The drive behind climber Tom O’Halloran’s quest to represent Australia at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics

Tom O’Halloran is in his pure position. In his pure point out.

On an overhanging rock in Sydney’s west termed Jessica’s, his still left arm is stretched up hooking on to a very small ledge, white with chalk dust. His ideal is bent by his side, a few fingers clinging to the tiniest of retains. His legs are dangling, bent, fewer than a metre higher than the ground.

With all his excess weight by means of his arms, O’Halloran swings his legs up and to the still left vertically earlier mentioned his head. He hooks his toes onto a larger ledge, his body contorted upside down in the type of an ‘L’.

His still left hand moves up to take a hold exactly where his toes have hooked on, then his proper arm.

Now, he can permit his feet go down and dangle again. When extra, his ft swing up and now he has hoisted himself up to the prime of the rock.

“Ah ill,” O’Halloran shouts.



It is the exaltation of a person driven to just take on a challenge and thrive. The rest of the planet is irrelevant, like an artist who makes for their individual gratification with no ideas of an audience.

Tom O’Halloran is 27. He stands five ft, 11 inches tall and weighs 67 kilograms. Wiry and powerful. Not an ounce of unwanted fat on him.

“I am an outdoor climber,” O’Halloran claimed.

Home for O’Halloran is the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, and a tight-knit circle of fellow travellers who have congregated around the mecca of Australia’s climbing world.

“It can be a way of life,” he mentioned.

A movie on O’Halloran’s YouTube channel demonstrates him swearing in aggravation as he tries and consistently fails a sophisticated and bodily demanding shift.

It is conquering individuals hurdles that push him and bring a glint to his eye.

“The matter that absolutely conjures up me is taking on a challenge that appears to be like it truly is not likely to make it, that I’ve bought to rise up and come across a little something new,” O’Halloran said.

That love of a challenge is staying place to a new check. As one particular of Australia’s greatest-rated climbers, he is aiming to grow to be the very first male selected to contend for Australia in the new Olympic event of activity climbing at future year’s postponed Tokyo Game titles.

O’Halloran commenced rock climbing as a sport in the course of his childhood.(ABC News: Daniel Irvine)

It has been a year of problems.

In March, the choice trials for the Video games ended up postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic and in the very same 7 days O’Halloran misplaced his task on the servicing crew at a Blue Mountains tourist attraction and acquired place on JobKeeper payments.

“It was like, ‘wow’, I am not guaranteed there is certainly going to be far too many weeks in my everyday living in which almost everything just receives upended,” he explained.

“The sporting accomplishment that you have been attempting to travel for, for so extended is just absolutely evaporated and your get the job done is just gone.”

It intended placing on maintain a lifelong desire. There was some reduction to have extra time, but also “a very little little bit of anger and disappointment”.

When O’Halloran found his calling

It was a journey that started when O’Halloran was 12 many years old. He was a sport-mad kid and his parents gave him the option of owning a birthday social gathering or becoming a member of the kids’ club software at his local Brisbane climbing gym.

He selected the gym and was hooked. He had identified his activity and his contacting.


After ending faculty, he experienced an epiphany on a climbing excursion in South Africa and made a decision the pursuit desired “to be a central position of my life”.

“I bought house and three months later experienced saved up adequate revenue to pack every little thing into my aged Volvo and drive 12 hrs from Brisbane down to the Blue Mountains,” he stated.

“Quickly I observed my lover and we had a newborn and bought a residence and listed here we are soon after a nearly a ten years of residing in the Blue Mountains.”

Along the way there was even a brief segue into the globe of actuality Tv set where he appeared for two seasons on Australian Ninja Warrior, building the grand last in the 2nd period.

“The full Tv set expertise was rather full on,” O’Halloran mentioned.

“We are a little bit of a tranquil bunch us climbers. The night time after we were being on, we were down at a purchasing centre in Sydney and we obtained recognised in the change place shifting our daughter’s nappy and that was pretty complete-on and unusual.”

Now the self-confessed “outside climber” is performing almost exclusively indoors to accomplish his Olympic aspiration.

The new Olympic sport of rock climbing combines three disciplines: velocity climbing (as speedy as you can go up a 15-metre vertical wall), bouldering (resolving “problems” on fastened routes in a presented time body) and direct (climbing as significant as achievable on a 15-metre wall in a supplied time).

It is a really distinctive to the methodical solution O’Halloran takes to climbing outdoors.

“In competitors you have to clearly show up on the working day no make any difference what’s going on in the earth and you need to be at your greatest at that moment,” he mentioned.

Dedication the vital to sport climbing

O’Halloran’s companion Amanda Watts, who is also a aggressive and major-ranked climber, has put her ambitions on keep to enable O’Halloran reach his plans.

Watts describes a usual day prior to the pandemic.

“He’d get up at 4:30 in the early morning so he could be at the health and fitness center by 4:45,” she mentioned.

“He’d practice till 6:30, go straight to perform at 7:00. Function a 10-hour day. Arrive household, have a snack, dangle out with Audrey [their six-year-old daughter] and I and then go back to the gym for yet another two-hour session.

“Get house probably about 8:30, have meal [and] go to snooze.”

The partner of Tom O'Halloran ulls on ropes at a training session.
O’Halloran’s associate Amanda Watts has set her occupation on keep to assist his ambitions.(ABC: Daniel Irvine)

The extensive times have been a solution of making an attempt to get the job done and coach for a sport with no government funding.


O’Halloran admits to some envy when he compares himself to the rock stars of the Australian Olympic movement, who are funded to train entire-time.

“It is really hard to not seem at some of all those thoroughly expert athletes that are getting all the cash and the alternatives with a tiny bit of jealousy perhaps,” he reported.

No occupation, no funding

But O’Halloran does have a lot more time to devote to receiving that 1 spot and that is what retains him heading — the assumed of fulfilling a desire that commenced as a little one when he viewed the opening ceremony at the 2000 Sydney Olympics on Tv.

“Whenever I form of sit there and really believe about it … it pretty much helps make you teary,” O’Halloran reported with some emotion.

“To have the option to realise that desire is rather extraordinary, and not some thing that I at any time considered was likely to take place.”

O’Halloran joked he may well come to be too psychological ought to he realise his objective of competing at the Olympics.

“I think they may possibly require to put me on an IV drip to exchange the volume of fluids with the quantity of crying I may well do if I took that location,” O’Halloran laughed.

The postponed Tokyo Olympics are because of to begin in a calendar year, but continue to have a significant problem mark hanging more than them due to the fact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

O’Halloran appreciates it.

“With almost everything which is heading on it is really about adapting and seeking to remain good,” he claimed.

“It truly is one thing that no matter what’s likely on in the environment with all the conflict and … it genuinely is a instant of pause among the chaos. It provides us collectively and offers us reason.”

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