Van Tonder grabs rope climbing record

OCR athlete Thomas van Tonder achieves his gargantuan goal of a 90m rope climb.

Months of strategising, planning and training all formed part of helping Red Bull Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) athlete Thomas van Tonder achieve his gargantuan goal of a 90m rope climb between one of Joburg’s most iconic landmarks, the Soweto Towers.

Van Tonder nailed the climb in 09:05 and in the process set an unofficial Guinness World Record for the 50m rope climb at 03:19.688.

He said: “Starting the attempt today with all the witnesses was amazing. Everything felt good, the rigging crew was on point and I fell into a good rhythm. “I got to the 50m mark and I was able to lock into the rope and take a second to catch my breath and look at my watch. I knew then I had achieved a sub four minute time, which for me was a huge goal.

“It was then that I realised I still had another 40m to climb. That last part was brutal, as I had spent a lot of my energy already on the first 50m section. I was battling with arm pump and trying to manage so as to not let my hands fail, but I made it to the top. Seeing the team there waiting for me was an unforgettable moment.”

With South Africans going into lockdown, it was a challenge for many athletes to stay motivated and to find ways to keep up with their training.

For van Tonder, a world champion in OCR, a sport that requires a lot of training outdoors and using various forms of obstacle structures, it was important to find ways to keep mentally and physically fit.

It was during this time that van Tonder drew inspiration from British adventurer Ross Edgley and fellow OCR athlete Leon Kofoed to lay out a goal for the Guinness World Record attempt rope climb.

As the country moved into lower levels of lockdown, van Tonder was able to get back into the gym for conditioning and much-needed simulation work at CityROCK, an indoor climbing facility in Johannesburg, in preparation for the record attempt.

Further to his training, van Tonder also spent a lot of timing researching the right gear for the climb. Limiting weight was a key consideration when it came to choosing the harness and helmet. Shoes, for example, needed to ensure grip and help manage any pain.

And lastly, finding the correct rope that would not tangle and twist.

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