Five things that shaped sport climber Molly Thompson-Smith

Molly Thompson-Smith has broken down barriers to secure an Olympic place.

The sport climber was part of our 2023 Black History Month video series where she delved into the personal items and memories that influenced her as a woman and athlete of colour.

The 26-year-old became the first British woman to win a medal in a Lead World Cup event with bronze in Slovenia in 2017 and after her growing success led to a bronze medal at the 2020 European Climbing Championships in Moscow, before a roaring performance at the 2024 Olympic Qualifying Series saw her qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Here are the mementoes that shaped Molly Thompson-Smith.

Watch the full video here: 5 Things That Shaped... Molly Thompson-Smith

2020 European Championship bronze

In one of the first competitions back since the Covid pandemic began, Thompson-Smith clinched her first major piece of silverware at the European Championships.

Climbing to 31 holds, and narrowly beating out Germany's Hannah Meul for a spot on the podium, the Brit clinched a brilliant bronze.

And success brought an added level of joy, Thompson-Smith able to replace her previous memories of racism in the country with the feeling of excelling in the sport she loves.

"I had a lot of doubts in 2020 and I won this in a place where I had previously experienced racism," she said.

"I had gone with my dad for a climbing competition when I was younger and were not welcomed at all and it felt awful.

"So, to have a positive memory from that place to replace that negative experience meant a lot of me and my family."

The Black Lives Matter mask

At the same competition, Thompson-Smith exercised her right to talk about matters she's passionate about by wearing a Black Lives Matter mask.

Empowered to create conversation on such an important matter, the climber was thrilled to recieve such incredible support from her teammates and the rest of British Climbing in her decision.

"This was the first time that I felt as an adult that I used my platform as an athlete to talk about something that was important to me," she said.

"Especially to do it in that country and at that competition, with so many people watching online at that time it felt like a really bold move.

"But I felt empowered and it was nice to see that this is what I can do as an athlete and make the most of this really special and privileged opportunity that I have."

The iPod shuffle

Who doesn't love a good blast from the past and Thompson-Smith's iPod shuffle is certainly that.

From the Electric Shuffle to Katy Perry, the climber admitted that the noughties staple is still a key part of her climbing routine, embracing her love of music which stems from her Bajan culture and family influence.

"I have loads of old songs on there from when I was about 10," she said.

"It symbolises the importance of music in my culture and in climbing as well.

"When I was younger, my family would always have these big dinner parties with lots of food and music so it's very important to me.

"In climbing, we have this thing called isolation between the semi-final and final rounds where you are not allowed to see anyone else's performance.

"And when you're in this room, you're not allowed to have any devices that can connect to WiFi or Bluetooth.

"So, this old school iPod is perfect."

Her dad

Behind the majority of elite athletes is a parent or guardian who has sacrificed their own time to help their child succeed in sport.

For Thompson-Smith, that person is her dad, Tony Smith.

Tony has been a huge influence on his daughter's life, both in and out of climbing.

Whether it's showing her a new song on the journey to a competition or making her feel safe and accepted, Thompson-Smith's dad really is the one.

"He just thinks I'm amazing and I think he's amazing," she said.

"He's been there through it all, and when I was a kid he must have been the only parent of colour at all of the competitions and training.

"And if he felt uncomfortable, he never showed it to me which gave me the space to feel comfortable myself in climbing.

"He showed me it was okay to be different.

"And I'll be forever grateful to him for that as it's helped me to fall in love with climbing and hopefully I can inspire change in the community too."

The tangle teaser

Thompson-Smith is currently one of the only climbers of colour on the World Cup circuit and is intent on creating a world of inclusivity in the sport she loves.

From the young girl who was hiding her curly hair to the woman she is today, the climber is embracing her identity to show others that they can too.

"I always wanted to hide my hair so I would straighten it," she said.

"There weren't a lot of kids that looked like me when I was younger, whether that was skin tone or hair.

"Even as I entered the World Cup circuit, there wasn't a single person that looked like me and the hair was something that people would ask  to touch or comment on and that's what reminded me I was different.

"I didn't want to be anymore different than I already felt.

"2020 was a big year, I had stared to embrace my curls a little bit but I decided that my hair was a tool to be used.

"I could be the person that other mixed race girls or girls with thick and curly hair needed to be in the climbing community to feel more comfortable and feel like they belong.

"Why can't it be me who can give that to others."

Sportsbeat 2024