GB Paraclimber Lucy Keyworth shortlisted for Disability Sport Yorkshire Sports Person of the Year!

Posted by Team BMC on 01/03/2024

Team GB Paraclimber Lucy Keyworth has been shortlisted for Disability Sport Yorkshire Sports Person of the Year.

The winner will be announced at their awards night tomorrow Fri 1 March at Elland Road, Leeds Football Club. She says, "I'm looking forward to the evening and meeting other organisations and people involved in disability sport in Yorkshire. It's great to be nominated and hopefully it will encourage more people to take up climbing."

Lucy Keyworth is on the GB Paraclimbing Team and also the development squad for paracanoeing. The 24 year old has a rare, progressive neuro-muscular disease that places her in the women’s RP1 category, in which she became national champion in 2022. She set up a paraclimbing club at Depot Climbing in Leeds, encouraging other people with disabilities. This June she will be heading to Innsbruck for the Paraclimbing World Cup.

Lucy is also currently in training for a 65km handcycle challenge at the Dirty Reiver mountain bike event around Kielder Forest in the Scottish Borders on 20 April 2024, raising money for Leeds Paraclimbing Club, sponsor her here.


Follow Lucy on Instagram @LucyKeyworth.


How did you get into climbing?

While backpacking around Australia with a couple of climbing instructor friends after a 2-week stay in hospital - I didn’t think it was something I could do, but they were really supportive. My first climb took me forever but there was an amazing sense of achievement, from being in hospital a few weeks earlier to the top of a climbing wall. Back home I kept climbing, and in lockdown I built a climbing wall in my back garden. 


What do you enjoy most about it? 

The social element, it’s a sport I can do with disabled and non-disabled friends altogether without using a wheelchair. It’s fun, thrilling and I like the process and mental challenge of working out the route, how your body has to adapt and sense of achievement at top.


How does your disability affect you?

I have a progressive, neuromuscular disease impacts that impacts my muscle power and I also have ataxia - balance and co-ordination problems. This means I can’t push through my legs, I have poor core muscles and a weak grip. It affects all muscles in my body.


Biggest challenges in climbing?

Lack of access. There aren’t many step-free, wheelchair-accessible climbing centres, not much disabled parking or accessible loos. It would really help to have quality access info on websites so disabled climbers can make informed decisions. One centre said they were step-free, but when I got there there was one step up to the whole building. Often people have parked in the disabled slots thinking disabled people don’t come climbing, then I can’t go climbing at all. I can’t access any holds above knee height, so it would be great to have a good selection of routes at walls without footholds so high off the ground that I can’t start the route. It would be great if more climbing walls would consider disabled people. When Depot Climbing [Leeds] had their big renovation they thought about access from day one because of our Paraclimbing Club.


You set up Leeds Paraclimbing Club? 

I set it up in 2021, I was sick of being the only paraclimber and wanted to create an accessible, safe, supportive and inclusive space for people with disabilities and mental health conditions to feel welcome.

Best experience with this?

Within its first year 100 people came to try climbing for the first time! That felt really good, considering it was only one 2 hour session a week. We just had our first weekend away climbing at Ingleton Quarry in north Yorkshire and Head End Quarry in the Lake District. For many this was their first opportunity to climb outside. 


How does it feel to be part of the GB Paraclimbing Team?

It feels really nice to represent my country in sport I love and enjoy, and the paraclimbing team are super supportive. At competitions everyone cheers each other on - the other countries too. I feel proud, and it’s good to see my progress over last four years, going from not climbing and being really poorly to representing the country. 


What competitions are you aiming for in 2024?

There are three World Cups on the calendar, but paraclimbers are self-funded and wheelchair-accessible rooms cost more, so I can’t go to all of them. I’ll go to Innsbruck in June, but then the Paralympic canoeing in France next September might get in the way of the others. In two years the World Champs is in South Korea and I’d love to go there. I’d love paraclimbing to get into the Paralympics too - it gives us a platform to make our sport more visible and it’s the highest level of achievement.


What would you say to a beginner with disabilities? 

Give it a go, don’t be intimidated by the people around you because you will probably be only disabled person in the club, unless you come and meet us in Leeds. Don’t worry about the grade either, just have fun and enjoy it. Like with anything, when you first start you might not be very good but if you stick with it you should soon see improvements. 


How to help people with disabilities outdoors?

Add your photos and info to Phototrails to help people with disabilities find out what they need to know about access to the countryside. Each mapped trail combines photos of every potential hazard and details on surface, gradient and facilities so people can decide if it’s suitable for them. Get in touch here


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