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 IFSC Climbing World Championship held in Gijón in northern Spain over the weekend of 12-14 September.
It was the second time the Asturias region had hosted the world championships, after Avilés in 2007; this time the event featured speed climbing, paraclimbing and lead climbing categories. The competition was well attended throughout; some felt there was a slight lack of competitors in the main categories due to scheduling between boulder comps, but there was a 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 Ramon Julian Puigblanque, win, an equally vociferous (though smaller crowd) on Saturday did see their new hero, Urko Carmona, crowned world champion in his paraclimbing class as the last act of a long and inspiring day.
Speed climbing – Boldyrev sets new world record
With paraclimbing taking pride of place on the weekend, speed climbing took place on the Friday. 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 Ukrainian Danyl Boldyrev shattered Libor Hroza's previous world record from Arco, clocking in at 5.60 seconds! The women’s event went to form with the strong Russian Alina Gaidamakina beating two Poles and keeping it pretty much an Eastern Bloc muscle-fest! There were no British competitors in the speed event.
Full results of the 2014 IFSC World Championships - Speed
Watch the men’s and women’s speed finals:
Paraclimbing – Fran Brown wins new Masters category
This year's Paraclimbing World Championships had more athletes registered than any previous championship. The event also combined two models of competition: a traditional championship format with four athletes from three nations for the disability categories with large numbers of athletes; and for the first time, a new World Paraclimbing Masters for disability categories with less than four athletes. By running these two models side by side, the IFSC created the opportunity for nearly 30 disabled athletes to be included in the most important event in the sport climbing calendar.
So Saturday was paraclimbing day and in many ways it 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 from Japan climbed brilliantly in the B1 category (visually impaired); and Urko sealed an emotional day with his top out in the amputee class.
Urko’s win provided the proof that paraclimbing can sit on the same stage and be as 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 paraclimbing gets the same status and ‘game-time’ as the able-bodied version. In the end the full British team results were (in their respective categories)
Paraclimbing World Championships – GB Team results
6th: Phillip Mitchell - MEN amputee leg PD
3rd: Esme Harte - WOMEN amputee leg PD
4th: Dave Bowes - MEN Neurological Physical Disability A
6th: Alex Taylor - WOMEN Neurological Physical Disability A
7th: Adam Hoolahan - MEN visual impairment B1
Paraclimbing World Masters – GB Team results
2nd: Nick Middleton - MEN amputee arm PD
3rd: Sianagh Gallagher - WOMEN amputee arm PD
1st: Fran Brown - WOMEN Neurological Physical Disability B
2nd: Reanne Racktoo - WOMEN visual impairment B3
3rd: John Churcher - MEN visual impairment B2
A brilliant set of results and Wild Country is very proud to have been able to support this talented bunch.
Full results of the 2014 IFSC Paraclimbing World Championships and World Masters
Watch the men’s and women’s paraclimbing finals:
Lead climbing – Ondra and Kim dominate
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 the Korean 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, Adam Ondra from the Czech Republic and Spain's Ramón Julian Puigblanque 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 Japanese climber Amma Sachi's highpoint 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 former’s 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!
The GB Senior Lead Climbing Team was represented by three male competitors. Dave Barrans almost made it into the semi finals, finishing in a creditable 33rd; Connor Byrne finished 58th and Luke Dawson 68th.
Full results of the 2014 IFSC World Championships - Lead
Watch the men’s and women’s lead finals:
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!
Report by Richie Patterson/Wild Country.
The British Paraclimbing Team is supported by Sherpa Adventure and Wild Country.