Crushing heat and sweaty conditions didn’t hold back the crowds of spectators from watching Hannah Slaney and Nathan Phillips take the gold medal at the British Bouldering Championships 2018. And what’s more, you could watch the action live on BBC Sport.
It was a year of firsts: Hannah Slaney took her first senior British Bouldering Championships (BBCs) title and became the first person to win both the Junior and Senior BBCs in the same year, Nathan Phillips took his first senior gold medal at the BBCs, and for the first time ever the BMC got the BBCs to be broadcast live on BBC Sport. People tuned into the livestream and a crowd of spectators converged to watch the thrilling final, we were impressed with how many seeing as the BBCs had to contend with World Cup matches, Wimbledon and the Grand Prix!
With both reigning champions out of the equation, there was an all-out assault on some amazing looking problems to see who could take the title this year. Many a sweaty hand could be seen, with a number of competitors trying to cool their skin down with ice packs or portable fans. Not to mention, several rumours that Aidan Roberts had been training in thermals to try and adapt his body to the prolonged heat wave.
Gaz Parry and Mike Langley, looking fresh and professional in shirts, commentated over the livestream on BBC Sport which was handled by Sheffield local company Technative. While the BMC’s own Niall Grimes compered the semi-finals and finals with competition and route setting expert Percy Bishton, helping the crowd to cheer on the athletes.
Thanks to Beta Climbing Designs for providing fresh out of the factory holds and volumes that made the comp wall look amazing and allowed the team of routesetters, led by Jamie Cassidy, to craft an awesome batch of problems for all three rounds, even prompting the now reigning British Champion Nathan Phillips to say “it was by far the best set of blocs we’ve had in a BBCs qualis”.
WATCH the finals replay on BMC TV:
Highlights of the BBCs 2018
15 BBCs for Dave Barrans
Dave’s appearance this year was the 15th time he’s entered the BBCs, he’s never missed one since 2004! We couldn’t let such a remarkable achievement go uncelebrated, so we had to mark this special occasion by getting the Mayor of Sheffield to award Dave a few special gifts from the BMC.
Mayor of Sheffield awards Dave Barrans for his 15th BBCs. Photo: Pete Burnside
Broadcast on BBC Sport
It goes without saying, we were so excited that some hard working folk at the BMC had managed to organise the BBCs to be broadcast on the Beeb. This sport is so exciting and more people need to see it, especially as we’re heading to the Olympic Games in 2020!
Alex Messenger, head of communication at the BMC, said: “This is the first time that BBC Sport has hosted a climbing livestream, so it’s very exciting for us, the competitors, and the sport as a whole.”
First BBCs for Zoe
It was an awesome event organised by Zoe Spriggins, the BMC's new competitions programme manager. The first is always tough, we're impressed with how it went, and we're sure 2019 will be even better! Roll on next year.
Live commentary from Niall, Percy
Lots of love for the live commentary duo Niall Grimes and Percy Bishton, who helped raise spirits and stir the crowd up to cheer and roar for the climbers. Plus Percy's expert knowledge of competitions helped inform the crowd (and Niall) of the action's consequences.
Thanks to all you folks that came down to watch and make the BBCs even more amazing. Everyone seemed psyched to be there and really got behind the athletes as they climbed, great work Sheffield!
British Bouldering Championships 2018: Report
It was hot – the UK’s summer heat wave relentlessly continued into the weekend, topping Sunday off with a sweltering evening. Everyone was thankful for the slight breeze taking the edge off the heat, bringing it down from ‘unbearable’ to ‘still too hot but I can deal with it’.
Qualifications went underway and the top seeds came out guns blazing: Nathan Phillips stated his intent to win by flashing every problem, although Dave Barrans and Matt Cousins were nipping at his heels with five tops in six attempts. Meanwhile, the epic battle between Hannah Slaney and Jen Wood kicked off immediately as they both were instantly neck and neck with a flurry of flashes.
Natalie Berry proved she hadn’t forgotten how to climb on plastic, as she qualified for semis in third place and fought hard to gain two tops in semis, securing a place in the final. A big shout out to Ettie Warren and Hannah Smith, two talented up-and-coming climbers that won a well-earned place in finals, and also to Rhoslyn Frugtniet for making finals in a bouldering competition, especially as she’s more often seen outdoors climbing rock on a rope.
The male positions in semi-finals was getting incredibly tight towards the end as the tough set of problems had most athletes only managing to win one top from the five – only Nathan Phillips and Dave Barrans got more with two tops apiece. Matt Cousins, Max Ayrton and Aidan Roberts were comfortably through as they’d reached more zones than the others, but in the end only six athletes could be in the final and the last place went to Alex Waterhouse. Commiserations must go to Billy Ridal and Nathan Whaley as they both had the same semi-final score as Alex, but countback to the qualification round saw Alex just edging past them, albeit by the slimmest of margins.
The BBCs 2018 final
What an exhilarating final! The crowd roared its approval for every top, gasped for each near miss, and cheered encouragement to each and every athlete. It was down to the wire for both the male and female athletes to who would take the title; it can’t get more exciting than that.
A flurry of tops came first on the dynamic M1 (the first men’s bloc) up a series of sideways volumes, while W1 saw a more slow and static expression of movement which a number of female athletes struggled to master. Hannah Smith was the first to score a finish, Jen Wood managed to top it out on only her second go, but Hannah Slaney stepped out with determination, reaching the top on her first attempt.
Slightly easier problem for W2 saw a number of women reach the top, with Jen and Hannah Slaney fighting their way to the top on the first go, while Natalie and Rhoslyn put in some fierce efforts to top it out too. Meanwhile M2 proved far trickier, with no tops seen until Nathan Phillips struggled his way up after a few failed attempts. However, Dave Barrans came out like a rocket to piece the tricky puzzle together on his first go.
The third problem for both the men and women forced everyone to dig deep as it was time to dyno (dynamically jump). Many struggled to find the way, while some managed it first go. The normally static Natalie Berry found the way quickly, while Jen Woods and Hannah Slaney continued their head-to-head by flashing the problem. Meanwhile Dave Barrans took many attempts before unlocking the dyno, as did Alex Waterhouse, Aidan Roberts, and Max Ayrton, but Matt Cousins and Nathan Phillips upped the ante by flashing the problem.
And so it came down to the final problem for both the women and the men with everything to play for. Dave Barrans and Nathan Phillips had topped every problem before, but with two tops apiece the rest of the male field still had a chance if Dave or Nathan failed to find the way. However, the boulder was no push over, with a powerful start leading to a technical finish. Coming out second, Matt Cousins managed to find his way around the off-balance top moves. Unfortunately, his foot strayed out of bounds in an early attempt, forcing him to use up a few more. This placed Matt in first position on zones, but Max, Aidan, Nathan and Dave were still to climb.
The tough upper section of the boulder proved too much for Max, Aidan and Nathan as well, and if Dave Barrans could just reach the top of the final problem he’d win back the title of British Champion! Once he’d overcome the powerful initial section, he arrived at the final tricky section to come underneath and around a volume to reach the final hold. But he couldn’t quite make it, and so the title passed to Nathan Phillips for the first time.
On the women’s final problem, there was a head-to-head battle for gold between Jen Wood and Hannah Slaney, while the bronze medal was contested by Natalie Berry and Hannah Smith. Natalie came out first and took the lead after a hard battle with the problem, which involved a series of gaston, layback and undercut moves up a set of leaning volumes, with some powerful slappy moves to finish. Hannah Smith also willed her way to the top, but the bronze medal still went to Natalie as she’d secured one extra zone than Hannah. Still a fine effort from Hannah in her first BBCs finals!
Meanwhile, the race for pole position continued to storm ahead. Jen Wood was out first and she needed to flash the problem to put the pressure on Hannah. It would be no mean feat but Jen rose to the occasion, climbing with strength and determination to the final hold while the crowd roared its approval. Jen was now in first place, but if Hannah also flashed the final boulder she’d move down to second. The pressure was well and truly on, but Hannah came out looking relaxed and calm. She gave the boulder one last look over to run through her planned sequence, and with the crowd cheering her to the top she matched the last hold and became the first ever person to win both the Junior and Senior British Bouldering Championships in the same year.
WATCH: The semi-finals and finals on the BBC
Results of the BBCs 2018 final
1. Nathan Phillips
2. Matt Cousins
3. Dave Barrans
4. Max Ayrton
5. Aidan Roberts
6. Alex Waterhouse
1. Hannah Slaney
2. Jen Wood
3. Natalie Berry
4. Hannah Smith
5. Rhoslyn Frugtniet
6. Ettie Warren
New British Champions Hannah Slaney and Nathan Phillips
The BMC would like to thank:
Massive congratulations to everyone that took part, and big thanks to all the enthusiastic spectators the crowd for coming to watch. We think it’s been a huge success and that’s down to you, our supporters, sponsors, and especially because of all the awesome volunteers.
Special mentions go to: Sheffield BID and The Outdoor City, all the routesetters – Jamie Cassidy, Rob Napier, Alex Fry, Ben West – and Beta Outdoor Sports who provided holds from Lapis, Bleaustone, Nomad Volumes, Captain Crux, Squadra, 23Holds, and X-Cult.
We'd also like to thank all the amazing volunteers that will be helping this weekend. It's no exaggeration to say that it would not be possible to run and organise the BBCs without them.
GB Climbing is supported by the BMC, Mountaineering Scotland, Clif Bar, and Duco.
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HIGHLIGHTS: 2019 La Sportiva British Bouldering Championships