Campbell Harrison is climbing up, up and up.

The handsome Olympian started his rock climbing season this week, finishing 41st at the Boulder World Cup in Keqiao, China. Though Harrison is a champion climber, this week’s event was special.

After shoulder troubles delayed the start of his season, he was overjoyed to get back out there.

“Kicking the season off with a happy 41st place here in Keqiao, China! My best Boulder WC placing so far, and my first flash on a World Cup stage,” he posted on Instagram. “Might not sound like much to some, but it’s big progress for me in this discipline 😊.”

Harrison qualified for the Paris Olympics last November, winning the men’s title at the Australian Olympic qualifier. It was a sweet moment for the 26-year-old, beginning with the fact his boyfriend was there to see his triumph.

They celebrated with a smooch!

“The only way I can truly express how I felt in this moment is by showing it to you,” Campbell wrote in the immediate aftermath of his big moment. “This was the culmination of more than a decade of sweat, tears, and utter heartbreak. The pressure I felt going into this final was physically painful, to the point where I didn’t know that I could stand it. Coming into the Lead round, with everything on the line, I completely disappeared within myself and just climbed. The part of me that erupted at the top of the wall was pain, fury, joy, and pride. I cried like I’ve never cried before, because this accomplishment is of a magnitude I could never truly comprehend. I’m going to the Olympics 😭.”

He also gave his partner, Justin Maire, a special shoutout.

“And the biggest thank you to @justinthedorito , because you truly have been everything to me over the past 4 years,” he said. “This is your victory, as it is mine ❤️.”

While Harrison is blessed to have the support of his boyfriend, his Olympic qualification takes on personal meaning, too. Rock climbing made its Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games three years ago, and Harrison was poised to participate.

But then lockdown measures were enacted, forcing him to cut his training short. His sister was also diagnosed with breast cancer.

“We were about a week out from Christmas and my whole family was going to be together before our lives were turned upside down with her chemo and everything like that,” he said in an interview with the Australian Olympic Committee. “I had a couple of hours to make this decision, ‘Do I keep pushing for the Olympics?’”

Ultimately, Harrison decided to stay home with his family, which he calls a “very, very hard decision.” But when the world opened up again, he picked up right where he left off.

Harrison won two titles at the 2022 Sport Climbing Australia national champions, solidifying his place at the top of the nascent sport.

Though Harrison is only in his mid-20s, he’s been a competitive climber for over a decade. He held the National Lead Championship Title in his youth category in 2013, and won the Senior National Lead Championship in 2015.

Since coming out in 2021, he’s wanted to be the role model for other young LGBTQ+ athletes that he lacked.

“I had so few real, tangible and relatable examples of queer people leading successful lives that I think I internalized some kind of notion of queer inferiority,” he wrote in an essay for Outsports

“Had I only known of all the incredible queer people who were out there thriving in all manner of athletic, creative and professional pursuits, then perhaps I would have been able to take ownership of my own identity sooner. … Future generations of young people within the Australian climbing community would have at least one queer person to look up to and show them that life opens its doors to you when you quit shying away from it.”

That last sentence is key: so many young queer athletes grow up without seeing others like them succeed in sports. It makes them think they’re alone, and that being LGBTQ+ is incongruous with being a successful athlete.

Harrison, along with other out Olympians, is changing that perception. Other out gay or bi male Olympians known to have qualified for Paris 2024 include New Zealand rower Robbie Manson, gold-medal winning diver Tom Daley, British diver Daniel Jervis and Irish taekwondo star Jack Woolley. There were at least 186 out athletes at the Tokyo Games.

In his coming out essay, Harrison says he used to view being queer as a disadvantage in life–something that would prohibit him from accomplishing his dreams. He now realizes he couldn’t have been more misguided. 

“Queerness is not a deficit that I was unfortunate to be born with, it’s an asset that both sets me apart from the crowd and connects me to so many others,” he wrote.

Suffice to say, Harrison is owning his identity now. The turning point in his coming out journey came a few years ago, when he was invited to speak on a ClimbingQTs panel about LGBTQ+ inclusion. The LGBTQ+ social climbing group is based in Australia and seeks to foster a more open environment in the worlds of climbing and outdoor sports. 

When Campbell spoke on that panel, he publicly said he was gay for the first time. He says it was a life-changing experience.

“Fear and apprehension were present, but I was empowered and emboldened by the notion that I could be that one thing for others that I had so desperately craved in my youth,” he wrote.

With more than 8,600 followers on Instagram, Harrison is showcasing his inspiring story to the masses. Prior to this week’s World Cup in China, he was training in Tokyo, and took his fans along for the ride.

“Tokyo, you were an absolute joy,” he wrote.

To borrow Harrison’s phrasing, it’s been a joy watching him succeed! With the Paris Olympics coming up, his training regimen will now kick into full gear.

Each day, he shows queer kids their dreams are more than possible.

Don't forget to share:

Help make sure LGBTQ+ stories are being told...

We can't rely on mainstream media to tell our stories. That's why we don't lock Queerty articles behind a paywall. Will you support our mission with a contribution today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated