This past weekend was the World Cup in Puurs, Belgium. It was the 4th world cup of the year following Chamonix, Briancon and Imst. I competed in the first two but missed the third as I was competing at the Adidas RockStars in Stuttgart. In Chamonix and Briancon, I managed to snag 3rd and 2nd place respectively. For this one in Puurs, I knew the wall was going to be at a disadvantage but me, but I try not to think about it and compete to my best.
Qualifiers were on the Friday, the 21st with semi-finals and finals on the 22nd. For the qualification, and as there were only 37 registered athletes, I tried to change up my style of climbing a bit. The wall here in Puurs is a huge amphitheater. It favours the climbers that can rest, especially in a roof. The routes, even when going straight out the wall are at least 50 moves. When they wind a bit, 60-70 move routes are not uncommon. I therefore tried to climb a bit slower in qualification and test the waters slightly. I went quickly through the bottom and rested in the middle.
After both qualifiers, I was absolutely spent after each route. I find that stopping in the route just makes me tired. Even though I’m resting back and forth and resting each individual arm at either points, overall I’m getting more tired… After the second qualifier, I knew that it wasn’t working. I still managed to top both routes, but I could’ve done them much better I think by just sticking to my style. This is also something I try to work on in training.
Skip ahead another day and it was semi-finals day. Because I had topped both qualifiers and my world ranking is quite high, I was out 3rd to last. For this climb, I knew I’d be going fast, and after preview, I wasn’t overly excited to climb the route. It was a beast of a route, at least 60 moves long. I knew I’d have to climb fast and efficiently through pretty much the whole route. I often find semi-finals harder than finals because generally, you have to get higher in semi to even advance to finals. In finals, if you fall halfway up, sometimes you still end up 4th or 5th.
The semi-final route went pretty well for me, at least as well as I could’ve done. The beginning was harder than I had originally anticipated which also forced me to climb a bit slower. I climbed as quickly as possible without making the chances of falling too high. In the middle of the route, I made a very big error matching a big undercling volume, but after it was over, I still wasn’t too tired. I kept climbing, and eventually made it up to the last panel of the climb. Completely exhausted, I tried to do the hard mantle style move, and barely touched the hold, if at all. I had climbed very well, and they said I was in finals. When I found out a bit later that I had BARELY squeaked into finals in 8th place, I was a bit rattled. I was rattled because I had climbed pretty well for myself, and still barely made it in. Keeping that in mind, I was now in “last” place moving into finals so I had nothing to lose. I knew that on my finals route, it was a do or die kind of situation and even if I jumped off the first move; I wouldn’t go down in ranking!
After a quick lunch/dinner and a litre of water, I was waiting for the closing of isolation to start my warm-up. I had borrowed my mom’s ipad so I could pass the time until the closing of isolation. When it closed, I turned off my phone and ipad and put them at the bottom of my bag out of sight. I mention this part of isolation because it plays a small part for the last part of this post.
After our preview of the finals route, I was much more excited than in semis. The route went more or less straight up the wall, with a bit less moving side to side. We also got a chance to transfer onto a big stalactite before tackling the last headwall of the route. I’ve never actually been up on that orange part of the wall, except for the first time in semis! Akiyo was first for the women, and since they were alternating, I was second out. I got ready right away and the route was still fresh in my mind.
I was climbing just after Akiyo and for the most part of the route, I climbed very well. I made some small mistakes at the bottom when I thought I was supposed to palm a hold. I found that the whole way up the route, the clips were generally quite hard. I also cut my feet for no apparent reason while coming into the double undercling rest position. After watching the other climbers easily go into that hold, I felt stupid… Regardless, I didn’t fall there and climbed very well until the place where I fell. I kept going, and the clips were still hard.
I even tried clipping two draws in a row, and dropped it halfway through the second as I figured I’d fall shortly after. I did the transfer of walls, put in a heelhook and got the clip. From there, the rope was pulling around my arm, and it was pretty stuck. I made the move out right around the volume, but I was very pumped. I had to do a full arm movement to get my arm out from the rope, and barely made it into the roof. I didn’t have my feet on the foothold, and I saw the next hold. I jumped to it to get the plus off the roof, but I was falling.
I was happy, 1st out, and I got to the last 8 moves of the route. On top of that, barring some errors at the bottom I had climbed very very well.
I got to sit in the “victor’s chair” for only one more climber until Sachi (climbing 3rd) dethroned me rather quickly I watched the rest of finals, with Jorg Verhoeven also falling a couple moves before the transfer. The women’s final finished first with Jain Kim taking gold and Johanna Ernst and Magdalena Rock in 2nd and 3rd respectively. Full results for the women can be found HERE.
I was currently in 5th place with the last climbing Jakob Schubert on deck. I had more or less assumed I was 6th place because there was a very big chance Jakob would beat me on this route. A minute passed and suddenly Jakob was walking out carrying his stuff. My first reaction was thinking he had injured himself while warming up. One competition to an injury is a small price to pay for if he competed and really did something bad. When they announced “Jakob Schubert will not be competing in finals as he has been given a red card”, there was a lot of stuff that happened in a short amount of time. I grabbed my bag and went to the front, as I wanted to know the reason of the red card…
I found out in under a minute that he had looked at his phone to check the time… and been issued the red card. My first instinct was “ridiculous”. As I talked to Jorg, I said “doesn’t that deserve a yellow card, and not a red”. As I didn’t know the rules by heart, it was hard for me to say 100% what SHOULD be the verdict. My argument to whoever would listen was that the judge that saw Jakob look at his phone saw that he was only looking at the time and not trying to do anything else. Jakob also does not have a history at all of trying to cheat or anything of this matter. It is also pretty common for people to bring their phones into isolation but most turn it off. I thought that this action would’ve DEFINATELY warranted a yellow card, but I thought that a red card was harsh in these circumstances.
Like I mentioned before, I brought an ipad and phone into isolation, but I made sure they were off before closing. In my mind, if the phone is off and in your bag and no one sees it, then there is no point in having to turn it in. There are much easier ways to cheat such as a small military ear piece radio or something or THAT sort. (of course still against the rules) On top of that, 50% of people in isolation have a phone that is also OFF. It is also worth mentioning that Jakob DID indeed have a phone in isolation, that was not turned off, and he used such device. After reviewing the rules, the judges were in 100% within their power in issuing the red card as per the rules below. That is an unaltered snippet of rules off the IFSC homepage.
As you can see from the photo, the Jury President can issue a red card if a competitor uses “non-approved equipment” which includes cell phones.
As President of the Athletes Commission, I know that this will be brought up in future meetings. Jakob, who is also being part of the commission, will also be a part of the discussion.