Shauna Coxsey is the UK’s most successful competition climber and World Cup competitor of all time. After a bittersweet end to her 2020 Olympic medal pursuit, she called her competitive career over and focused on new objectives in sport and life.
Keep reading to find out about Shauna Coxsey’s major climbing accomplishments, plans for the 2024 Paris Olympics, and what she has in store for her climbing future. She’s forging a unique career as not only an elite-level rock climber but a strong voice for women’s place in climbing and the special interests of climbing competitors.
Shauna Coxsey was born in Cheshire in northern England on January 27, 1993.
She recalls one of her first inspirations was watching a TV program that showed French climber Catherine Destivelle free soloing a wall in Mali, Africa. Soon after, her father took her to a nearby gym. They started spending every Sunday together there, pursuing her new love of climbing. Shauna was four years old.
By the age of 7 Coxsey won her first local competition, and became British national champion at 15.
Although she’s renowned as a boulderer, Shauna Coxsey started her international climbing career in IFSC Youth Series events and Youth World Championships competing in the lead climbing category.
However, as soon as she entered the adult ranks in her first bouldering World Cup event in Sheffield, UK in 2010, Coxsey began focusing exclusively on that discipline. She didn’t compete in lead climbing again until 2017, during her preparation to qualify for the inaugural 2020 Olympics rock climbing event.
Shauna also entered and placed in several World Cup speed climbing comps during 2019. Indeed, this discipline was required in the Olympic combined format along with bouldering and lead climbing.
But Coxsey is most accomplished and well-known for her bouldering prowess, both on the competition circuit and outside on classic problems around the globe.
She is the United Kingdom’s most winning competitive climber ever, male or female. The only other British climber to be crowned World Cup champion is Simon Nadin, who won the IFSC’s first lead climbing season championship in 1989.
World Cup Medals
During the height of her World Cup career, Coxsey won two IFSC Bouldering World Cup season championships, in 2016 and 2017. Prior to that she had come in second two years straight, in 2014 and 2015.
Overall, Coxsey placed on the podium at an amazing 30 IFSC Climbing World Cup bouldering events. She won 11 gold medals, 12 silver, and 7 bronze from 2012 to 2019. She also won bronze medals at the 2019 IFSC Climbing World Championships in Hachiōji, Japan in Bouldering and the Combined event. This secured her place as a representative of Great Britain in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Another highlight of the World Championships for Coxsey was setting the British national record in speed climbing at 9.141 seconds.
British Bouldering Championships
While she was battling the top international climbers during the 2010s in the IFSC’s bouldering World Cup, Coxsey was also dominating on her home soil. She won five British Bouldering Championships from 2011 to 2016. The only interruption in her unbeaten streak came in 2014 when she skipped the local Sheffield event for an IFSC Climbing World Cup event in China.
2020 Tokyo Olympic Games
Originally scheduled for summer of 2020, the games were delayed until 2021. This was somewhat unfortunate for Coxsey, as she had suffered several injuries and was nursing a chronic back injury during the competition.
In the first round of qualifying where the top eight advance to the finals, Shauna came in 4th in the Bouldering portion of the event. In the Tokyo Games, the climbing event combined three formats into one combined score to determine the winners.
This was somewhat controversial and was a hardship for climbers who focus mostly on a single event, like Coxsey. In the end, she placed 13th in Lead Climbing and 16th in Speed Climbing to finish 10th overall, missing out on the final medal round.
Shauna announced her retirement immediately after the 2020 Olympics. The grind and continual training cycles required to compete at the highest level and recover from injury had taken their toll on her performance and motivation. However, she hasn’t stopped climbing.
Shortly after retiring, Coxsey married and eventually gave birth to a baby daughter in 2022.
2024 Paris Olympic Games
While not competing, Shauna will play a big role in the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympics climbing events. She recently signed on to provide commentary for World Cup events including the 2023 Climbing World Championships in Bern and the final IFSC European Olympic qualifier event in Bouldering & Lead in Laval, France.
Outdoor Climbing & Bouldering
Even though Shauna Coxsey has spent the majority of her climbing time indoors training and competing on artificial walls, she has proven her outdoor climbing ability whenever given the opportunity.
In fact, she was the first British woman to climb boulder problems at the V12, V13, and V14 difficulty grades.
In July of 2014 she sent her most difficult problem at Magic Wood, Switzerland, becoming the first woman to climb New Base Line V14 (8B+).
Coxsey has also climbed a number of V13 (8B) boulder problems, including the following:
- Ropes of Maui (Dinas Mot, Wales, 2016) – First female ascent
- One Summer in Paradise (Magic Wood, 2014) – Second female ascent
- Zarzaparrilla (Albarracin, Spain, 2014) – First female ascent
- Nuthin But Sunshine (Rocky Mountain National Park, USA, 2013) – First female ascent
She regularly climbs outdoors all around Europe, but she’s been staying closer to home in England since having her first child.
Most recently, a sign that Shauna Coxsey is still near the top of her game, she sent Flip Flopera V13 in May of 2023 in the Lake District of the UK.
Shauna Coxsey is sponsored by Adidas – Five Ten and employs several different models of their climbing shoes in her gear arsenal.
For casual climbing and indoor training, she wears the Five Ten NIAD VCS women’s model. When she’s tackling a challenging boulder problem near the top of the grades, she’ll put on Five Ten’s Hiangle for its extra power on overhangs and micro edges.
Born in 1993, Shauna Coxsey is 30 years old and lives in Sheffield, England with her one-year-old daughter and husband Ned Feehally, an accomplished boulderer in his own right. She enjoys regular bouldering and sport climbing outings with her family in the nearby, climbing-rich Peak District National Park.
When Shauna retired from competition climbing and decided to start a family, she still planned to make a life of climbing. She kept climbing outside and in the gym throughout her pregnancy. She only took a short break to undergo double knee surgery not long after her daughter’s birth.
Her decision to keep climbing practically all the way up to her baby’s birth drew attention from social media commenters both inside and outside the climbing community, mostly positive. And she attributed climbing (1) as a key part of maintaining her health during her term:
“If I don’t climb for a week or so…everything gets a bit achy. As soon as I get back on that wall and start stretching and moving again, my body feels more connected and good and strong and also my mental health as well.”
Height and Ape Index
Coxsey is 5 feet and 4 inches tall (1m63). She’s lucky to enjoy a +3 inch (+7.6 cm) ape index to make long reaches a little more manageable.
Contribution to the Climbing Community
Although retired from World Cup climbing, Shauna is still well-regarded by her peers and was elected as the Chair of the International Federation of Sport Climbing’s Athletes’ Commission in 2021. This role enables her to give input on IFSC and Olympic climbing events.
In addition to her recognition by her rock climbing peers as one of the best in the world, Coxsey was also awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) by her native country in 2016 for her contributions to the sport of climbing.
If all of this isn’t enough, Coxsey has one more important, ongoing project. She founded the Women’s Climbing Symposium (2) in 2011, an annual gathering of women climbers. She has devoted her time and energy to it for the past 12 years.
You can follow Shauna’s latest training and outdoor climbing exploits on her Instagram channel (3).
Shauna Coxsey: Why I keep climbing while pregnant
Olympics (retrieved on 08/11/2023)
Women’s Climbing Symposium (retrieved on 08/11/2023)
Shauna’s Coxey Instagram Channel (retrieved on 08/11/2023)