Aniya Holder Calls on Africa to Support Her #Paris2024 Summer Games Dream

With the 2024 Olympics just a few months away athletes who have booked their ticket to Paris are franticly making sure they are fit and ready for the games. For Aniya Holder it’s no different. The 22-year-old speed climber is training hard but is also looking for funding as she hopes to not just make South Africa proud but the entire continent. Photo: Danie du Toit

With the 2024 Olympics just a few months away athletes who have booked their ticket to Paris are franticly making sure they are fit and ready for the games. For Aniya Holder it’s no different, but in common with many sporting hopefuls, this 22-year-old speed climber also on the hunt for funding to not just make South Africa but the entire continent proud. 

Now, as her name suggest, speed climbing sees the athlete race to the top of the 15m meter wall, in the fastest time, a strength- and agility based skill Holder has become quite adept at. The Eastern-Cape native secured her place at the Olympics at the end of 2023 at the International Federation of Sport Climbing African (IFSC) qualifier in December. 

Holder will become the only women to represent Africa in her discipline at the Games. The 22-year-old says her big achievement is something that taught her a lot about herself and her confidence in herself, as well as her abilities.

“It’s amazing, I have always wanted to go, not just specifically for speed climbing, but as a kid you dream of going to the Olympics one day, and I love sport. It’s huge, and just to know if I tried something and worked hard enough, to know that I can actually make it happen, that if I set out in my mind to something, I can achieve it, which is really nice to know.”

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Holder has a lot on her plate as a sportswoman. She has to juggle a fair amount as she has a full-time job as a boulder route setter at a gym in Gqeberha as well as a climbing coaching. She has a rather busy day as her daily schedule includes waking up at 4am, training until 8am, and working a full day at her job until 6pm, after which she cycles back home. She then sprints to keep up her fitness for an hour, has dinner, and tries to get to bed by 8pm. 

It can be exhausting, but Holder loves training and the sport. She has taken a rather holistic look to her life as a speed climber as she continues with the rigours of making sure she is excelling in all fields. 

“I love training, and I suppose any with sport that you love, it becomes like your church … like your mediation. It’s nice to just have a goal, work towards it and focus on something.” 

CONTRIBUTE TO ANIYA’S PARIS DREAM AT THUNDAFUND.AFRICA

However, she admites that her strenuous days sometimes takes a toll on her. 

“It’s exhausting I am not going to lie, if we did have a bit more support then we could spend a bit more time training, and also a little more time resting, if we didn’t have to also work all day long. There is no time for anything else. Even on my lunch break at work, I am stretching.”

One thing that was very noticeable when checking out Holder’s social media was how she is often pictured covered in bruises, and Holder admits that speed climbing is known to take a toll on the body. 

Holder’s climbing story began when she was 14 and went to fetch a friend who was at the climbing gym, and thought: ‘Oooh this looks fun’. But it was only when she was around 17 years old that she started to take the sport seriously, and her journey to becoming a speed climber was born out of her sustaining two major injuries – including smashing several bones in her hand – which meant she wasn’t able to make the small grips needed during regular climbing. 

“I suppose any sport, is physically and muscularly tough when you get worked. With Speed climbing it specifically wrecks the knees and the shins especially if you keep falling. As you running up as fast you can you just knock your knees on things a lot up there, so you see a lot of speed climbers where knee pads and shin pads to save their legs!”

She feels that growth of the sport when it comes to females participating has been exponential. Holder says when she began climbing seven years ago, there were no females participating, she however glad that things are change and is now the role model that girls and women can look up to. 

“It’s cool that fellow females have the confidence to join and it’s nice to be an inspiration as well and people look up to you. It’s nice to have the inspiration, when you see someone you think, they can do it, then so can I. It’s always been a male-dominated sport, in our gym now there is almost equal boys and girls, while in other gyms it’s usually a lot less girls.”

Right now she finds herself in a bit of quandary, something that is familiar territory when it comes to being a women in sport. Holder is short on funds for her trip and is relying on fundraising to help her with part of the money she will need. She has received donations beyond her expectations, but it’s still not close to the amount she needs, which is the range of R150,000 – R250,000.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day Holder has this simple advice for fellow sportswomen and young girls as she urges them to dig deep to make their dreams come true. 

“If you are willing to discipline your life, work hard and stay consistent, you will see improvement, and you will be surprised at how much you can achieve. You only need to be better than you were yesterday, and that’s already a success.”


Photo Caption: With the 2024 Olympics just a few months away athletes who have booked their ticket to Paris are franticly making sure they are fit and ready for the games. For Aniya Holder it’s no different. The 22-year-old speed climber is training hard but is also looking for funding as she hopes to not just make South Africa proud but the entire continent. All Photos: Danie du Toit

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