Rock climbing and life, oddly similar pursuits

By Melissa Talbert July 08, 2020

The other day I stumbled across an article explaining what it’s like to be a competitive rock climber.

Truly, I didn’t expect to show an ounce of empathy for the experienced rock climber. But with rock climbing having its Olympic debut in 2021, I decided to read it. Now I recognize how relatable rock climbing is for many of us.

A climbing wall (like the one at Sandals Ochi Beach Resort in Ocho Rios, St Ann) has coloured holds. The holds of the same colour signify where to place your hands or feet— this defines your climbing route.

In life, many of us have routes/paths we take to achieve a goal whether big or small.

Our individual routes/paths are unique. They have varying levels of hardships.

Similarly, there are three different types of competitive climbing— sport, bouldering and speed. All three take different skill sets. Also, the routes in sport and bouldering competitions are always unique because the holds are placed differently after each competition.

Naturally, we tend to compare routes/paths to see who’s life is more challenging. In competitive climbing, climbing routes are graded primarily on how complex the route is.

A complex route is dependent on how difficult the holds are to hold onto, how risky it is to reach each hold and the nature of the climbing wall itself. Holds have varying sizes— some so small it can hardly support a finger.

While climbing, climbers are bound to fall from the climbing wall because of how strenuous their route is.

Like them, the paths we take to achieve something in life can be so difficult or unfamiliar that we screw up.

All in all, rock climbing is oddly similar to life. There are unique paths to follow and along the way are adversities that force us to fall. Take now for instance, there is a pandemic challenging the paths of many like those from the entertainment sector. Many are struggling but it’s important to hang in there.

Please share your thoughts on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use #IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

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    Lately, discussions surrounding self-identity as blacks (how one's characteristics are perceived in society) have become difficult to ignore.

    Spaces like the Artistic Swimming community where historically there has not been much diversity, are slowly changing that with more representation.

    However, it’s neither here nor there for Ajoni Llewelyn, an experienced synchronised swimmer for the Jamaica Synchro team. The 19-year-old says she’s never felt out of place because of her skin complexion or natural hair at competitions. Instead she focuses solely on the sport she loves.


    This Q&A explores the almost 11-year journey she describes as “long, rough, challenging and fun.”


    Melissa Talbert (MT): What’s the most challenging thing about being a synchronised swimmer?


    Ajoni Llewelyn (AL): For me, the most challenging thing about synchronised swimming is learning parts of a new routine and memorising the counts for every movement.


    MT: What’s the best thing about being a synchronised swimmer?


    AL: The best thing about being a synchronised swimmer is that I get to help my coach make up routines with the help of others and teach younger girls how to swim.



    MT: What are some accomplishments you’ve had as a synchronised swimmer?


    AL: Height is required in everything! One accomplishment would be improving my height in my vertical (upside down in one straight line). Besides that, I have many accomplishments in competitions and ones that happen in training. I would say Carifta 2018 was a big one because I was first in the duet Junior. My participation in the Central American Caribbean Swimming Federation (CCCAN) competition is also an accomplishment though I don’t remember my placement. I just really appreciate moving from one stage to another; gaining growth, wisdom and strength.


    MT: Where do you see yourself in five years?


    AL: Coaching!


    MT: What are some obstacles you've overcome and how did you overcome them?


    AL: I have had a lot of obstacles, most of them I haven’t gotten over yet. One is the pool coverage. When I swim my solo, I don't utilize the pool space enough- so now I move more.

    Another obstacle? Well, I tried my best at speed swimming then injured my shoulder. That held me back in synchro because my severe shoulder pains made it difficult to accomplish anything. Even when I try ( and trust me I try) I still have shoulder issues. So even though I'd like to try new things, I have to be careful of my shoulder. Hurting my shoulder was a major setback.


    MT: How influential are your parents in your career? (Have they helped you in any way?)


    AL: My mother is the manager of the team so I have to push more. I have her full support in things related to swimming. My mother judges at all my swim meets and doesn’t mark me higher than anyone even though I'm her daughter.


    MT: How important is it to have a support system?


    AL: It's very important to have support. Why? Because it’s a very hard sport!!

    My support system consists of my mother (who is the manager), my coach and my teammates. But, I really don't need to rely on anybody except for when I go to competitions and I feel like I cannot do it. I go to my teammates and they’ll say, “Okay Ajoni, you can do it! You know you can do it... you’ve done it in training...” That’s the support I get and I don't mind because it’s really good.



    MT: Describe your favourite routine.


    AL: My solo is my favourite routine. It is swum by one person and requires movement, pointed toes and energy. I’m always giving the judges expressions and I try to flow to the music. I just do as best as I can.


    MT: Why is it your favourite?


    AL: My solo is my favourite routine because I can enjoy myself, make small mistakes and finish it knowing I gave my best.


    MT: What is a routine you found very difficult at first but got the hang of later?


    AL: I found the teams (consisting of four or eight swimmers) very difficult but once I go over it in my head and remember the routine it eventually becomes easier. Plus, I know I’m replaceable so it pushes me to do better. And I have no choice but to get the hang of things because I’m the eldest in my group and I have to be an example to the others.


    MT: Do you see a lot of girls who look like you at competitions?


    AL: No. We mostly compete in the Caribbean and in our region it’s mostly Hispanic, French and sometimes white athletes.


    MT: If you could give advice/tips to up and coming synchronised swimmers, what would it be?


    AL: I would tell them to be ready to have a mindset to work hard through good and bad times. Every time you work hard in whatever you do, it will pay off in a good way.  

  • Why ISSA, JFF should scrap plans for high school football for 2020 Why ISSA, JFF should scrap plans for high school football for 2020

    When the pandemic shut the world down in March, it also shut down the world of sports.

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    Synchronised swimming in Jamaica is missing one critical element.

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    Synchro swimmers put considerable effort into their themes and choreography with beginner classes for synchronised swimmers serving as a stepping stone to elaborate routines and impactful projects.

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    Please share your thoughts on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use #IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

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