Such is the nature of competitions that once again the best men and women won, but there was much more to it at a tense, exciting and inspirational climbing IFSC World Championship held in Gijón in northern Spain last weekend. The World Championships which were in Asturias in northern Spain for the 2nd time featured Speed Climbing, Para-Climbing and Lead Climbing were well attended throughout. And although some felt there was a slight lack of competitors in the main categories due to scheduling between boulder comps there was strong field and the finals had most of the big names.
And although a partisan crowd on Sunday didn´t see their favourite, the diminutive powerhouse Ramonet, win, an equally vociferous (though smaller crowd) on Saturday did see their new hero, Urko Carmona, crowned world champion in his para-climbing class as the last act of a long and inspiring day.
Interestingly, the Speed climbing, though it was the first time it had been in Spain was over with early on with the Para Climbing taking pride of place on the weekend. Speed climbing was on Friday and this was the first time any Speed Climbing had been seen in Spain meaning that mouths hung open as the crowd realised what speed in climbing actually meant. The world record, recently broken, fell again in the men´s final as the Ukranian, Danylo Boldyrev, overcame the Russian challenge (things to come?) to take 1st. The womens’ went to form with the strong Russian Alina Gaidamakina beating two Poles and keeping it pretty much an eastern Bloc muscle –fest!
So Saturday instead was Para-Climbing and in many ways the para day proved the highlight of the competition especially because the large mainly Spanish crowd got the see their man win. A long and tiring day in hot conditions took it out of the climbers but the reaction and size of the crowd made it an event to remember for most and there were several stand-out performances that really raised the bar (and roof). Fran Brown cemented her place at the top table with a very close win, adding a world masters to her current world champion status on the last hold; Koichiro Kobayashi the Japanese climbing brilliantly in the B1 category (visually impaired); and Urko sealing an emotional day with his top out in the amputee class.
Urko’s win provided the proof that Para Climbing can sit of the same stage and be equally thrilling as any other category. Hearing the crowd chanting Urko’s name signalled that they were 100% in accord with the competition and not in a way that suggested platitudes: this was a climbing comp and they wanted to be part of his win!!
This was a very well-attended event, with para-climbers from as far afield as Iran, Japan and the USA, being exciting and inspirational in equal measure. And with a bit of bias it was great to see the British team do so well. A big team went and managed to claim 6 top three placings – a testament not only to their dedication but to the work put in by the BMC in making sure their cause is pushed so that para-climbing gets the same status and ‘game-time’ as the able bodied version. In the end the full British team results were: Alex & Phil 6th & Adam 7th, Dave 4th , Fran 1st , Sianagh 3rd, Nick 2nd , John 3rd , Esme 3rd & Reanne 2nd. A brilliant set of results and Wild Country is very proud to have been able to support this talented bunch.
Finally came the lead comp and a big crowd braved an enormous thunderstorm to pack the pavilion. The women’s competition seemed close at first as height was gained incrementally, climber by climber, but no-one seemed to have the key to the 8b climb. But then out strode Jain Kim, the final competitor, and with a precision, fluidity and strength unseen so far she simply blew everyone else out of the water; topping out in a style that had everyone in the crowd on their feet.
In the Men’s final it seemed as though everyone was waiting for the stars and although the competition was fierce it wasn’t until the last two appeared that things really hotted up. A partisan crowd were obviously all for Ramonet but this didn’t mean they were exactly anti-Ondra and his smooth ascent past Scahi Ammi’s high-point to latch-and-leap from the penultimate hold brought cheers from the crowd. Cheers which then turned to roars as Ramonet stepped up. His contrasting ‘locky’ style seemed initially at odds with the route yet as he edged higher the unbelievable athleticism of the tiny figure became obvious and, making it look easier than anyone, he looked destined for the triumph the event fervently wished for.
Yet at the same high point as Ondra his trajectory changed, and unlike the formers leap to claim his ‘plus’ the Spaniard found himself on the end of the rope without having persuaded the judges he had the same control as Ondra, leaving an emotional Adam as double world champion!
You can watch the finals here http://bit.ly/WorldCupMen_Women
The highlight for me, however, wasn’t the climbing, but what the climbing did. It was brilliant listening and talking to climbers who were exiting the para event, quite obviously inspired, and hearing them discuss training and how they could try to utilise the skills of para climbers to learn to climb better (training with one arm, one leg, blindfolded) rather than mouthing platitudes of sympathy or a ‘oh didn´t they do well’ attitude.
Climbers inspiring climbers – the true meaning of a World Championship!