County's young climbing star: Schoolboy Alexander Watson joins GB's junior climbing team aged 10, wins gold at English Championships and tops All Nations Bouldering Series
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Alexander Watson is just 10 years old. But already he has been selected for the GB (Great Britain) junior climbing team, won an All Nations Bouldering Series event in the spring and this summer took home a gold award.
The schoolboy from Ribchester, near Preston, has big ambitions, with his sights set on a future Olympics.
His swift ascent to climbing success started with a precocious enthusiasm for the climbing wall at his after-school club.
Dad Mike said: “The spark that started his climbing happened when he was six. He got suspended from his after-school sports club for climbing the apparatus on the wall of the main hall. Well, at least this showed he didn’t have a fear of heights. Not long afterwards, one of his friends had a birthday party at Preston’s Clip ’n Climb centre and it soon became obvious that Alexander had a natural talent for climbing.”
Mike credits a local venue with helping develop his son’s climbing talents. Mike said: “He was lucky to have one of the best climbing gyms in the whole country, Boulder UK in Bamber Bridge, on his doorstep and over the next few years Alexander worked his way through their kids’ clubs and joined their academy, where he was coached by Gill Peet, herself a former GB team member.”
During this period that Alexander qualified for the national finals of the British Mountaineering Council’s Youth Climbing Series three years in a row and in November last year he was selected for the GB Climbing junior team.
Bouldering climbers scale walls up to 4.5 metres high without safety ropes, relying on very thick floor matting for protection. Mike said: “The holds on the walls are mostly made from plastic and each route is called a ‘problem’ as the way to climb it is not always obvious and climbers have to figure out the moves to solve the ‘problem’ before they start climbing … Routes in climbing gyms are usually graded in terms of difficulty on a scale from V0 to V8 - Alexander topped his first V8 route aged 10.”
After winning the All Nations (England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland) Bouldering Series in the spring Alexander turned his attention to roped climbing, winning gold at the English Lead Climbing Championships in Southampton last month. A win all the more impressive because he was competing against children from across the UK and was the only climber to top all three routes in his under 12 age category.
Alexander, who attended St Wilfrid’s CE primary school in Ribchester, is looking forward to starting at Ribblesdale High in Clitheroe this September.
He has one more national competition this year, the Welsh Lead Climbing Championships. After that he will continue his training, ready to tackle the next challenge when he moves into the under 14 age category in 2023.
In the future he hopes to represent Team GB in international competitions and possibly the Olympics.
Mike and Alexander’s mum Evi said: “It doesn’t really matter how far he gets. We’re already very proud of him and of course he always wants to win but we’re just happy that he enjoys taking part in a sport that keeps him fit and healthy.”