Janja Garnbret aiming for second Olympic gold at Paris 2024. GETTY IMAGES

In Ljubljana, Slovenia, the world's first female Olympic climbing champion is preparing to defend her title at Paris 2024. The current world number one has taken time out between two training camps in Japan and China to confirm her ambition to "go for gold again".

With eight World Championships gold medals, 41 World Cup victories and her first Olympic title, Janja Garnbret is the queen of climbing, and she wants to keep it that way, having started out "climbing doors, cupboards and trees". 

Now she is at the pinnacle of climbing, one of the sports on the Olympic programme. The Slovenian was crowned champion at the Tokyo Games and will defend her gold medal in Paris in 2024. "Once you've tasted Olympic victory, you want to repeat the medal," she said with a smile in an interview with AFP. She is now back in her native Slovenia. She is preparing between two training camps in Japan and China.

At Paris 2024, Janja Garnbret will compete from 5 to 10 August in the combined bouldering event, which involves climbing structures on a 15-metre wall without a rope and without knowing the route beforehand.

Slovenia's Janja Garnbret is one of the world's greatest female climbers. GETTY IMAGES
Slovenia's Janja Garnbret is one of the world's greatest female climbers. GETTY IMAGES

In a discreet club in Vrhnika, 20 km south of the capital Ljubljana, the 25-year-old has demonstrated a unique talent that is hard to describe. "I climb instinctively. When I first started, I felt a mixture of lightness and strength, and that's a feeling I still enjoy," she said.

Like many child prodigies, she started by accident. She was 7 years old. She had to be distracted because she couldn't sit still. One day, young Janja found herself in front of a climbing wall "five or six metres high". "And she reached the top!," her father Vili told AFP.

Janja tried dancing. But she liked heights much more than her mother. "Personally, I wasn't thrilled with her decision," recalls her mother Darja. "It was in climbing that I found the spark, the flame. When I'm competing, I stop listening to the crowd. I empty my brain. I go into a bubble," stressed the Olympic champion.

Janja Garnbret will be one of the big favourites at Paris 2024. GETTY IMAGES
Janja Garnbret will be one of the big favourites at Paris 2024. GETTY IMAGES

Her coach Roman Krajnik has no doubt that Janja Garnbret is "made for this sport," something he knew from the first time he saw her and was impressed by her abilities. He also believes that her strong point is her mentality and motivation, "as if she still has everything to win," which makes her "ready" for the maximum at Paris 2024. Now the Slovenian wants to continue with the ambition that makes her stand out.

Three days of intense training followed by a day off is her training routine. It is a regimen that has helped her overcome a serious toe injury she suffered last year. "It was a very difficult moment. I had a lot of negative thoughts, a lot of doubts," the Slovenian admitted. This setback has allowed her to strengthen the other leg and to "learn to be patient".

The climber is aware of her role as a star in Slovenia and tries to help young people by setting a good example. That's why she goes to schools to teach children and has managed to get some of them involved in her sport. A book about her life is due to be published soon, in which the climbing star advises young people to avoid junk food and is also an environmental campaigner. "I don't want to be remembered just for the number of medals I've won," Garnbret concluded.