Puurs World Cup 2012

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.

The video of my climb can be found here! I’ll post it tomorrow in it’s own column.

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.

[singlepic id=471 w=500 h=450 float=center]


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.

So after that drama, I ended up finishing 5th place with Ramonet taking the title. Full results for men can be found HERE.


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  1. Fred


    Not many years ago you had to drop your cellphone when entering the isolation, the cellphone where kept inside close envelopes and delivered back to climbers after they had climbed.
    This happend at least until 2003 World Championships…
    One way this could be done, is when entering the isolation room every athlete has is cellphone, tablet or laptop(turned off) put inside a closed (glued) envelope, and this envelope kept by each athlete. if the envelope is open by any means this could lead to disqualification.
    To thrust in good sense and fairplay from the athletes has no place in a professional sport where money, glory and sponsoring pressures could lead to bad conducts

    I dont know if there is any kind o jamming device that could be used inside isolation and cut off communication within a range of meters…

    • Reply

      When we enter isolation, there IS a box where you are supposed to give in your cell phone. The reason some don’t give it in is because if they lose the phones… what would happen… And it has happened where they lose some phones for a while.
      Like I mentioned, I turn all my stuff off before entering isolation. The best situation is still to just not bring any sort of communication equipment into isolation.

      • Fred


        So by not leaving the cellphone in the “box” each athlete is risking a disqualification?
        Or only the use of cellphone is prohibited and not the possession?
        I think the only fair mean is to prohibit any communication device from Isolation area.
        This should be enforced mostly in finals.

        After googling it there are such Jamming devices for cell phones and wifi and work in a range of meters…

        • Reply

          Referring back to the rules, the red card can be issued for “The use of non-approved equipment”. By turning off your phone and putting it in your bag, you are never using it. Therefore I say athletes who turn their phone off are not risking anything unless they use such device.

          • Fred

            My last post on the subject

            to have the “communication device” turn off tends to be kind of sketchy rule cause in 3 seconds it could be On or Off…
            It leads to people only being sanctioned when using it and if being seen using it, if anyone takes it to the restroom no knows what happens there
            It would be a much cleaner rule not allowing the possession of such a device in iso


            by the way congrats on your latest results, I’ll keep rooting for you!

          • Yes, your point is valid. I am going to bring all this up as the President of the Athlete’s commission.

            Thanks for the support!

          • Pieter

            Not completely correct. Rules 3.3.4 “No competitor or Team Official is permitted to carry or use any electronic communication equipment…. ” so it not allowed to have it in your bag. (yellow card)

  2. Marta


    Sean, thanks for talking clear about jackob red card, but I just want to make a short thought about it. I don’t want to acuse any one about cheating but, let me ask u something as a competitor. Jacob had been competing for a long time now and he already knows the rules, I’m sure he knew that he can have a yelow/red card for doing that, so; Why such a good climber as him, who already knows how important is to be in the podium for him risk his position for just, looking the time in his phone? wouldn’t just be easier to ask it to other competitors who usually bring clock as Ramon or Sachi?? Or even asking that to the staff ?? isn’t that make it quite strange?

    • Reply

      Yes, Jakob should’ve known not to touch his phone, turn it off, ect. To defend Jakob, I believe he looked at his phone for the time and completely forgot about it being even able to contact the outside world. One moment of unclarity for Jakob set all these things in motion. I’m sure that at the next world cup, Jakob will leave his phone in the hotel…

  3. François LEONARDON


    Thanks Sean to clarify your point of view (I was a little disappointed after earing you on ifsc.tv).This is the worst decisions I have ever had to make before and it was really a pity for me. But I had no over possibility of decision and I am, moreover, in the worst position to depart from the rule. The fault was clear (using a cellular phone in iso), Jakob has recognized it and the rule is without possible interpretation on this case. I’m sure that Jakop wasn’t cheating (of course he doesn’t need to win) but he his a professional, a competitor for a long time now and he knows (I expect so) the rules and the possible sanction. I remenber 3 years ago in Barcelona, a climber has commited a fault that could be sanctionned by a red card. The organizer strongly asked me to disqualified him but I finally found an interpretation to minimize the sanction. Here, it was simply impossible…I don’t know for you, but me, when I want to know what time is it, I look at my watch…
    Have a nice competition in Atlanta.

    • Reply

      I agree with the verdict after looking at the rules. At the moment of the competition, as I said, I just didn’t know the rules and thought a yellow card could’ve been issued. It is true after looking at the rules that it warranted a red…

    • Steve Fergusson


      I think both you and Sean is wrong. If you wanted to let go you could have checked that Jakob’s phone was in flight mode as it has been reported on 8a. If Sean says it is OK to have a turned off mobile in the isolation, it is also OK to have a turned off communication mobile in the isolation.

      • Reply

        I disagree with that logic. As per my previous update:

        “The judges can’t go around checking to see which one is in flight mode, and which one isn’t. If the judge sees a phone, that’s it, game over.”

  4. m


    even though I understand that having a mobile switched off, or having one only to check the time (as most people don’t even have a watch any more), is not even remotely close to cheating, if there’s a box in which you have to leave them before entering isolation, then the rule should be enforced.
    it’s worth nothing that a phone is switched on or off, if you can’t have it with you, you’re simply in violation of the rule. I mean, even in school you have to hand over phones before getting into class for an exam. I guess having it switched off, or instead of a watch, wouldn’t just make it…

  5. John Meget


    Sean, was there a clock in isolation? A watch?

    The problem with allowing any devices is the same one you brought up earlier. How can the judges possibly know if all climbers always keep them turned off?

  6. David Kimber


    That’s a real bummer it had to end that way for Jakob. I’m recalling Usain’s false start at the 2011 Worlds…

    But, bottom line, it would seem that the simplest solution is the one mentioned previously: No communication devices in iso, period. It does make it a bit of a pain, especially if you have your iTouch for music, but there are plenty of other devices that can play music to use. If athletes, for whatever reason, are a bit too antsy or, god-forbid, bored, then maybe a TV in iso showing climbing vids to get them pumped up would be preferable to playing Angry Birds or even running the risk of a DQ because you have a cell phone on you.

  7. Pingback: Jacob Schubert received a red card in Puurs

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