Home Educated Olympian

Thousands of us watched as Oceana represented Australia in women’s sport climbing. Here we learn a little more about her.

Meet Oceana Mackenzie

Nineteen-year-old Oceana is the youngest of six sisters who were always home educated using a natural learning style. Her parents are from New Zealand but were living in Germany when Oceana was born, and moved to Melbourne when she was very young. The family joined HEN in 2008 and Oceana attended HEN camps and events along with them.

The interests of the Mackenzie girls ranged from costume design to academics. Oceana enjoyed being home educated alongside her sisters in this busy self-directed environment.

I have a great relationship with my family so probably my fondest memories are just hanging out together or going on camps.”


Oceana (center) with her five sisters years ago


Sport Climbing

Oceana’s mum, Ellen, was a keen recreational climber, and Oceana and her sisters often went along to the gym and played on the smaller walls while Ellen did her thing.

Staff members quickly realised they needed to get Oceana in a harness to ensure she was safe. She was climbing at age eight, and a serious competitor from age 14.

Oceana climbing in 2013

Sport Climbing Australia permitted her to compete in adult competitions before she was officially eligible. At age 16 she was granted an International Olympic Scholarship designed to assist athletes in less well-funded sports get to the Olympic Games.

There are three disciplines in sport climbing and Oceana is the current women’s Australian National Champion in all of them:

  • Speed Climbing – climbers race up a wall and hit a buzzer at the top.
  • Bouldering – climbers are presented with a new wall of boulders, and have five or six minutes to plan a path to the top.
  • Lead Climbing – climbers ascend a wall with quickdraws attached to their harness, clipping one side to bolts drilled into the wall, and the other to the rope.

Oceana views Bouldering and Lead as problem-solving and enjoys the mental challenge of those along with the physical challenge of the sport generally.

During the first Covid-19 lockdown, climbing gyms were closed so Oceana’s dad built her a two-metre climbing wall in the family garage to continue training. She used this as though she was already part the way up a 15-metre wall. She used her daily hour of exercise outside the home sprinting to train for Speed Climbing. After winning the 2020 Oceania Championship in December last year, Oceana became the first Australian woman to qualify for sport climbing at an Olympic Games.

The Olympics

Competing at the Olympics alongside her most admired athlete, Janja Garnbret, was thrilling, but competition was tough, and Oceana always knew that being in and out of lock-down had not allowed optimal preparation.

Going into the Olympics, she was ranked number 18 in the world; she placed 13th in Speed, 18th in Bouldering, and 19th in Lead.

It’s always hard to finish a comp feeling like I didn’t show my best. It happens to everyone though, and it’s one of the best ways to learn to not do it again. Sometimes you have to focus on the little wins. It was one of the most exciting finals to watch and a great feeling to have our sport out there with the best. I competed at the Olympics alongside some of my idols and friends – can’t say that every day!

The Future

Just back in Australia and quarantining in Sydney, Oceana’s short-term plans are to take a well-earned rest. After that it will be back to training, more competitions and university. She is tossing up between various courses but knows Japanese will be a component.

And, of course, she has her sights set on the next Olympics.

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