The Australian Olympic team for the Paris Games has two more member after Victorian sport climbing duo Oceania Mackenzie and Campbell Harrison had their selections confirmed.
Harrison, from bayside Melbourne, said it was ”beyond words” for him to make his first Games, realising a long-held dream after eight years of “fighting” and sacrifices.
The 26-year-old was Australia’s top-ranked climber and on track for selection in Tokyo when Covid border closures forced him to cut short his qualifying competition.
But now he’s headed to Paris motivated to make up for that lost opportunity.
“Qualifying for the Olympic Games is a dream that I’ve been fighting for close to eight years now, finally realising it is beyond words,” he said.
“I’m not sure that it’s fully sunk in yet that I’ll actually be an Olympian in August this year, but I’m doing everything I can to be as ready as possible for the Games.
“When everything came together at our qualifying event, and I knew I had made it, it was completely surreal. I’m not sure I’ve ever had such a strong emotional response like that before. I’m feeling a mixture of joy, pride, and relief in knowing that all the work I’ve done and everything I’ve sacrificed has come together.
“I think climbing has a lot to offer the world of sport and beyond, and I can’t wait for more people to discover that.”
Mackenzie, also from Melbourne, will go to her second Olympics hoping her experience in Tokyo, when the sport made its Games debut, would help her go better than her world championships finish of seventh in 2023 when she became the first Australian climber to make a World Cup final.
Mackenzie has consistently raised the standard for Australian climbers and is keen to use her Tokyo Olympic experience to propel her even further in Paris and inspire more people to give climbing a go.
“I’m beyond excited to be heading to Paris for my second Games,” Mackenzie said. “I’ve actually never been to Paris, so this will be a fun and new experience!
“Having already been immersed in that kind of Olympic environment will allow me to focus more on my climbing.
“One of my favourite things about climbing is the supportive and social community, so I hope people seeing climbing in the Games will help spark their interest in the sport.
“I love the feeling of working something that feels so physically and mentally hard. Climbing is also so diverse in its movements, which I love. Learning new moves every session – it’s very addictive.”
The climbers join three other athletes – swimmer Chelsea Gubecka, canoeist Jess Fox and sailor Breiana Whitehead – as the five confirmed members of an Australian Olympic team that could reach as many as 480 athletes.