Last BWC in Innsbruck and The Opening of Lead Season
Bouldering started great. I flashed the first four boulders with ease and did the last one in 3 tries. I felt power and control. Women had a day off, to swap with men, who had it in Brixen. I enjoyed commentating and watching Men's bouldering. The next day was time for last action on the World Cup circuit, as well as to fight for a higher ranking spot, as I was on 5th place at the time. Then I completely busted my performance. I had one top and two zones. I was not able to use any power. As if someone stole everything I had physically and mentally over 48 hours. It was a bad day with a very very bad timing, putting me on 16th place and 8th in general ranking, leaving me in tears.
I participated in the Lead event as well, even though I didn't have time for any proper preparations, as the Boulder season was extremely packed and intense, leaving no space for proper trainings. I took part anyways and enjoyed some pump, achieving 35th place, with much room for improvement.
Hot Summer Disappointment in Brixen
Hello again. It's been a week since I competed in Brixen, but the schedule remained busy, preventing me from having a few fresh hours for myself, to think and eventually write something. But here I am, better late than never.
Let me start with the routesetting. One cannot complain much here, it was a good wall, amazing choice of holds and volumes, with an experienced and psyched crew. It felt like a major refreshment after the Salt Lake City cups. It didn’t feel uncomfortable as in the US. It felt good, tricky and hard. My absolute favourite move was the top of semifinal 2, where I caught the left heel while catching the top on the right. Ahh so satisfying! But the coordination moves are still too easy. Beginner level.
Being out of finals might have given me a taste of bitterness in judgement, but I expected something more spectacular in that round. A few boulders were cheatable in an ugly way – foot jamming and hand matching on a small pocket… ew. But all in all, setting seemed much better than the last two by far. So good job boys.
It was extremely hot during the weekend. It was very easy to suffer a heat stroke. My heart goes to all the coaches who spent hours on the direct sun. Luckily, the roof of the gym is big enough to cover the wall and the mats very well. The venue is amazing, very nice view of the action from the tribunes. Lovely.
I had a really smooth climbing weekend, despite the end result. I flashed the first two semifinal boulders. Got stuck on the third one, due to little fatigue and lack of skills to complete the task at hand, but I knew that the last one holds the ticket to the next round. I was cruising on my flash go, just until the top hold. Had one hand on it, when I realised, I need to drop-knee to be more stable to match. While attempting to change the position I felt that same weird pain in my right index finger from aggressive crimping. I was crimping so hard to keep that flash, that I over-strained my fingers without noticing. When I finally did notice, I tried to release the grip just a little bit, so I prevent any injuries, then I slipped with that and fell. I was furious and kept slipping in the middle sector as I lost my perfect grip and focus, obviously. That is how I lost my finals. Very bitter.
A really good side-thing about this event was that we were allowed to request brushing during the rotation round. Both athletes and coaches were happy and grateful for this change back to normal after some complaints. But will it stay, we can’t know. I certainly hope so.
As you may have noticed in the last two years, well, since the pandemic started, athletes mostly brushed the holds by themselves instead of calling a brusher to do that, while the athlete rests. In order to reduce the number of people in the field of play and to prevent the contact with athletes, the brushers were temporarily unavailable. This year however, the new 15 s rotation period was introduced between climbing rotations, to have the climbers safely return to the iso and this was an open window for brushers to clean the holds. Seems practical? Smart move?
Well. It’s all a tricky topic. There are no covid rules in Europe, but we still aren’t allowed to request brushing (I tried in the US but the judge on the boulder didn’t allow it per instructions from above). It turns out, people in charge, whoever they may be, chose to forget all the normal rules from the glorious pre-pandemic times. An information came in that apparently it doesn’t look good on TV when a brusher is next to a climber on the mats, mentioning “requests”, “servants” and similar associations. I am still shocked by the audacity for such comparison, and I will firmly stand with my point that us athletes should use our time to rest. We can ask for brushing help if we want. If we do not, we can brush ourselves. It is a part of this sport for a long time. TV has no business filming athletes who don’t climb (excluding finals, where there is nobody else to film) who additionally strain themselves further to brush the holds.
To finish this bitter topic with a few remarks, there are so many people keen to volunteer on a big boulder event to brush holds. I did it as a kid too. In ball sports, there are always ball-kids whose task is to get the ball to the player, so that they don’t have to lose their time and to waste energy. Why are we making things complicated?
Anyways, Brixen was refreshing, competing in Europe really felt like home and I finally got a chance to visit Südtirol. The full focus now is on Innsbruck. Last chance for big things in this year's Boulder World Cup circuit.
Pics by Ryu Voelkel (1&2) and Lena Drapella (3&4)
Two sad rounds in the USA
Writing this on the airport, as my flight back to Europe was delayed, I was trying to gather all the impressions, sort them and assess appropriately. I am trying to be objective but that will never be entirely possible. Result wise, my performance declined on the back-to-back World Cups in Salt Lake City: 8th on the first and 11th on the second. I learned that my endurance declined as the competition season is rolling, which is normal, as there isn’t much time in between to drastically improve the shape. That put me out of finals on the first weekend. The top on no. 2 would have secured me a spot, but I dropped the last move after struggling on the start and missing a kneebar in the middle section.
The trick is, there are 4 boulders. Usually, you need two or three tops to reach finals. Out of 4, which are in different styles, you top those that suit you and try as best as you can to battle your way up on those that fit your body and style less. Here, we had an untopped slab, with a “cheap” zone, meaning, it was useless for the ranking. When you think you can save yourself, after a mistake, there is no save. Not to mention how much I struggled size-wise to get up from the zone.
I went over it and tried to get ready for the next round. The qualification boulders were generally set easy, which was evident to everyone, and nobody really liked it. A “youth B” round, some would say. It is a different game then, where you aren’t chasing zones and tops, but rather flashes. It can be interesting, but us athletes never like such rounds. I tweaked a finger on no. 3 in quali but continued climbing normally.
The next day, it swelled in the pip joint, and it hurt on full extension. I could use it and pull, but it required serious taping. I topped the first two boulders, then struggled on the third one. It triggered my finger, as it involved big flat volumes. I might have misread it, there were a few versions. I tried to match hands, but the finger injury prevented me from doing it. I tried other ways, but I barely got the zone. It felt chaotic in those 5 minutes. Nevertheless, I felt confident before the last problem. Then my distress and disbelief emerged. This boulder looks so smooth and nice when a short person does it. It looks like torture when a taller person attempts it. I don’t want to sound biased or to complain. Watching the shorter ones, it looked natural, flowy. Looking at the taller, it looked very uncomfortable and forced.
You know how everyone avoids morpho moves because smaller can’t reach or it is simply harder? Well, nobody cares about the opposite direction. So often it happens that the problems are so small-boxed that the lever on the arms and legs is so long, that you simply cannot be balanced. Or there are mantles, where your knees are in your face. Where the “toehook” is on the middle of your shin. So many rotations, where your knees throw you out of balance. What happens then? “You are just not good at slabs”. “Well, you can reach on other boulders”. No. You can’t. Boulders are specifically made that taller cannot reach easily or cheat. But again, depends on the routesetter. There are a very few really tall ones who prefer comfortable setting.
There has to be a balance between morpho and anti-morpho. Boulders should be doable by both. I cannot help but think, that smaller can train explosivity, so they can jump better. Everyone can train this. But how do you make yourself “smaller”. You can train mobility, it helps big time, but there is still a limit to it. Do you have to lose weight drastically, so your proportionally dimensioned bottom won’t throw you out? Is the sport going to push the athletes in this direction again, while we are fighting against eating disorders for how long?
If it is so impossible for setters to make boulders which are equally hard for all types of bodies, then at least try to make the variability of styles a bit fairer.
What is variability in this sense? It means having vastly different boulder styles across the round. Equally difficult to execute. If you have an easy coordination, that everyone does, and a slab that only a certain group is good at, this is not good variability. Or if your round is mostly morpho and shorter ones stand no chance. Boulders need to be a ground for everyone to express themself.
Bouldering has become very unpredictable. Setting styles are changing from competition to competition, different setters have different influence on the spice. Which is amazing! Unpredictability is what makes it fun. But it isn’t all that unpredictable after all.
Another sketchy thing were injuries. In these two weekends we had 2 elbow dislocations with ligament tears, 2 shoulder tweaks (all four on the same move), a shoulder dislocation on a similar move, a 1 or 2 finger tweaks and maybe even more injuries I am not aware of. But I will talk about safety of boulders some other time
At the very end of this opinion, I’d like to share, that multiple athletes, especially the finalists complained about boulders of the last competition being too easy – in the sense that they weren’t testing the physical abilities of climbers, but rather ability to climb in awkward positions. Let’s see what the last two World Cups bring…
2nd round - Korea
Prior to this trip, the last time I visited any Asian country was back in 2018, before my knee surgery and before the pandemic. I had never visited Korea before (besides a 2h layover on the airport), therefore I was very excited about the whole trip.
We arrived in Seoul on Tuesday before the competition, to have enough time to fulfil the Covid19 requirements (double testing), to adjust to the time zone and climate.
Luckily, I experienced a very mild jet lag, I climbed in two of the many bouldering gyms in Seoul (The Climb and Climbing Park Hanti), but I did get pretty tired on the sightseeing.
The qualification round was pretty physical. I topped all the problems, but I definitely worked hard for them. Sometimes I think to myself, why do I try so hard in qualifications, then I climb at the very back in semifinals and struggle with friction. Exactly that scenario happened in semifinals - it was hot and humid, plus chalked up. I barely fought my way up on number 2, which I managed to top, and number 3, where friction definitely wasn't on my side. The 4th problem - a slab - I flashed, using my height to skip the last move and match the top earlier than intended. Three tops got me through to finals in 6th position, starting first.
In finals, after each boulder, the live results are available for competitors to look at. I was never a fan of this rule, but I always looked at them. Now I decided not to. I am experimenting with different mental tactics, as the final round is for me, mentally the toughest. The final lasts very long, you can hear what is going on for each climber and the rests in-between are so long all kind of thoughts can crawl into your head. This time (and a few successful times ages ago) I managed to completely isolate from the rest. I believe now in Seoul I got a different vibe compared to the finals last year and compared to Meiringen this year.
I found the final boulders pretty exciting to climb. I was very proud to have flashed the mantle move on no. 1, as I have struggled with the technique and power required for it the whole winter - the desperate work on it finally payed off. No. 2 was a slab which could have been more difficult for me due to my height. I felt like I froze in the middle, unable to move my feet higher. On the side note, the zone hold was the most useless handhold on the wall. This happens often recently, that the zone is basically a foothold, then you have critical judging decisions, appeals and a mess. Sometimes I really wonder why routesetters make this so much more complicated, instead of deciding for a more useful hold.
Zone hold is rewarded if the hold controlled: (Control means, for the purposes of judging and scoring, that a competitor has made use of some object/structure to achieve or change a stable body position ).
If you can't hold it or use it, why is that the zone??
Anyways, I topped the dynamic no. 3, which I really enjoyed. The 4th one I unnecessarily complicated at the start, losing all the time, passing the crux at the very last attempt and running out of time 2 moves away from the top. Sad, but educative. The funny trick to doing the first sequence was to push the forehead against the wall to create the upward force. Then it was all on balancing the feet and hands and slowly turn around - that part I found weird. That top would have gotten me on the podium, but I would say 4th place is also fine :)
Currently still 2nd on the World Ranking (12 months, including World Champs) and 3rd in the World Cup overall for 2022.
The first World Cup of 2022
There is no better way to start a season than to be in the finals of the first World Cup. Meiringen was a great host as always, although we all got rusty into the new season, including the IFSC (more thoughts will follow).
I didn't believe my semifinal performance was going to be sufficient for the spot in the finals. I achieved two tops and four zones, having fallen very close to the finish of the boulders #3 and #4. I already lost a lot of skin on the jump in the last boulder, but also half of my thigh skin from a deep kneebar on the #3. It all still burns. It was extremely intense to follow the change in results, but somehow, I managed to stay on the 4th place and proceed to the final round!
I was very excited. It's been years since I last made it to finals in Meiringen. I warmed up well and I felt pretty fresh. During the observation I thought that I am capable of doing all the boulders, with some concerns of the traverse of #1, the top of #2 and the jump at #4 (which seemed like an obvious downward jump - for which I asked and complained, but the routesetters pretended not to understand my question and the jury president said it was "fine"... okay).
It turned out that the #1 was perhaps much more difficult for my height.
On #2 I felt a tweak in a joint of my index finger during the full-crimp. The more I pulled, the more pain I had with a very weird sensation of hyper-extension in the joint, so I dropped down and ended my attempt. It didn't cause further problems (as I had no more crimps to take).
I misread the slab or thought that the beta I chose would be easier (closer) than it seemed. I got scared. I tried to avoid switching the feet but it only led me into positions which felt like suicide.
feeling terrified and kicked out of my head from #3, I had little mental energy left for #4. I couldn't generate the swing and lost the battle with the (another scary) downward move.
All in all, I feel like I am on a great path. I am more than excited for training and really looking forward to the next World Cup in Korea!
Getting ready for the 2022
As the pandemic is still taking lives across the world, we can only hope, once again, to have a normal season ahead of us. Nobody is fully aware of how the restrictions will limit our travels, training and performance across the globe during the upcoming season, but we can all do our best to be ready as if everything was normal.
I have been a part of German team simulations almost every weekend for a month now and each one of them presented a different challenge. However, the path finally has some concrete basis, the hopes are up and the body is adapting to the new approaches, and new bio-mechanical circumstances. What a funny thing a human body is. Every year there are new obstacles to overcome. At least it is never boring.
The short trip in Chironico yielded another solid 8A+ boulder. After a few days of projecting, fighting the fears at the topout and adapting to the length of the boulder, Delusion of Grandeur finally surrendered. Very tiring on the right hamstring and requires good explosive power and contact strength at the beginning, as well as some power endurance and a strong head at the top. Fun boulder.
Another World Championship Medal
Back from Moscow with another medal this year and another bronze on a World Championship. The finals presented a great emotional and mental challenge. I started in a pretty nervous manner but managed to pull back the focus and secure a medal with the top of the last boulder.
Three weeks in South Africa felt like being on another planet. It was my first time in this bouldering heaven. The first week was smooth and successful, having climbed The Arch 8A+/B and Shosholoza 8A+ (FFA). After these, I sent Pendragon 8A in a day, but struggled with dabbing. Some days later, I stuck the dyno and ticked the Oral Office 8A+. The last and the toughest climb was Mooiste Meisie 8B. It took me 5 heavy projecting days, with emotional failures. On the second to last day of the trip, the freshness returned and I gave it a first female ascent on a wonderful sunset. The last day I gave Black Shadow some tries, but that is left for my next visit. Check out the video of the ascents, by Matthias Woidneck.