As the second world cup has finished in as many weekends, I find myself in a similar environment, the airport. It was another bouldering weekend here in Innsbruck and was helm in the main marketplace of downtown. Being a climber’s city, lots of locals as well as tourists came to watch the event and cheer on the climbers.
Since the last one in Log, I’ve been staying with Katha Saurwein and Jorg Verhoeven here in Innsbruck. In the 4 days we had between the competitions, we climbed once on Tuesday at Tivoli. On that training day, there was pretty much everyone I knew in Innsbruck all training somewhat together. It was a bit packed in the bouldering cave but lots of strong climbers so creating boulders was super easy.
The Wednesday and Thursday that followed I tried to rest as much as possible knowing that competition weekends are always hard on the body and recovery is essential. I played some piano with Jorg and managed to get a few bits of some nice songs on film. We tried doing a duet, but learning new songs after not practicing for half a decade proved to be difficult.
The competition started in Friday morning for the men with climbing starting at 10am. One thing to note that I’m very proud of is that I was first out in one of the ranks because my world ranking was 2nd! I thought that was pretty cool as it’s the highest it’s ever been. I was the first climber on the circuit and flashed 2 problems and did the other 3 second try. I misjudged the distance to the final hold on one boulder; I tried a very bad method on the third and missed catching a hold on the 5th for each one of my falls. I finished the round with 5 in 8 and was pretty confident it was going to give me a good ranking.
Around halfway through the round, it started raining pretty hard and the first boulder in each group started to get wet. They immediately suspended new climbers from starting and kept the others in the cycle. 30 minutes later, it was pouring rain and they were just waiting. They restarted the competition about an hour after that when the rain passed. By then, I was back at the house watching the live stream. It turns out that they tried to put people back on the first problem but it started raining again. They were forced to cancel the first boulder. Note: It is possible to cancel one boulder in the qualification round due to unforeseen events. The one thing that could’ve eliminated this problem was to just build a roof over the first boulder as it was off to the side. This wasn’t the case and as I mentioned above, they cancelled the first boulder.
Another thing about canceling the first boulder is that it changes the results (obviously). For some climbers, most notable Jan Hojer, they moved from not making semifinals to just sneaking through. For others they went from just in to just out. Overall, it sucks to have to cancel a boulder but I saw the wall and it was getting drenched so it wasn’t possible for everyone to try it.
For the women, because of the wall without the roof, the route setters tweaked the other 4 boulders a little bit harder and also held the qualification on 4 boulders.
I finished 2nd in my group and there were a few ties for 20th which led to 22 advancing to semifinals. They were held the following morning just after noon. It was nice to have the extra time to sleep in and just relax in the morning. I was once again back in isolation getting ready for the 4 boulders. It was a nice day with a cool breeze to keep it from getting too hot. I was 17th out and from what I could hear from the isolation zone, the boulders were pretty hard. We had a slab problem to start the circuit that we guessed hadn’t be done by the time I was getting ready to go. I was to follow Kilian Fischhuber which is always fun. I was sitting on the on-deck chair when I heard him top the boulder rather quickly. Being a local to Innsbruck and the first to top the slab, the crowd let out a monstrous roar. Knowing that the boulder was possible, I managed to flash it! I also flashed the 2nd and 4th boulder giving me 3 tops in total. I was the only person in semifinals to have flashed 3 boulders and soared into first place for that round.
As it turned out, you had to top 3 boulders to advance to finals with the exception of one climber, 6th place going to Jan Hojer with 2 flash and 4 zones in 6. He was the only competitor to advance to finals with only 2 tops. Just out of finals in 7th position was Jakob Schubert and an Italian with 2 flash and 4 zones in 7 tries, a mere try away from finals.
In finals with me was quite the lineup including Jorg Verhoeven, Kilian Fischhuber, Guillaume Glairon-Mondet, Dimitrii Sharafutdinov and Jan Hojer. To top it off, I got to climb last. I now find it a bit funny to climb last, sometimes there the added pressure but recently I’ve found it quite amusing. I just think about the semifinal round where I climbed better than them which means I can do it again in finals potentially. I know some climbers really hate climbing last but I find it’s all part of the game so I find it fun!
After eating, resting and some bike rides I was back in isolation warming up. Briefing, presentation, observation passed and we were all ready to climb. The boulders looked all good and all possible.
The first boulder started and was basically 2 moves. First move was a big move up either hand then the second was a big semi-blind dyno around a corner. From there, it looked painfully easy to top the boulder. Jan was first out and flashed the boulder in 30 seconds… oh my. This continued for every man in the finals, flash after flash. As it got closer to my turn, I started to get nervous. I was more nervous for the first move than the dyno as I didn’t know which hand to start with. Undeterred I went out with confidence and looked at the boulder. I knew exactly what to do and was excited. The first move was easier than I thought but the second hold wasn’t quite as good as I thought. I set up for the dyno and stuck it! The top out was easy as we thought and all the men flashed the 1st boulder.
The second boulder was a boulder all on volumes and looked like one of the harder boulders. As it turns out, it wasn’t hard enough either with every finalist flashing boulder 2 as well (Jan 2nd try after slipping at the start).
Two boulders down and I was in the lead, I knew this.
The 3rd boulder was a more technical one with what looked like a hard top. Jan first out again came back in under a minute flashing the boulder. We were worried that it was going to be like the 1st and 2nd boulder after Dimitrii went out and did it in a few tries a well. It was different this time with the last 4 finalists unable to complete the boulder.
On my turn, I stuck a hard move in the middle on my second try but was unable to stick the zone hold. I tried it 4 different ways and each felt equally hard. It was close, but I had to jump too hard and could never control the swing.
We all knew it was going to come down to the last boulder.
The last boulder had a weird start where you had to run a bit and stand up and press into a few volumes. Well at least I had to run a bit; Jan could just grab the holds and step into the start, haha. After the first move, you had to transfer into an undercling and complete a compression finish.
Jan fell on the second move and we were left wondering for an instant. When Jan sent the boulder on his second go, we knew he had won the competition and we were all smiling back behind the wall. We knew Jan had done all 4 boulders and only Dimitrii could also do 4 but would come 2nd due to attempts. As we tried to stay focus on the boulder at hand, we could only smile and be happy for Jan at the same time.
Dimitrii was 2nd out and sent the boulder in a couple of tries securing the 2nd place finish. Of the last 4 competitors, we were all tied going into the last boulder which meant 3rd place was still up in the air. Guillaume was next and spent quite a few tries doing the first move and another couple in the middle of the boulder totally 6 tries. Kilian was after him and in true Kilian style flashed the boulder! Jorg was 2nd to last out before me and knew if he flashed the boulder he would overtake Kilian in 3rd position. Unfortunately he fell a few times on the first move and sent it 4th try.
As Jorg was climbing, Jule Wurm from Germany flashed the last boulder and Anna Stoehr who was last out with me leaned over and said “Jule won as well”. I hadn’t been paying too much attention to the women as it’s hard enough to track the attempts for the men in your head. I also knew Anna had used a few tries on boulder 1 and 2. As it turns out, she had one try too many and by flashing the last boulder, Jule had also secured her first Bouldering World Cup victory.
It was finally my turn to go out and I knew exactly what could happen. If I flashed the boulder, I would once again be on the podium in 3rd place, best case scenario. If I didn’t flash the boulder, I had another 3 tries to come 4th. 5 tries total would land me in 5th place and 7 or more would land me 6th. I was only thinking about my first try as I was confident that in 3-4 tries I would just figure out the boulder. The hardest part is the first try, especially in a boulder as special as this. You never know what a run and jump is going to feel like until you’re running at it. The part that is also quite funny is that the INSTANT that you start the boulder, you usually know if you’ve done it the right way or if you’re already falling, it’s pretty funny actually.
I took a very long time to analyze the boulder even though we had gotten a nice preview before. I took long enough to preview it again and make sure I didn’t miss anything that Anna topped her 4th and final boulder before I even started. Just after she had topped and gotten a huge ovation from the crowd, I knew it was time. Getting a little buzz from Anna’s fans gave me the little motivation I was waiting for.
I setup for the jump and pre planned my foot placements. I took a deep breath and started my run. A few steps later, I jumped up and pressed into the start. As soon as I left the ground, I knew it was a good jump. I stuck the start holds and stopped moving immediately. I quickly matched my left foot onto the ball and started thinking about what to do next. I remembered the higher foot and knew to use it. In that instant, I was pushing between the feet and the start holds and my left foot slipped, followed by my right. I slipped perfectly downwards and landed flat footed on the mat. I knew it had cost me the podium but I could only laugh and smile.
I think I was visibly smiling and shaking my head while I turned around and reached for my chalk bag. It’s hard to flash a boulder all the time, even when you know it’s possible. With my first try out of the way, I knew I still had to top the boulder. On my second try, I forgot about the second foothold and tried to reach the undercling with my feet too low. On my third try, I snuck my right heel up onto the foothold, matched the left start hold and slowly reached into the undercling perfectly. From there the rest of the boulder was pretty easy. As I matched the final hold, I knew I had come 4th and I knew it was the end of the competition. The crowd cheered and I was happy.
I jumped down and waved at the crowd, it’s nice to finish with a top and I checked the scoreboard to be sure. My name was 4th and Jan had indeed won by 1 attempt. My next immediate thought was to find Jan and congratulate him. He had been slightly robbed of his first victory last year in Vail due to hand jams. He’s also in generally just happy all the time and he deserved this win after flashing most of the boulders. I found him and gave him a big hug. He looked so happy and I was so happy for him as well. I also found Jule Wurm who had won for the women and congratulated her as well! I found the rest of the finalists, congratulated the other podiums and waited for the ceremonies.
I had a lot of fun in this competition and always delighted to be in finals. I also try really hard to benefit and appreciate the times I’m in finals. I find it makes it much more fun, it relaxes me and I remember where I am. I hope it shows while I’m climbing and I love the cheers from the crowd. My next world cup is in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. I’m hoping the home town crowd will be able to cheer me onto my next finals and then who knows!