Humboldtians in Private

Above It All

By Lucie Jarrige, recorded by Mareike Ilsemann

That’s me on the climbing wall at the 2018 Paraclimbing World Championships in Innsbruck. For the second time in succession, I took the world title in the AL-2 category. This stands for “athletes with an amputated leg or leg deficiency”. 

Lucie Jarrige
Lucie Jarrige (Photo: Sytse van Slooten)

Just a few weeks ago, I was able to defend my title in Briançon. It was quite overwhelming! I fight the wall just as I previously fought cancer. And I beat the wall just as I beat cancer. Thanks to climbing and my own biography, I’ve become someone who never gives up, wants to be right up at the top and enjoys every moment of life.

I come from the small French commune of Monflanquin in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, some 160 kilometres southeast of Bordeaux. Before I was diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of fifteen and had to have my left leg amputated above the knee, I was a swimmer. I only started climbing six years or so ago. When I moved to Paris to take a Master’s, I met lots of new people, including the chairman of a climbing club. He encouraged me to go to the climbing centre and simply have a go. Even with one leg. So, I did have a go and was immediately hooked. In Paris, just three years later in 2016, I became the paraclimbing world champion for the first time.

If you survive cancer you grow up very quickly. Before I got ill, I wanted to be a pharmacist and help people by selling them medicine. But then I had to spend a long time in hospital and talked to many people – doctors, nurses, caregivers – about my choice of profession. They were very important, revealing conversations because they helped me realise that I was actually more interested in research, that I wanted to develop drugs to improve people’s health. That was the moment I decided to become a chemist.

I worked long and hard to prepare for the World Championships. After working 10 to 12 hours in the lab, I’d spend another four hours at the climbing centre. When things really heated up before the event, I went there for five or six times a week. That meant pretty long days, but I didn’t mind. I love science and I love my sport. They are my life!

If at all possible, I dream of taking part in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. And of winning a medal.

published in Humboldt Kosmos 110/2019

The French pharmaceutical scientist Dr Lucie Jarrige is a Humboldt Research Fellow at Philipps- University Marburg. She investigates how light can help to transform molecules without producing harmful side effects. Green chemistry is close to Lucie Jarrige’s heart.