Atlanta World Cup

My trip to Atlanta was one of many that I’ve made back to North America this year. In February, I went to ABS Nationals as well as the Hueco Rock Rodeo; In June, I went to Vail for the bouldering world cup and now I was in Atlanta for the lead world cup.

Last year, in Boulder, I made it all the way to finals only to slip off on a very stretchy dyno of sorts. I stuck the initial span, but when I tried to bring my hand up to match, my foot popped, and down I fell. I had my hopes high for Atlanta even though the 60 foot wall.

Qualifiers were the Saturday morning and although the wall was 60 feet, I still managed to top both my qualifiers. There were no huge surprises, only a couple of very strong climbers fell on one or the other. I felt good, which was important. After making finals in Puurs and finishing 5th, I was pretty psyched by that as well. The Puurs wall is bad for my climbing style as all the moves are kind of the same difficulty, and it comes down to the recovery and long term fitness of the climber… Here is similar, but I was hoping that with the explosive and bouldery style of setting that we usually get in the states, it might not be a problem.

Semi-finals were Sunday morning and I went out 3rd last based on world ranking. I felt good in semis, and popped off on the 3rd to last move. The route was good, fairly easy at the beginning and about half way through was a very hard crux to change walls. You had to grab a bad pinch (of which we thought was a jug) and get out left onto a volume. From there, you have to move up and left before tackling a compression type prow. Then you got up into the final headwall where I ended up falling on massive moves on big pinches. When I came down, I was in 2nd place which meant I was advancing to finals. After the dust had settled, I was tied for 3rd place heading to finals. Because I was tied with Sachi Amma and Jakob Schubert, I would climb first of us 3 and 5th last.

After heading back to my hotel, getting something to eat and mostly just resting, I was back in isolation waiting for finals. We already knew more or less the path of our finals route, and we knew it was going to be long. When we went out to preview, the route seemed painfully easy to sequence with the exception of a downclimb part near the end. The start looked easy, then you changed walls, made a long downclimb while moving left, then tackled another hard headwall finish.

They decided to alternate men and women with men starting. I was 7th, and warmed up nicely before getting ready to climb. I came out excited and ready. I did all my usual preparations, looking at the climb, sequencing a bit, swinging my arms and taking some deep breaths. The first third of the route went well, and then I started to feel not so good. I was barely over one third of the way up when I felt the pump start to come to my arms. I usually like to only feel this well over halfway through the route. I knew it was going to be a challenge, but I tried not to think about it and kept going.

Move after move, they weren’t especially hard, but I was still climbing moves which meant I was slowly getting tired. I made it to the change in the walls and found a decent rest. I took the opportunity and shook out. Then I went into the down climbing section and devastation occurred. I had previewed going to a bit pinch with my right hand, and getting my thumb on the screw-on chip that we could see from the ground. When I got there, the hold was too weird to grab as a straight pinch, so my mind started thinking of other possibilities. I grabbed reverse undercling, I tried matching, I tried reaching the next crimp, all seemed like I would have a high % chance of falling if I committed. I was at that move for 30-40 seconds and in my head I still didn’t know what to do. I knew I had to make a decision. If I fell, so be it, but I didn’t have a hope of doing any other move if I spent much longer here. I decided to go down with my left hand and match onto the rail while getting the thumb with my right hand.

It worked… but it was too hard, and I could feel my arms were pumped. As I did the next couple of moves, the crowd was pleased to see me get through my struggling downclimb and I was given some loud cheers. As I moved out left, I found a small rest which I shook a couple times back and forth.

By now, I was very pumped and I knew there were quite a lot of moves left. I reached up into a big crack type hold and tried to shake, it wasn’t doing much. As I matched, I looked over at the next hold and it was too far with my current feet setup. I knew if I tried to pull, I’d fall. I saw a further foothold out right and stretched my foot out there. As I was reaching up into the crimp, in my head I was saying “I really hope this next hold is good”… and it wasn’t. A little bit disgusted, I tried to bring up my left foot. As I had stretched my right foot further out right, the hand foot match was now impossible for me. As I raced to find a foothold, the only thing I could do was match feet. I brought my right foot up hoping to find an imaginary foothold. My left hand was in a press, but I was going any further. Without my feet properly setup, I knew it, I was falling. My arms were too pumped to do anything else now, and I could let go to shake. I jumped up towards the next hold, with the wrong hand no doubt, to get the plus.

A video of my climb can be found here:

As I sailed down, I was already disappointed. In a route that it this long, I have to climb pretty perfectly to get a decent result. I made so many mistakes, especially in the downclimb. I looked up, looking for a foot for the move, but just didn’t care anymore. My route was over, and it is what it is. I waved at the crowd with a big smile, clapped my hands in thanks and layed down. I was in 3rd after the first 3 climbers, but I knew the next 4 would pass me as well. After lying by myself to gather my thoughts, I joined my climbing friends to cheer on the rest. I watched most of the girl’s finals which were pretty interesting and the rest of the men’s. All the men passed me although for a couple of them, they struggled a bit in the downclimb. Once they passed it, they were mostly good with all 4 getting up into the last two moves and two finishing the route.

Another competition over and I finished 7th place. I’m glad to have been in finals, but disappointed with the final result. I remain positive and say that mistakes happen, and they cost me dearly this time… Sometimes I can make a mistake and still get a favourable result. Also, I am a firm believer that you must fail sometimes in order to succeed. You must fail so that you see your own flaws and work on them. I’m looking forward to a very short week long break from world cups, then off to Asia for another 3 weekends!

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  1. John Meget


    Sean, do you plan on posting more thoughts about the Asian WC circuit? I know you must consider your sponsors, but at the same time it’s real interesting to hear your reactions tot the comps.

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