Olympian Shauna Coxsey hits back at online trolls criticising her for climbing while pregnant

Shauna Coxsey has hit back at online trolls that criticised her for climbing while pregnant

Shauna Coxsey, 39 weeks pregnant, is taking on the online trolls so other women don’t have to.

The Olympian knew the judgement would start the minute she began posting pictures of herself climbing with a baby bump.

Sure enough, for all the positive encouragement, there were also those in the comments who felt entitled to say things like “this is just dangerous”, calling her “insane”, urging her to “be careful because of her bump” or “consider stop climbing on the wall” and a warning about stretched belly muscles.

But women, asserted the two-time sport climbing World Cup champion and Tokyo 2020 Olympian, know their bodies best—particularly when they’re also in regular contact with medical experts.

“I made a conscious choice that I wanted to be honest and share my journey on social media a long time ago, throughout my career, and that didn’t change during pregnancy,” said Coxsey.

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“I was a little reluctant about sharing certain things just because of the pushback, but at the same time I think it’s so important for people to understand what risk assessment looks like for different people, what choice looks like for different people. Although there has been some pushback and some hate, I’ve had messages from women who have been inspired, and have continued to keep doing what they love because of seeing what I’m doing.

“The idea that someone stops doing something through fear of judgement I think is just really sad. Women are very capable of assessing risk when they’re pregnant or not.

“They’re probably even better at assessing risk when they are pregnant because there’s absolutely no one who is going to turn around and say they don’t love their baby, you know?

“It’s just been this really fascinating and exposing time in a way because I think it’s so easy to sit on a computer and give some hate.”

Coxsey and husband Ned Feehally, a fellow climber, discovered they were expecting a month after their wedding, Coxsey chalking up her mood and exhaustion to the “post-Games blues”, though she had a sneaking suspicion as early as her hen do — so much so that Coxsey had a friend drink all of her alcohol for her.

She’s been working with a women’s health physio, who has also guided other climbers, throughout her pregnancy and has helped Coxsey understand her changing body, develop an exercise regime focusing on core strength and pelvic floor health, and troubleshoot “any little niggles” along the way.

And despite what the naysayers might assume, conscientiousness always has been a big part of Coxsey’s gameplan. The Runcorn native first laid eyes on a bouldering wall at the age of four, and was scaling one herself months later. Now 29, she’s well aware of the line between a routine climb and a risky one, and a knee injury meant she was already climbing down walls rather than dropping off.

“I think it’s so important for people to understand what risk assessment looks like for different people, what choice looks like for different people,” she said.

“The hardest thing for me is that I don’t want other women to be put off because of the judgment and if I can take some of that strain by sharing and taking that judgment I want to be like, ‘this is the reality. This is the way I’m mitigating these risks.’

“For me climbing is safer than walking along the street! I’m much more likely to trip up walking than I am to fall off a climbing wall within my comfort zone.”

Shaun Coxsey competed for Team GB as sport climbing made it’s Olympic debut in Tokyo last summer

Coxsey’s postpartum plans are to get back into the professional setup but this time as an outdoor climber, away from the international competition circuit the five-time British champion thrived in for the better part of the last decade.

A series of injuries left her well off top form ahead of last summer’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics, where sport climbing made its debut, but she’ll always have the honour of being the inaugural athlete to represent Team GB.

She’s now at the beginning of a four-year term as president of the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) Athletes’ Commission.

“It was really important to me to not just leave the community. I’ve been climbing my entire life. I’ve seen a lot of change happen and I see a lot of change coming, and I think the athlete voice is really important,” said Coxsey.

“With any growth comes the good and the bad, and I think our sport is growing at such an alarming rate.

“The weirdest thing is climbing became cool! Climbing was never cool.”

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There’s one little person she’s hoping latches on to climbing’s cool factor. Coxsey and Feehally may only have their hospital bag half-packed, but there’s already a tiny climbing wall installed in their attic.

“Oh yeah,” she added, grinning. “It’s built.”

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