Fran

Fran Brown is the first climber we've featured on London-Athletic, the first World Champion we've met, and the first disabled athlete we've interviewed. Fran's story is so inspiring (how does a wheelchair user get into climbing in the first place?) we decided to make a video of this one. The interview continues below.


Name: Fran Brown
Age: 29
Which area of London do you call home: Leytonstone, East London
Sport: Climbing

What came first - living in London or being an athlete? 
I moved to London 8 years ago for work as I was working in theatre at the time but started climbing when I was 11. I grew up in Cornwall and learnt to climb with a school club. I only competed a little as a teenager but preferred climbing outside as there is so much amazing rock in the south west. I only started training full time for climbing three years ago having got back into climbing following an accident that left me with a spinal cord injury and means I am a wheelchair user. 

Where’s your favourite place to train in London? 
I train at the Arch climbing wall at the Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey. It is a great wall with the best training area and competition wall in London.

What’s your favourite memory of competing in London?
I competed at a World Cup in London in August which was amazing as having home support created such a great atmosphere.



London is dirty, noisy, congested and full of distractions. Do you find it difficult to avoid those distractions and concentrate on training and competing? 
For me it is quite easy being in London as I train at indoor walls and there are a selection of these so its hard to get bored. The only disadvantage is that there is no real rock near London so I have to travel a fair distance to climb outdoors. 

What do you do for a living? And does your employer understand what you do as an athlete and allow you time to train?
I’m a student at the moment, studying physiotherapy. It’s not too difficult to mix study with training however it does require me to be more organized than previously and I sometimes have to fit training into evenings and weekends when the wall is busier. Sometimes I have to make sacrifices to train full time but it’s worth it to get to compete internationally and represent my country.

Is it hard to balance work, family and your athletic career?
I find balancing competing and study fine and thankfully most of my international competitions are over the summer so they don’t clash with university too much.

If you were mayor for the day, what would you do to make life easier for athletes in London?
I would make funding available for athletes in less mainstream sports. Support the development of world class climbing walls in the capital by making appropriate planning permission easier to get.


What’s the best athletic performance you’ve ever witnessed in London?
Watching Australia beat Canada in the 2012 wheelchair rugby paralympic final.

Which London based athletes do you most respect?
Any athlete who is pushing the boundaries of their sport and training full time.

If a fellow Londoner wanted to try your sport, how would you advise them to get started?
Most London climbing walls run beginner classes or inductions which are a great way to start and to meet people. You can hire climbing shoes and other kit from the walls.

Any sponsors/supporters/coaches/clubs you’d like to thank?
I’d like to thank The Arch for being my main sponsor, Five Ten for providing me with climbing shoes and my coach Jimmie Gustin for being awesome. 


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