Oriane Bertone, sport climbing: “I like to push the limits of my possibilities every day.”

Monday, 6 november 2023

In this interview, Oriane Bertone, an athlete supported by CEGC, talks about her passion for climbing and gives us a glimpse of her personal qualities and character. Since giving this interview, she came first in the European Olympic qualification tournament and earned her ticket to Paris 2024 in the combined bouldering and difficulty event (pending official validation by the CNOSF).

How did you get into climbing? 

Completely by chance. I was with my little brother Max and my sister Margot at a day-care center and, one Wednesday afternoon, they took us rock-climbing. It was love at first sight! My father saw that we liked it and we all continued together. 

Were your parents sporty? 

My father is a PE teacher at the University of La Réunion. When he was young, he was a member of the Italian national judo team. It was during a judo training course in Saint-Etienne that he met my mother, who’s a school teacher. They married and moved to Reunion Island. 

Is it a good place to go climbing?

Yes, it’s a volcanic island with basalt rocks, so there were lots of climbing spots but not many climbing gyms at that time. Today, it’s different… I started climbing outdoors when I was about eight. Things followed their natural course and I gave up all the other sports I’d been doing: wrestling, swimming, horse-riding, judo. Climbing took over, and I focused exclusively on that.

Especially as you soon started to get positive results…

Yes, I became world youth champion in bouldering and difficulty. Even when it was a competition, I climbed for the sheer fun of it. I went climbing in the “7alouest” club, a small family club to which I’m very attached. I was asked several times to join another club, but I always refused. I’ve been there since I was a little girl, I’ve never changed, I’m really fond of it… My first coach, François Baux, was very important in my development. He’s the one who made me fall in love with this sport! 

It became an all-consuming passion, to the extent that you were educated at home…

From the 5th grade onwards, I took correspondence courses provided by the CNED all the way through to the final year of high school. This allowed me to practice climbing and to schedule lessons when I wanted. This is because, if you want to climb at an elite level, you need to move around a lot to be able to tackle a wide variety of routes so that, when competing, you can take on anything that you’re confronted with. That’s how, from the age of 9, I found myself climbing in South Africa… 

So you grew up traveling around the world…

Yes, and traveling has shaped my personality. I’m very extroverted. By the age of 18, I’d already traveled to more than 20 countries, which was extraordinary and changed my life and made me the person I am. 

Have your sister and brother also taken up climbing?

My sister climbed until she was 14, after which she focused on her studies. My brother Max, who’s 16, is still climbing and has great potential. He’s world champion and European champion in his category, so he’s got a bright future ahead of him!

So you didn’t take your high school diploma?

No, for my parents, who are both teachers, education is very important. So we made the decision to take the CNED correspondence courses provided I went back to school afterwards. My father made me promise, and that’s what I’ll be doing after the Olympics Paris 2024. Because, anyway, you can’t spend your entire life climbing… 

The experience of being a top-level sportswoman will help you a lot later on…

Yes, my father taught us the importance of seeing things through to the end. Hard work pays off and, if you put in the effort, you’ll succeed. Later, this investment will help me in other areas.

What do you like about your discipline? Why did you decide to follow this path?

I love competing at a high level. I love surpassing myself, striving to go even further. In fact, it could have been any sport, I love pushing the limits of my possibilities every day… And I also really love the discipline of bouldering. You have to be extremely dynamic and intuitive, and that appeals to me a lot.

How do you go about your training? 

I live in Paris where I train with my coach, Nicolas Januel. In climbing, it’s a bit like tennis: we have personal trainers with whom we spend a lot of time. We also take part in training courses with the French national team. 

How do you organize your schedule? 

In training, we go on three-week cycles where we work on different areas. For example, we may commit to a particular style of climbing where we focus on developing our fingers… We train between 5 and 8 hours a day. It varies according to the cycle.

What about your diet? 

I don’t have a nutritionist. I’m advised by my father, who’s very knowledgeable in this area. When it comes to meals, I’m in charge, as I see it as part of my training… And, above all, I love cooking, it’s a real passion… I never miss a season of Top Chef!

What’s your strong point?

My climbing style is very dynamic and intuitive. I jump at any opportunity.

What do you do when in doubt?

I just soldier on! You’re constantly pushed to think about your options. Sometimes it works and you don’t understand why, and the same is true when it doesn’t work. In fact, you’re always in doubt… I simply live with it! 

If you had to choose one value of your sport?

Climbing is like a big family. The major adversary facing a climber is the rock face. 
Unlike the combat sports I’ve taken part in, rivalry is limited in climbing… 

How do you see yourself in twenty years’ time?

Rich! (She bursts out laughing). No, I don’t know, I think I’ll still be climbing…

What does Paris 2024 represent in your career?

The Games in France, it’s like a family event, everyone will be there, you’re at home. It’s still hard to imagine, but it would be an honor if I’m able to take part.

How are you preparing for the Olympic Games Paris 2024? Is it really a special event compared to other competitions?

Elite athletes such as me, we make a lot of sacrifices. But at the end of the day, everyone has to make choices which, inevitably, involve sacrifices: when you’re a parent with your children, in your work, whatever your work happens to be, in every field. I’m going to give it my all, do everything I can to take part and win a medal. And if I don’t succeed, it’s because the others were better. 

How important is it for you to have a partner like the Compagnie Européenne de Garanties et Cautions supporting you?

Climbing is a sport that involves a lot of traveling, especially when you’re competing at a very high level, to confront different ways of opening routes, such as the very dynamic Japanese climbers, or the more physical Germans. So, when you’re competing, if you come across these types of routes, you won’t be surprised. But it requires a huge budget. So the financial contribution is very important… And then, for me, it means a lot to be supported, it means that we’re not alone, we know that our partner is there and will be supporting us…

Read the interview with Paul Jenft, a climber rapidly on his way to the top, also supported by Compagnie Européenne de Garanties et Cautions.

© Stevens Fremont