who is the fastest wins. These are competition disciplines. I like Lead climbing and Bouldering.
We see a lot of huge wall popping up in Europe, where do you train the most? Does Slovenia have good walls?
I train in Slovenia at a local gym. We don’t have really good conditions for training. This is why we usually go to Austria to train there.
You always see different colors of Holds, is that just for fun or is it a difficulty meter, the darker the more difficult climbing hold?
Colors are just for fun. The same hold can come in different colors. In some gyms, the hardest boulders are black, in other gyms the hardest boulders can be pink.
You are still a young lady, besides climbing are you going to college and what do you do outside the season?
Last year I finished high school and for this year I decided to take a gap year. Climbing is my lifestyle and also my hobby, I could say. Through the year I never really have a break from climbing. But once per year I have a 3 weeks break from climbing. It usually happens in December. At that time I go to tropical places with my boyfriend to rest the body and mind. I really like yoga, cooking, reading and spending quality time with my boyfriend Domen.
Are there enough World Cups and big events you think or is there room for more contests on the tour?
The season starts in April with Bouldering World Cups (this year we will have 6 Bouldering World Cups). In July the season continues with Lead World Cups (this year we also have 6 Lead World Cups). In between, there are Speed World Cups. In August we will have World Championships in Japan (Lead, Boulder, Speed and Combined). In November we have one more competition which counts as qualification competition for the Olympic Games. In my opinion, we have enough competitions because at the end of the competition season I always feel tired.
Are there a lot of women in your competition and do you see the group of women climbers grow each year?
A lot of women are competing at World Cups. Over the years more and more women are testing themselves at World Cup level and every year we have more strong women so it’s harder to win.
What does a climber need as gear, shoes, gloves, etc.?
We need climbing shoes, harness and chalk bag for competitions. If you go climbing on a rock then we also need rope, quickdraws, crash pads and a belay device.
You won the World Championships (boulder and Lead) and the World Tour Overall (6 world cups wins, 4 silver) What is it that makes you so good? Are you technical or stronger…?
There is no secret recipe for my success. I’m a good listener, I learn quickly, I’m focused, motivated, I always give 100% and most importantly I love what I’m doing!
What must you do to stay on such a top level, training, food …?
You need to train hard and never give up even if you don’t succeed at first. I do a lot of yoga and stretching. I don’t follow a special diet, I just try to eat healthy.
The Girlifornia Athlete of the Year Award is a sport Index where all the female action sports athletes in the world are presented. You became the number one athlete of 2018 with 118 points, MTB Downhill Legend Rachel Atherton close on second place with 102 points and upcoming MTB Downhill talent Tahnee Seagrave with 84 points. How do you feel that you are the number one of all the amazing athletes in Action Sports and made you the best-performing action sports athlete in the world in 2018? (Anna Gasser was the winner of 2017)
I feel honored that I am this year's best-performing athlete. It is incredible to be among all these amazing ladies and surreal that I am the number one for this year.
Can you describe to us what it means to you to be a professional climber and action sports athlete?
I climb because climbing is a moment where I fall in love with life. There are no ways to cheat because when you are on the wall you are on your own. It's a challenge against yourself, physical and mental, what are you capable of and I love that feeling you get when you reach the top after so many unsuccessful attempts. It makes me realize how much power your mind has over what you can do. When I am on the wall nothing else matters, I can refresh and forget about all the problems I have. Climbing also allows me to build a friendship with my climbing partners and create memories that I will always carry with me
Why should girls choose to go climbing what can you tell them what it will give them in life?
Climbing is not just a sport, it's my lifestyle. It brought me the most amazing people from all over the world. It teaches me how to be patient, persistent and gratitude. It brought me a better perspective on what is really important in life, to be always positive and enjoy the smallest things.