Tiffany Melius was just 14 years old when she fell in love with climbing.
“I was looking for a new sport to challenge me after years of gymnastics, something that would allow me to maintain my strength and flexibility,” Tiffany recalls.
“On the recommendation of a neighbour, I tried indoor rock climbing at a local gym, and I was completely hooked from the first day!
“I started competing three months later and haven’t looked back since.”
20 years on, Tiffany’s love of climbing has taken her all over the world, reaching new heights in over 50 countries. Originally from Australia, it was in the summer of 2008 that she found herself arriving in Sheffield, and falling in love with everything the city had to offer.
“I came to Sheffield for - what else!? - the climbing in the Peak District!” she laughs.
“I was on a world tour that started in 2006. My stop in England was a working stop to experience the culture a bit more fully and save money to continue to travel afterwards.
“I fell a bit in love with the peaks and tried to stay longer, but unfortunately England didn’t want me, and so when my visa was up in the summer of 2009, I had to move on.”
Tiffany was born and grew up in the sub-tropical climate of Brisbane on Australia’s east coast. She spent her childhood, along with her brother and sister, climbing trees, swimming, cycling and playing various sports, taking full advantage of Brisbane’s long summer days and mild winters.
Now aged 35, and living and training in Vancouver, Canada, Tiffany is preparing to take on the biggest step of her competitive rock-climbing career so far.
It was recently announced that, at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Sport Climbing will be included for the very first time.
There are only 20 male and 20 female spots globally available to climbers; and likely only one spot per gender available to Continental Oceania – which includes Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia combined.
“My goal is to be that one woman to get that spot,” Tiffany says, with determination.
“I’ll be 36 by the time the Olympics come around, so this really is my one and only shot. If you had just one shot at your dream, wouldn’t you want to take it? So now, I need help to reach this goal.”
Last year, Tiffany launched an online campaign to raise the $50,000 she needs to reach Tokyo 2020 – a figure which will pay for training and her support team (everything from physio, massage, dietician, to sports psychologist), and expenses including flights, travel, accommodation, and entry fees during the two years run-up to the games.
“My Make A Champ campaign total so far, with other fundraising projects and sponsorship, is at $15,000. This goal is so important to me that I will go into debt to fund it if necessary . I hope that I won't finish the Olympics $35,000 in debt – hence the fundraising - but if I have to, I will.
“Most competitive climbers specialise in one discipline, but the Olympic format requires mastery of all three - lead, speed and bouldering. This will be a highly competitive and coveted position as climbing makes its Olympic debut, and the race is on. Along the road to qualification are multiple international competitions, all requiring travel, accommodation, and entry fees, not to mention training support back home.”
On her Make A Champ page, Tiffany has promised donors who get behind her a host of ‘thank you’s’ for their support – everything from good karma, shout outs on social media, and personal emails and phone calls, to postcards from competition destinations, logos and stickers, and video calls.
“I promise to train really hard,” she adds.
“The Olympics is the pinnacle of human sporting achievement, and climbing is my passion as a human. There is no bigger dream, and no greater honour, than representing your country, in your chosen sport, at the Olympics - it is the pinnacle of passion!
“I feel extreme gratitude that I am still, just, young enough to have this opportunity - so it is my first, my last, and my one and only chance to go to the Olympics. As a mature athlete I hope that I can share my experience with up and coming climbers - the future of the sport. I hope to be able to teach them how to be better athletes, ambassadors for our sport, and role models for humanity.
“As for me, well isn’t it every athlete’s dream to stand on top of the podium for their country?”
Visit makeachamp.com/tiffanymelius for more details on Tiffany’s campaign and training journey, and to make a donation that could help her get to Tokyo 2020.