‘How climbing changed my life’: Stoke Newington paraclimber Anoushé Husain on aiming high for a place on Team GB

Paraclimber Anoushé Husain. Picture: Ben Grubb

Paraclimber Anoushé Husain. Picture: Ben Grubb - Credit: Claire Clifton Coles

Paraclimber Anoushé Husain has just been named sports personality of the year at the Asian Achievers Awards. She tells Emma Bartholomew how it gives her a focus away from her health

Paraclimber Anoushé Husain. Picture: Claire Clifton Coles

Paraclimber Anoushé Husain. Picture: Claire Clifton Coles - Credit: Claire Clifton Coles

Anoushé Husain is a role model for anyone facing a self-limiting belief or barrier.

A cancer survivor living with five diagnosed syndromes, who was born missing her right arm below the elbow, she is ranked third in the UK for paraclimbing - despite only taking up the sport two years ago.

Her climbing progress has been so swift that a place on the GB paraclimbing team is looking like a real possibility.

Anoushé, 31, first tried paraclimbing age eight on a school trip and “loved the feeling”, but her parents told her it was “too dangerous”.

Paraclimber Anoushé Husain. Picture: Ben Grubb

Paraclimber Anoushé Husain. Picture: Ben Grubb - Credit: Claire Clifton Coles

She took up martial arts instead, and was at the point of becoming semi-professional but had to give it up suddenly when she was struck down with cancer and her joints began dislocating spontaneously.

She went on to try everything from tennis to badminton, running and yoga.

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“I have one-and-a-half arms, so trying these sports can sometimes be interesting,” said Anoushé who lives in Stoke Newington. “I have the typical body image issues that girls have.”

Her friend suggested climbing would help with her cancer rehabilitation, to which she said: “You’re nuts”.

At the time her good arm was not fully working and basic tasks like getting her socks on or having a shower were problematic.

“The first session of climbing was excruciating, but the feeling I had as an eight-year-old came back,” said Anoushé.

“The focus of being on a wall means you forget what you might be going through in your life, regardless of what it is. The better climbers are the ones who have gone through something in life because they are that much more focused on the wall.

“It gives me something to focus on that isn’t my health,” added Anoushé, a policy advisor in the Civil Service.

She insists not having all her limbs is not as much of an impediment as it might first appear.

“Your legs push more than your arms pull, so it’s about getting your legs in the right position and pushing correctly. You can do a lot with your feet. The stronger your hips get the more you can push and it’s about balance and coordination. My technique is generally much better at a lower grade than the majority of climbers, because that’s where I have to excel.”

She has the blessing from all of her different medical teams to take part in the sport.

“We have found I’m becoming less and less dependent on hospital support staff,” said Anoushé who is sponsored by the Castle Climbing Centre in Green Lanes.

“Before I couldn’t open a jar at home, and now I am the one who does open the jars. There are some days when my condition is really bad but those days are fewer and even when I have a bad day now I can probably get out for a climb.

“Climbing has without a doubt become an addiction but a very good one. It has changed my life.”