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    Notes and advice from Sean McColl.

3 Weeks In Asia

I recently had the pleasure of spending 3 weeks in Asia with a bunch of other extraordinary people. I began this journey on October 9th with 6 other athletes from the Austrian climbing team as well as one from the Netherlands. Our party start with the Austrian coach Heiko Wilhelm, their physio, and climbers Johanna Ernst, Magdalena Rock, Barbara Bacher, Katharina Posch, Mario Lechner and Jakob Schubert. The lone Dutchman on our trip was Jorg Verhoeven. [singlepic id=472 w=500 h=300 float=center]   After a short flight from Toulouse, we all met up in Frankfurt and took the 9 hour flight to Beijing. It sucked as there was no TV in the headrest. I tried to sleep, read on my phone and listen to music, but it was probably one of the worst flights I’ve taken…. and I’ve taken quite a few in my life. After another flight into Xining and a 3 hour bus ride, we were at the compound near Xining and another World Cup around the corner. We went into “town” on the first couple of days we had before the competition, but this is remote China, and really there was nothing. The highlight of our days spent around Xining was taking a random taxi to a brick making facility. Now when I say facility, we’re not talking about North American factories or anything special like that. I’m talking about 100 people all with very specific jobs in making bricks… It was crazy. On top of it all, they didn’t seem to care that were only a few feet away watching them work and take pictures. That story might be for another time, but what I can say is that it was pretty cool. [singlepic id=480 w=500 h=400 float=center]  

Xining World Cup, China

  The weekend of the competition arrived and I’ll summarize as I have another 2 to go after this. For some reason, I seemed to feel better and better as the days went on. I don’t know if it was the 2500m altitude that was hurting me in the morning or just the caffeine waiting to get into my bloodstream. My Q1 was crappy, my Q2 was alright, then the semi-finals were again in the morning which I felt bad, and I felt super good in finals. During the semi-finals, I couldn’t seem to get a very good rhythm while climbing. I’d do a move, look to place my foot, and there wouldn’t be a foothold… I’d have to look around and re analyze how I would attack the move… This went on for 30 moves, and I got pumped way too fast. During finals, I might’ve previewed my feet better, but I think overall, it was just a better route. I climbed well, efficiently and rested when I needed. I was soon at the highpoint and stuck in a corner. I was too pumped to move my feet (which I should’ve done the move before) and I didn’t want to try and downclimb a bit and risk falling. I basically gave up and jumped for the next hold to make sure I got a plus. I was first when I got down, and it was enough to hold on for my second victory in a lead world cup. I was lucky in the fact that Romain Desgranges climbed a bit poorly in the roof and missed a key foothold up and left. Jakob I was sure would also climb past me, but he said he just wasn’t feeling so good during the finals and finished 4th. I got my second victory and I was over the moon. It sucks that when the last climber falls, in this case Jakob, I’m so happy, but not because he fell, only because it means that I win. I felt like the victory in China was a little bit better than the one in Kranj. I don’t really know why, but maybe it’s because I sort of proved even to myself that Kranj wasn’t a fluke so to say… Jakob fell, and I couldn’t help but shake my head, smile and realize what it meant. Jorg gave me a big hug and was the first to congratulate me. Following him were the rest of the competition climbers along with Jakob as well. As disappointed as he was about not being on the podium or winning himself, I know he’s happy for me, which goes a long way. [singlepic id=477 w=500 h=400 float=center]   China was fun, but we were all pretty eager to get to Korea. There was no after party, as we all had another 2 competitions in as many weeks. We left Xining at 6am and had a perilous drive through the mountains and snow. Jorg got some on video if I ever come up with the courage to sit down and edit it together! We left China and were onto Korea. After a whole day of traveling, a few flights and a nice bus, we were walking towards our next hotel in Seoul Korea. We spent the whole week before the next competition here, touring the city, climbing and just enjoying our vacation. (Yes, it’s a vacation when we’re not competing!) We also got a chance to climb in the same gym that Jain Kim from Korea trains at. It’s nothing too special or big, but does the trick. It has a circular training wall with holds filling every t-nut. It also has a short 10m climbing wall. I didn’t climb on it, but the Austrian girls did and thought the grades were pretty stiff 🙂 Another cool thing about being in Korea is that it has pretty cheap camera equipment. I don’t know why, but I imagine it has something to do with the weak Korea currency at the moment and the proximity to where most of the camera equipment is made. (Japan I think…) We all took advantage of this and bought various things for our camera. I bought a sweet new tripod that has 3 adjustments for angles. I also bought a 35mm f1.8 lens for my Nikon. It’s wicked fast and sharp as ever. Mario bought a full Canon setup which included his body (forget which one, although I believe EOS5) and a nice 18-105mm. A funny story is that Heiko was handling Mario’s camera not 24 hours after he bought it, and dropped the lens… which subsequently shattered… ouch. Luckily the lens was only 200-300 euros which is much less than the lens Heiko had just bought. Heiko dented his wallet the biggest out of us 4 with the purchase of the 24-75mm f2.8 (I believe). It runs such a big price because it has a lot of glass inside to keep the f low. I’m keeping this camera jargon quick because it’s either really boring to read (because you don’t care), or you probably know more than me! (And are laughing because I wrote something wrong). Jorg also copied me 🙂 and bought the 11-16 wide angle lens for his canon. [singlepic id=475 w=500 h=400 float=center]   We also snuck onto the roof of our hotel and took this nice shot at night. It might have been through photoshop a little 😉 The day before we moved out to the competition venue, our Nordic friend Magnus Midboe from Norway joined our conglomeration to make us 11 traveling together. Skipping ahead a couple of days, we were now in Korea getting ready for the next world cup. We were hosted at a National Football (soccer) training centre which had at least 8 full length fields scattered around the complex. There was transportation, accommodation and meals for the whole duration of the stay, it was awesome. When we went to opening ceremonies, we had all the standard stuff including presentation of athletes, federations and speeches, but then came something very very very different. When we got there, there were around 500 high school people scattered around the complex. We figured they were just school groups getting ready for the opening ceremonies. I don’t know if it was a surprise, or if they were really there to watch climbing or something but near the end of the ceremony, we just heard lots of screaming and excitement. It turns out, they had hired one of the boy bands from Korea to perform live just after the opening ceremonies and it went down exactly like you would see it in a movie. There were girls jumping over chairs, security holding back dozens of girls between the age of 12-20 and most of the competition climbers trying to evacuate the “seating arrangement” or risk being trampled. I also got some video of this… and take my word for it, it was hilarious! I don’t even remember the name of the band, although I seem to remember it was a 3 letter acronym that Jorg looked up that made it all the more funny. [singlepic id=474 w=500 h=400 float=center]  

Mokpo World Cup, Korea

  We did have a competition the next day which went well as well. The climbing wall in Mokpo was like a small version of Imst, or Puurs. It had a massive overhang in the middle and two less overhanged walls on the left and right. It was also cool because at the entrance to the complex, it gave the measurements of the wall. They were all 15m high and the middle wall overhung 13m while the sides only 8m. The centre went to almost a full roof, and then came back near the top. The side wall never made it close to a roof, but dangerously close to vertical on a couple panels as well. My qualifiers went well and I managed to top both routes. It was good as well to get a feel for the wall. I hated climbing in the roof, and loved the sides. There two possibilities for the next day. One, that the semi-final would be on the side wall leaving the finals in the huge cave; this would mean I would probably do better in semi-finals as I preferred that wall and climbed much better on it. Then I “might” have a worse finals, but who knows. The other option was that they had semi-finals on the roof, which gave way to finals on the sides. This would mean that it would be harder to even get into finals, but I would be more in my element if I did make it through. It was the latter explanation and the semis were indeed harder for me than the finals. I barely made it through semi-finals tying with another 3 competitors but beating them in countback. I was 5th after the semi-finals, but it was much closer than I would’ve liked. If I wouldn’t have pulled through the last two moves, I’d be the 9th looking in. I was glad it didn’t happen, and looked forward to the finals. The finals route was the hardest finals route I have ever had the honour of climbing on. Every move felt as if I might fall, including the first!! That being said, I still climbed the moves pretty well, and rested where I could. The biggest mistake I made in the finals were my clips. I could not for the life of me clip quickly. I don’t know if it was in my head, or just me fumbling with the draws, but they were not working in my favour. Of the 8 or so draws I clipped, 6 of them took me over 5 seconds. As dumb as it may seem, that’s 30 seconds of one arm hanging while fumbling with the other hand. As you’re climbing, you shake it off fast, even if you’re clipping poorly, but then after you have to ask yourself what you were doing… [singlepic id=473 w=400 h=500 float=left] I made it up just before the transfer in walls and fell being extremely pumped. There was also a draw in front of my face that I hadn’t clipped. As I was climbing, I thought about clipping it, but knew I’d fall if I tried. Just before falling, I decided to skip the draw, and hopefully clip from the next hold, but it was too late and I fell trying that move. I could guess that if would’ve just decided to skip the draw from 3-4 moves below, there was a much bigger chance I would’ve stuck the next move, and maybe clipped, climbed a few more and won? Who knows with these types of things, and what it comes down to is I did not. I looked at the draw for a second, and fell. I still climbed very well, and after I had climbed, I was in the lead. At a bare minimum, that should always make you happy. Out of the 4 climbers after me, 2 passed me, and 2 did not. Both Asian climbers, Hyunbin Min and Sachi Amma skipped the draw where I fell and clipped from the rest. They climbed a few moves further before falling in a heinous match. Hyunbin made it 1.5 moves further to secure his first Lead World Cup victory. Sachi, after missing the Chinese world cup due to federation issues, came in a strong 2nd and I luckily finished on the podium in 3rd. Ramonet had an awful finals route and got stuck on one move for almost 2 minutes. He climbed well after that but was just too tired to keep going. He missed a hold ever so slightly and didn’t have the juice to hand on with one arm anymore. Jakob, who looked the strongest of all the competitors, fell on a crazy just-off vertical move in the middle. It was a low percentage move up to an incut crimp, and he jumped just a little too hard. His body swung to the right too fast and he fell even though I’m sure he wasn’t pumped. [singlepic id=478 w=500 h=400 float=center]   That was the end of the second world cup of three and I had two podiums! Wahoo! On another note, I also competed in Speed! I set my personal best at 9.87 seconds! It’s the first time I had a sub 10 time which is pretty awesome. I also think it’s the Canadian Speed Record for the moment because the timers weren’t “official” in the qualification round of the Speed World Championships in Paris. That being said, I know Robert Stewart-Patterson runs sub-10 in practice, so this is just a matter of time before he competes at an official event and “officially” takes this one away 🙂 It was the end of Korea and onto what I hoped to be the coolest country I hadn’t visited yet… Japan did not let down, and I spent the next 10 days in and around Tokyo. After we left Korea, we spent 4 nights in a traditional hotel in Hano, Japan. I thought the traditional style of the hotel was awesome. Firstly, the beds were on the ground, a few mats with a pillow that felt like it had rice inside. It was really confortable and your head didn’t move around as you slept being stuck between rice… Secondly, there was no “showers” as there are in NA. There were toilets in one room where you could also brush your teeth, but where you bathed yourself was in a completely different place in the hotel, even on a different floor. The “showers” were there, just beside a gigantic bathtub of water. This bathtub was surrounded by Japanese style decor. On the sides were shower heads and little stools that you could sit on while you bathed yourself. Being the traditional Japanese style, no shoes were to be worn in the hotel, only slippers, all the doors opened by sliding and clothing was strictly prohibited in the “showers”. The bathtub was rectangular and long. You could easily fit 10 people around the edges with everyone having comfortable moving space. It was also at least 40 degrees hot. It was a big strange at first, having a bath with everyone else, but hey how often are you in Japan, competing for your country in a sport you love and the privilege of doing it with your friends… After our traditional Japanese experience, we took another hour long train ride to Inzai where the competition was being held. The competition in Japan was the last on our list and it was still awesome. The wall was a lot “smaller” than the one in Korea, although they did a really good job with what they had. There were two walls which were identical and the second half could change in angle to almost a roof. Throughout the competition they kept changing the angle so it was like climbing on a new wall every route.

Inzai World Cup, Japan

  [singlepic id=476 w=400 h=500 float=right] I flashed both my qualifiers which were hard, and struggled in the semi-finals. The semi-finals climbed back and forth up the right wall and I climbed the top section just awfully. I made it around the corner, rested just barely enough to do 5 or so moves back to the right. I fell coming into an undercling hold on the top volume. Again, I was tied for last place going into finals… I think I just need to be more focused in semi-finals. At this competition it would’ve paid off to be more focused as well, because the finals were a complete waste of time, for everybody. It’s not that I’m not focused in semi-finals, it is just that I’m so much MORE focused in finals. I care more, and that makes me strive. Semi-finals are the hardest round, similar to that of bouldering world cups. Finals is hard to make on the podium and win, but once you’re in finals, you tend to just climb well… the same can’t be said for the semi-final round. Anyways, onto finals which was a waste of time. The finals route for the men started on the left wall, transferred in the middle and finished up the right wall after down climbing and coming back to the left at the top. It was around 50 moves long which was a good length for the wall. We thought that it wouldn’t be too too hard until the change of wall, but the ending had to be hard. We also though that the last 5-6 moves would be nearly impossible. I was second out to climb and I knew Romain had fallen somewhere near the end of the route. I imagined it was in the last 10 moves, but I keep my music loud enough that I don’t hear anything. I just knew that he hadn’t topped. I started confidently and the start was pretty hard but I got a good rhythm. Just before the change in the walls came the hardest move on the route. You reached far out right to a red shoulder hold and had to cut your feet and put them really high and just under your left hand. You just had to lock off your right arm, but I’m really not a fan of moves like these. In the back of my mind, I saw myself falling, but I quickly got that out and stuck the move. From there, I made it safely to the rest, and it was a REST. After getting onto the resting hold, I managed to put my feet behind me on the other wall and rest in what could’ve been the “perfect” resting position barring any heel-hooks, toe-hooks or knee bars. I could’ve stayed there for 10 minutes although I didn’t. When I got to the rest, I had been climbing for 2 minutes, and when I glanced at the clock just finishing my rest, it was 15 second to 3 minutes. I left 10 seconds later near the 3 minutes mark and was finished climbing 45 seconds later. [singlepic id=479 w=500 h=400 float=center]   I left the rest confident and not pumped at all. I climbed quickly like I always do and was finished the traverse right pretty quickly. The big moves were over and it was onto the more technical moves. I made a clutch decision to skip 3 moves. The moves might’ve been harder but less moves meant less time on the wall and for me, that was everything. I was into the final moves leaning left and felt good. The holds felt good under my fingers which meant I wasn’t pumped yet. I was accelerating as I went into the last few moves. The last 3 moves were hard, but I wasn’t pumped and I knew I could boulder anything for 3 moves. I lept towards the finish jug and topped the route. I had finished my first finals route and I was exhilarated. I screamed and jumped from the wall waving to the crowd. I was also the first person to top so the crowd was going crazy. When I talked to the IFSC TV, of course I was happy. About the grade of the route, I think I said it was probably too easy. I can’t really tell how hard a route is while climbing it because I don’t think about that. After thinking about the route a bit more, I figured no one would fall after reaching the rest in the middle barring the last 3 moves. The last 3 moves were hard, but not hard enough. I watched the next 6 climbers after me top as well… I also believe that if one of the first climbers just after me would’ve fallen, more might’ve fallen as well. After so many people top, the rest of the climbers know they should top as well, and just to keep it together. If one of them were by chance to fall, they the rest of the climbers would know the route is actually very hard, and might take too long at the beginning. Anyways, in this finals 7 climbers topped, which I think is a World Cup Record, even including women’s! It’s also very strange that the route setters let 7 men top the route… a huge error on their part. The route wasn’t harder than 8b (5.13d) and in comp mode, that’s pretty easy for a finals when they’re usually 8c (5.14b) routes. So in the third world cup of my trip, I finished a disappointing 7th after having topped my first finals route. This just drives home the fact that I should be more focused in semi-finals. These finals were completely useless as the first one out fell on the last move, and 7 topped thus nullifying the final round and counting to semi-final results. This also meant that the semi-finals were basically the finals… which again sucks for me. I accept my mistake and hope not to repeat it again. Next world cup is the finals stage in Kranj, Slovenia. As for the world cup 2012 rankings go, Sachi and Ramon have basically secured 1st and 2nd but are in a heated battle for the victory. To round out the podium will most likely be me or Jakob, who are also in a close battle for 3rd. It will come down to who beats who in Kranj! [singlepic id=481 w=500 h=400 float=center]   I care about the rankings enough to look at the numbers, but not enough to keep training hard for these two weeks leading to it. I took a 5 day rest after the world cup in Japan while touring around Tokyo, climbed for 2 days, and I’m now on the way to Venezuela for the PanAm championships. Kranj was an amazing competition last year and if I’m in the finals, a smile should come across my face. After that, you just hope for the best. This trip was also made possible mainly due to Heiko Wilhelm who also took the majority of the pictures to go along with this post. Without him, and the Austrian federation, I wouldn’t have had the guts to try and plan a 3 week trip to Asia. We took 9 flights, and more busses and trains than I can remember. Heiko booked all the hotels, planned most of the meals and quarter-backed pretty much the whole trip. It’s because of him and the support of my main sponsor Mammut that I was able to go on this trip. Without either of them, it wouldn’t have been possible. Thank you! I’m now on the way to Venezuela and I’ll be putting together a day to day recap of that competition as well as pictures to go along. I’ll be releasing those through a special media program that specializes in tablet and mobile media. You have to download the program, but it’s not just for climbing. More to come on that… This once was a long one, so thanks for reading. I hope you liked it!

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Innsbruck World Cup Final

As promised, this is the second part of the Innsbruck World Cup post. The first one can be found here. After semi-finals, I had flashed all 4 problems and I knew 100% that I’d be in finals. I knew that as I was matching the final hold of the round, and was ecstatic. After grabbing my stuff and talking to some of the other competitors, when I had finished flashing the third one, I was already in finals. To make finals, you had to do 3 problems in 8 tries, and get all the bonuses. Anna Stöhr. and Kilian Fischhuber were also in finals, so we biked back to their house to eat some much needed past, and take a short nap. I didn’t actually take a nap, just rested a bit and drank a lot of water. At 6:00pm, we were on our way back to the venue, with isolation closing at 6:30. Because we were pretty much still warm from the previous round, you don’t really need to warm up so much. I did a few laps on jugs, a few on crimps, I tried a bunch of random dynos and I was ready! 7:30 was the presentation followed by the observation. For some reason, they decided to let us preview the routes in a very strange order; 1, 4, 2 and finally 3. I guess they were just stressing about the time it took the announcer to get everyone out in front of the crowd. After looking at the problems, I knew 1 and 4 were going to be interesting for me, and 2 and 3 looked very possible. [singlepic id=354 w=320 h=480 float=left] As I qualified first, I would climb last and I’ve seen so many mixed guesses on whether it helps or hinders the competitors. At the end of the day, you go out to climb your boulder. I find that after being in finals a few times, where you climb is irrelevant. I’ve qualified first after semis in Eindhoven 2010, where I finished 2nd. It’s easy to look at the results and say, “oh he didn’t do well because he had to climb last”. Realistically, if no one does the problem, you have a chance to scoop everyone by being the last. On the other hand, if a bunch of people have done the problem, you might say there’s pressure, but I’d say “at least I know the problem is even possible”. It’s just a game, and the position is pretty irrelevant. I’m sure everyone “prefers” a certain position, but that would be different to each competitor. The first boulder had an awkward start leading in an undercling. I flashed up until the bonus, and reached up into this big donut feature. We didn’t really know what to do on the problem and being last out, I knew it hadn’t been completed. Flashing to the bonus was my first goal, and then I’d figure the rest out. I spend the better part of 4 minutes pretty much flailing to get off the feature, and I wasn’t even close… I could hear from the crowd while Jakob Schubert and Kilian were climbing that they were probably at least hitting the hold, but I wasn’t even coming close. On my best try, I would guess that I was still half a foot away from the hold, and I was told after that even if you could touch it, the swing was very hard to hold. After the first problem, I was still in the lead by flashing bonus… [singlepic id=355 w=480 h=320 float=center]   The second problem was on the far right side of the wall, and had mostly features on it. There was a foothold near the end, and the last hold was an actual handhold. It went up a sort of corner using only volumes. Of the first 5 guys, only 1 person completed the problem, Kilian… Undeterred, I ran out and I knew it was possible. I jumped on and had a really good first run. I flashed up into the bonus and kept going. I was climbing for over a minute before getting up into the last move. I didn’t know how to navigate the last two volumes, from the ground; I thought I’d go double gaston (shoulder) while standing on the slopey foothold. When I got up there, that wasn’t so possible, so I went with what my instincts told me. I crossed up pretty high on the volume and started to press up. My right hand instinctively switched to a push with the palm but there was something lacking. Because I was up on triangle volumes, there was nothing for my left foot to push on to get my body weight to the right. I kept pushing up and up and finally brought my right hand into a non-existent undercling on the volume. My head was probably merely a foot away from the final hold, but I couldn’t let go of anything. I saw the tip of the volume down and left where my hand had been previously, and I knew if I could get my foot there, I was home free. I started bringing my left foot up the well when the unimaginable happened. My right foot had been on the slopey foothold too long, and must’ve pianoed off the good part, it slipped. As I came sailing down, I couldn’t believe it… So close, and I wondered if I could get up there again… I didn’t. I tried it another two times, but couldn’t execute the hard press up move at the beginning. [singlepic id=362 w=320 h=480 float=right] After going back to the tent, the last move proved deadly to Jakob as well, as he fell matching the final hold… I knew after two problems that I was still in second place, only to Kilian. The third problem was very straight forward, and probably the most powerful problem of them all. Out of the first 5 climbers, Rustam Gelmanov and Kilian went out and flashed it. The other didn’t sound extremely close, which meant it was hard again. I went out, flashed the bonus, and chose the wrong hand to go up with for the second to last move. I was so physically tired from the second, that when I went on my second try, and saw the high foothold out right, I knew it would be good to setup for the move after. Turns out that with your foot that high, the first move was too hard, so I fell again. My third try was almost as good as my first, but after doing the first few moves 3 times, I just couldn’t pull hard enough. After this boulder, I knew I was in 3rd, and not able to win the world cup. Unphased, the new goal was 2nd or 3rd. When the first few climbers were unable to do the 4th boulder, 3rd place was looking as the best option. With Rustam unable to do the boulder, I knew that if I flashed the last boulder, I’d come second, if I flashed the zone, I’d come 3rd, and if I couldn’t get zone, I’d be 4th-6th. When none of the first 5 climbers did the 4th, I was really focusing on flashing the zone. Just before going out, I asked Anna if she could win the competition. She replied very calmly “yes, but I have to flash the last one”… I replied “you can do it, good luck”. [singlepic id=356 w=480 h=320 float=center]   We ran out to the last boulder together, and I knew mine was straight forward. I grabbed the very high start holds, tagged up my feet and jumped for the first volume. It was a very long and hard move, but my left hand luckily and instinctively swapped into a semi undercling grip. As my feet came back in from the swing, I knew I was going to get zone. I loaded my heel just over my hand and engaged my core. I pulled up off my right hand, and the volume was much closer than I thought. I palmed the bottom just for the judge, and then latched onto the top. For a split second, I knew I was in third, but then my competition mind quickly took over. Need to top!!! I looked up, and I knew it was a sort of dyno. One or two hands. I did the best I could, jumped, but the hold was too far away, and I was falling. I hit the ground with a big smile on my face. I knew that I had come 3rd, and there was now no possible way to move up. Even if I did the boulder second try, I’d still come 3rd. As I was thinking about this, Anna was still on her flash attempt and a few moves away. They looked easy as she completed the last few moves of her final boulder, so I just watched in awe and started clapping. Anna had won the world cup in Innsbruck in front of her hometown crowd of thousands. She matched the finish, turned around with a big smile, waved and it was obvious she was delighted. After she had jumped down, it was just me, and my last boulder. For me, it was just pride now for the last. As I said before, I couldn’t move positions, but I could still do this boulder! I tried it another 4-5 times, but always fell at the same move. I also tried 2-3 other foot beta sequences, but none worked much better than the others. After trying it a few more times, my knee started to get sore, and with 10 seconds left on my timer, I just turned around, clapped my hands a few times and just waved at the crowd in Innsbruck. [singlepic id=357 w=480 h=320 float=center]   I was back on the podium, and beside two extraordinary climbers. Kilian had won, and Rustam was second. Full results of the men can be found here. On the women’s side, as I mentioned Anna had won. Shauna Coxsey of the UK was second with Melissa LaNeve from France taking third. Full results of the women can be found here as well.  

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Innsbruck World Cup 2012 (q’s and semis)

It’s been almost a year since I’ve been in finals at a bouldering World Cup, although every time you make it that far, you remember every moment of it. As I’m already at well over 1000 words for just qualifiers and semis, I’m going to split this post in two. If you would prefer to only read the finals post, click here. All the photos in this post were taken by Heiko Wilhelm! I’ve just finished a trip to the bouldering world cup in Innsbruck where I managed to grab a spot on the podium and finish in 3rd place. My trip started with a very epic travelling day, which can be found HERE. The next morning were the qualifiers and the men were to go first. For the weekend, I was staying with two of the best of competition climbers on the circuit, Kilian Fischhuber and Anna Stöhr. They lived a short bike ride from the gym, and because parking was going to be epic, we rode bikes to the competition every day. It felt good to ride a bike to a competition as it warmed up the muscles a bit, and I felt more useful just by doing some cardio in the morning. [singlepic id=359 w=320 h=480 float=left] The qualifiers for the men were very standard. 5 boulders for each of the 2 groups on their own part of the walls. The route setters tried their best to make the two groups have similar problems, and for the most part, they were good. My first qualifier was pretty easy, as was the second. The third had a somewhat blind dyno around a volume so I fell once and sent second go. The fourth boulder was the hardest physical boulder but after doing the first three, I felt good and flashed it. The last boulder was the hardest mentally as it was a slab. I did it a slightly harder way by not switching to a palm press earlier but managed to do the last one second go. I finished qualifiers with 5 tops in 7 tries and 5 bonuses in 6. I knew I had climbed well, and I was pretty confident I was going to be making it through near the head of the pack. After watching qualifiers for another 2 hours, I finished in 3rd place in my group. To qualify to semis in my group, you had to do 4 boulders in 9 or less tries. In the other group, the problems were a bit harder with 3 boulders in 4 tries being the cut off for semi-finals. After qualifiers, I biked back to the house, and then drove to the airport to pick up my bag. Sometime in the morning while we were competing, Anna was called by the airport saying my bag had arrived. It was there, undamaged, and I was just relieved to have it back. I biked back down to the competition to watch the first half of the women do their qualifiers. It started getting pretty hot half way through, and to save energy for the next day, we watched the rest on the live stream. [singlepic id=360 w=320 h=480 float=right] Semi-finals were on the Saturday and started at 12:30. We had a super mellow morning, a few coffees and many cups of tea while waiting to go down to the competition. Fast forward a couple more hours and we were well into the semi-final round. When the round started, one of the first people to go out was a British climber named Stewart Watson. He’s a very talented climber from the UK but is now living in Innsbruck. From the crowd’s reaction, as well as the very obvious MC, everyone knew he had flashed the first two boulders… Usually when that happens, the boulders are a bit too easy, and it becomes a game of tries where one slip could put you from 4th to 20th or something ridiculous like that. You try to forget about it, but it’s always in the back of your mind. I was 15th out or so and warming up was very easy as it was much warmer than the previous day. I knew where my boulders were, and I know it started with the slab. I was a bit happy that a bunch of people were doing the slab because it meant that it probably wasn’t the hardest problem. When I finally came out, I was excited. I looked at the first slab problem, and it looked obvious. I did the first couple moves and tried to move out right, the zone hold was too far, and I got stuck for a while. I couldn’t downclimb the move, so I only had one option. I bumped my left hand in about 6 inches while my right hand was palming the wall. I knew if I didn’t hit the two finger screw on perfectly, I’d fall. I guess I had a moment of clarity, as my two fingers hit just right and my weight was against the wall again. From there, I reached the zone and did the last move of the boulder. 1 boulder done, and I felt good. As I jumped down, Kilian was also jumping down from the second, and judging by the time that remained, I knew he had flashed it as well. I can tell you right now that knowing a climber has flashed a boulder does not make the boulder easier. I would prefer it I knew the problem had never been done, so I can be the first to do it, and if I still can’t do it, then no harm done. The problem with knowing that one or a handful of people have done a problem is that in your head, you think “if I don’t do this problem, I probably won’t advance” which is extremely hard for your head. Every climber has to find their own way to deal with it. The way that I try to think of it is “if he did, then at least it’s possible, and I hope I can do it as well”. [singlepic id=361 w=320 h=480 float=left] 7-8 minutes later, I was running out to the second. At first look, I thought the first move was a dyno to a pocket and volume. When I went to pull on, I realized that it wasn’t a dyno. The first few moves were a bit weird, and the crux was getting to the zone and matching. The problem had pretty high feet, which suited me pretty well. It was also straight on climbing, with no edges to grab (compression style) which is bad for me. I managed to stick the zone, match it, and flash the problem as well. 2 for 2. I also looked over in the direction of problem 3, and saw no one standing there, which meant Kilian had already flashed 3 and gone back inside the tent… oh my. From inside the tent, you can tell when someone completes the boulder because they come running back to the tent before their time is zone… it’s pretty obvious. I knew the third boulder was the hardest, but it was still hard. Kilian had flashed it; Lukas Ennemoser had done it in a few tries as well as some other climbers I had noticed. When I went out to the problem, it had a painfully obvious sequence. It looked to be straight forward to the zone hold, then a jump to a feature, and a somewhat easy looking final move. I knew the crux was going to be the jump. It turns out that I was right about the crux, although I still managed to execute it perfectly in the sense that I was matching the final hold and I hadn’t fallen. I was a bit shocked that I had done it so fast, although you don’t ask yourselves those types of questions while competing. I thought if I had flashed 3 problems, you probably needed 4 to make it to finals. I thought this because I could hear that some people had done 4, and I also knew Kilian had done the last one in 3 or 4 tries as he came back to the tent to grab his stuff with a minute still left on the clock. While waiting for the fourth problem, I was determined to do it. In my mind, I was hoping that 3 flash would be enough, but then again, I’ve seen it where 3 isn’t enough… I went out to the fourth, and was a bit shocked to see what it was. There was only a few holds on the wall, and it was a volume problem. I like volumes although these were mostly underclings, so it would be hard. It turned out that the first two moves were some of the hardest moves. I almost fell on the first move, but somehow stayed on and perched up into the double undercling. I went up onto the next two which were symmetrical, placed my right foot up and thrutched for the last hold. The last move was also very hard but I jumped hard enough and controlled the finish. 4 flash… a perfect semi-finals. I turned around while still on the finish hold and did the classic tennis fist-pump! I knew I’d be advancing to finals, and the feeling of flashing all the semi-final boulders is something unique. As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m going to split the post. The finals post can be found by clicking here!    

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