Olympian Tom O'Halloran is Tokyo bound for climbing's Games debut

Blackheath Olympian Tom O'Halloran is throwing his climbing shoes exhausted and dreaming of simple things like a surf, a beer and time to skateboard with his seven-year-old daughter Audrey.

The 28-year-old athlete leaves for Tokyo on July 26 as Australia's first man to represent the new Olympic sport of climbing at the Olympic games. And he's understandably anxious and a bit overwhelmed, said his long-time partner Amanda Watts.

"He only wants to climb, but is missing normal," the sports dietitian said. "He wants to go to Culburra for a surf, enjoy a nice beer at Mountain Culture and have a skateboard with Audrey," Watts said.

Tom is on a self-imposed ban from talking to the media, because "he needs all his mental reserves to cope with it and keep training," she said.

On one of his last social media posts he said he was battling the wall "and was ready to start flipping cars ... sometimes you get bloody frustrated and angry".

A few days later he said it was "awesome" his new Australian kit had arrived and he was "looking forward to wearing it on the plane and in Tokyo".

The Olympics requires mastery of three intense disciplines - speed climbing (as fast as you can go up a 15-metre wall), bouldering (solving problems in a set time) and lead (climbing as high as you can on a 15-metre wall, again with time constraints).

"It's a very strange experience, it demands so much more of you than you can ever imagine," his partner said of the coming Olympics.

"Tom has been the best [Australian male] outdoor climber for a while now, pushing the boundaries, but the Olympics is something the whole world is watching, there's 20 men and there's nowhere to hide," Watts said.

"The pressure is pretty huge. It's a one shot in four years. Climbing is a funny thing, you don't know the route for lead, you don't know what the boulder problems are going to be like ... there's so many variables [and] not many places to find comfort in your head."

Watts is an elite climber who has put her own goals on hold to support her partner.

"He's a deep thinker and very sensitive. There are so many thoughts at the moment ... he said he doesn't know what he needs [in terms of what will relieve the pressure] right now."

Due to COVID restrictions, O'Halloran has stayed in Australia, so he is a "dark horse" to the other 19 men competing, Watts said.

I think there's always a bit of magic in this stuff and being the dark horse I hope it works in his favour.

The champion outdoor climber had planned to compete in world cup events this year, but instead had to watch them on the web. But the one advantage from the lockdown is he has been able to train away from others in many specialist climbing gyms, that are currently closed to the public.

"I think there's always a bit of magic in this stuff and being the dark horse, I hope it works in his favour," Watts said.

O'Halloran is well known throughout Australia, after competing in the reality TV show, Ninja Warrior, making the grand final. He has been living in the Mountains - the nation's ancestral home of rockclimbing - for more than a decade.

O'Halloran's journey started when he was 12. His parents gave him the option of having a birthday party or joining the kids' club program at his local Brisbane climbing gym. Climbing won out.

Only two Australian Olympic climbers are headed to Tokyo - the female entrant is Oceana Mackenzie. The entire climbing team consists of three people - with O'Halloran sharing Mackenzie's coach for the games while his actual coach Lee Cossey remains on standby.

O'Halloran lost his full-time job during COVID. To make a tax deductible donation to his Olympic journey go to: https://asf.org.au/athletes/tom-ohalloran-tokyo-2021-olympics/. His events are on August 3 and 5.