Janja Garnbret

10 MIN

Every place is my happy place, if I can climb it.

Walls, rocks, mountains.

But also trees, doors and windows.

Where I can hold on with my hands and fingers, with my feet and with my will, that's my place.

And it has always been.

Janja Garnbret

© Simon Raine

As a child, if you couldn't find me at ground level, you had to lift your head, because I was certainly stuck on some branch or on some balcony.

You had to search the sky, to find me.

In my family no one had ever practiced any sport professionaly, no one knew anithing about climbing, and when I brought it inside the house it wasn't even clear if it was a real “sport”.

Lifestyle, sport or philosophy, it didn't matter: I simply liked to go high, as high as possible.

Janja Garnbret

© Simon Raine

One day, on a Sunday, my mother wanted to clean the house and to prevent me from disturbing her with my adventures as a domestic climber, she sent me to the park with my dad.

So that I could get some sun and spend some time in the open air.

There, we saw a climbing wall, intend for an event open to the public, that we didn't even know existed.

It was immediately clear to me that climbing was going to be my life.

I got to the top on my first attempt, and I haven't looked down since.

At that time, I was also a part of a dance group (hip-hop, wild girl stuff, of course). So when I started with climbing I was also dancing. Soon I had to decide between dancing and climbing. And of course, I choose climbing.
After That, all my time was divided between school and climbing, which had the ability to make every moment feel special.

Janja Garnbret

When I feel the holds, under my fingers or toes, it's as if the world slows down, as if it becomes softer, lighter. Easier.

Difficulty instead of blurring, clarifies the view, sharpens it.

Offers a solution.

It's a moment that doesn't last long, but that takes a lot of time anyway.

And you have to channel all your strength into that precise corner, which is tiny, but which becomes the center of your entire being.

It's like breaking yourself down and rebuilding your body one obstacle at a time, shifting the weight into a very small part of you, which becomes your whole.

It makes you feel strong and light at the same time.

Fragile, yet immovable.

Brilliant, but also logical, firm.


It’s creativity at the service of solving a problem.

It’s Rubik's cube, but written in braille.

It’s a melting inside the wall. Like water, that adapts to the shape of the container that houses it, but which also has the strength to destroy it, if only given time.

Janja Garnbret

I knew from day one that I would do this in my life, that becoming a climber was my destiny, my future.

I didn't imagine I could be the best, nor did I dream of becoming a champion, but I was certain that I would spend my life on that wall, that it was the right way to express my essence.

In my first race I finished second last.

But I didn't care at all.

The only thing that mattered was the possibility to do it again, and then again.

As many times as I wanted.

Janja Garnbret

Climb after climb, I began to find my style, my way of understanding the rock, the ascent.

The challenge.

To the naked eye, if you are not an expert, we can all look alike, but in reality this is not the case, because the character of each one of us comes out, modeling itself in a dialogue with the roughness and edges of the wall.

We find ourselves to be patient or instinctive.

Sensible or ready to take risks.

Anxious to reach the top, or in love with the path it takes to really get there.

Each one is himself, on the wall.

And understanding who you are is the first step to get to the top.

Janja Garnbret

When I started, I was inspired by Maja Vidmar and Mina Markovič, the great Slovenians of the past, and I tried to imitate their style, in all th aspects.

They were my role models, my heroines, and I built my approach to the competitions on them.

Strategic, calm.

Always under control.

Without ever taking unnecessary risks and weighing every single choice: a cerebral, logical, conservative climber.

Then I realized that I could continue their tradition even by expressing who I really was, and I opened up to what I felt inside, to what I really wanted.

To the little girl I had been.

I learned to appreciate my character for what it is, and I became a completely different athlete.

High risk, high reward: this is my philosophy today.

A fluid, dynamic movement.



The continuous search for the alternative, for creation, for vision.

For my personal way of conquering the wall.

And that's how I came to fully express my potential, up to the highest level.

Janja Garnbret

Maja and Mina did not experience the Olympic Games, because that’s a privilege of our generation: a transformation that is changing the entire discipline.

I remember when people were just starting to talk about the possibility of joining the Olympic family, and I remember the electricity I felt.

I couldn’t wait.

The night the news finally became official, I immediately went on Instagram to post a photo of the Five Circles. “Tokyo, here we come”, I wrote in the copy.

What I didn't make public, however, was the program I prepared with my coach leading up to the Olympics.

Step by step, everything I would have to do, to go to Tokyo 2020.

And to go there to win something important.

Janja Garnbret

© Lena Drapella IFSC

Right now, nothing is more important than the Games, even if they are new to our community.

Three days after the end of a World Cup I already feel the physical need to go back to training, to climb.

After Tokyo and the gold medal, it took me months.

I didn't know what I should or wanted to do with my life: I felt lost, having achieved such a great result.

I won the post-Olympic World Cup without any pressure or motivation.

Climbing empty, like a robot.

I needed time to find my reasons back, my passion.

And I learned to be kind to myself.

Janja Garnbret

© Lena Drapella IFSC

Like a blues, melancholy swirled in my head for a while.

Until, slowly, peace began to return.

I started from the roots, from the origins.

From the simplest gesture.

From climbing things, from challenging myself, like I did when I was a kid.

Because at the end, the truth, my truth, is pretty simple: every place is my happy place, if I can climb it.

Walls, rocks, mountains.

But also trees, doors and windows.

Where I can hold on with my hands and fingers, with my feet and with my will, that's my place. It always has been and there is no reason to change it.

Not even with an Olympic gold medal around my neck.

Not even now, that I'm a grown up.

Janja Garnbret / Contributor

Janja Garnbret