Thursday 5 January 2017

World Youth Climbing Championships - Guangzhou, China

In September this year I was invited to represent Britain at the World Youth Climbing Championships. The competition was held in Guangzhou, China so I was really excited to go there. Before this I had never gone any further than Europe for climbing or on holiday. 

This year has been my first year competing internationally as I am only in the my first year of category B. I have had some great results in lead and boulder this year and I managed to retain my British Speed Champion title. Because of this I was put forward to compete in the overall at the Worlds, which means I could compete in all three disciplines and have a chance at the overall title.

Day 1

On the 3rd of November I met the rest of the GB team members at Manchester Airport before flying to Paris. From here we flew straight to Guangzhou, China! I was looking forward to experiencing my first long hall flight but as I had been told it wasn't all that exciting. The flight was 13 hours and we arrived at 6 o'clock Guangzhou time. Just as we were going to get a taxi to the hotel Ellie (another team coach who had flown out some hours before) called to tell us our hotel wouldn't let any westerners stay there! So after many phone calls home and different arrangements a new hotel was booked.

Day 2

It started with a really odd but nice breakfast at the hotel. There were dumplings, noodles and the only British breakfast thing I recognised was eggs!

The competition was due to start on the 7th so we had 2 days to explore the city! The first thing we did was go into the town and visit the zoo. It took 4 taxi's to get the whole team to the zoo and it was unbelievable how busy the roads were! There were cars everywhere and a lot more cyclist than in the UK. The buildings were so much taller than any of the places I have seen before. 

Inside the zoo we met the rest of the team by the panda's enclosure. Seeing a panda was one of the things on my list of stuff to do in China so I was really disappointed when there was none in there. The cage was under construction. So we split up and walked around the rest of the zoo.

After lunch we left the zoo and we divided into 2 groups. I went on the metro to a sculpture park. We didn't find the park in the end but we found an area with trees so we hung the finger board up and did a little session.

Next we got on the metro again to a Chinese temple. It was amazing to see all the statues of the golden Buddhas and their religious ceremony. The roofs of the temples were just like the ones in Kung Fu panda. There were lots of scabby cats wondering around which was a bit weird. 

At the end of the day we got the very busy metro again to where the rest of the team were shopping. There seemed to be lots of people everywhere you went in Guangzhou! After finally finding the right shopping centre we had a meal together.

Day 3

We got up late and stayed at the hotel for the morning so we could rest for our first lead qualifier the following day. The hotel kindly let us ride in their mini bus to get to the wall so we wouldn't have to get taxi's. It was a pretty short drive there and once we arrived I went over to look at the routes and bouldering walls. There were some really big overhangs on the boulder and lead. When the whole team was standing looking at the wall the officials told us off so we went to the registration building. Inside the building next to the climbing was our registration point where we got competition passes and were told it was 4 hours until the opening ceremony.

It was decided that 3 coaches would stay for the technical meeting and the rest could go shopping and get some food. Because we didn't speak any Chinese it was hard to find  public transport to the right place. So after speaking to 3 different half English speaking IFSC officials we finally got on a bus to the mall.

Kitty (my friend also on the team) and I walked around the shops for a few hours as we had already bought food. We got really bored after walking around the shops 3 times but it was soon time to go for the opening ceremony. 

We caught the bus again but got off at a stop too early so we had to walk quite fast to the wall so we didn't miss the opening ceremony. As long as your teams flag bearer was there for the ceremony then the rest of the team didn't have to go. I was nominated to run to the wall to get there in time and be the flag bearer. I wasn't playing attention to the conversation and I only worked out what I was doing half way through the run. 

I was very happy to carry the flag at my first ever World Championships. The ceremony was held in the cycling velodrome just in front of the wall. I followed a lady carrying a sign which said Great Britain. I was so glad I wasn't at the front because I had no idea where to go. We did a quick tour of the velodrome before listening to a load of speeches from various IFSC senior officials. The teams were then allowed to join the coaches in the stands and watch the dancers and other traditional Chinese performances. Also each athlete got a "goodie bag" with some leaflets and a nice Chinese chalk bag in it. 

We left soon after the ceremony was over and went back to the hotel. 

Day 4

An early start for us! We had to go and register early and then wait for our turn. I was up last out of the team (45th) which I was happy about until I realised how long the wait would be. The demos weren't up for a while after we got there so I was guessing which one I would have. 

Eventually when the routes went up I had the one I wanted. It was a purple route on a slightly less overhanging wall. I spent a lot of time reading it and watching other climbers. Kitty was up early and she climbed it really well getting well above average. 

After warming up I sat in the chair until I was called to climb. I went out pretty confident and was climbing well until I came to the undercut move where a lot of other people had fallen off. It was a cross through to an under cut and then a massive stand up to a small crimp.

I knew what I had to do, I just didn't want to fall off so low down. After a lot of goes I made the move and climbed way too quickly up the next section to the volume. I had planned to shake just before I got the volume but I was really stressed after thinking I was going to fall off the undercut move. This made me really pants so I fell off going to good hold which I planned to rest on so I was really annoyed.

It took me a while to realise that I hadn't actually done that bad and to focus on the 2nd qualifier.

Day 5

The following day we had qualifier 2 and I was out around 20th. The route looked much more my style than qualifier 1 so I was looking forward to it.

After warming up, I had two things to think about from qualifier 1 which I kept saying to myself as a pulled on. 

Again I started well, climbing smooth. I had planned to shake out just before the roof but I thought I felt okay so I kept climbing. There were no rest spots for a while after this so I had to keep going. I regretted it as soon as I clipped the first clip in the roof. I was really pumped and all I could do was keep going. I went dynamically to the jug in the middle of the roof but I was too pumped to hold it and I fell. I felt so stupid because I made the same mistake I made the day before. I managed to recover from my disappointment quicker but it also helped that I had made the semifinals and had another chance to prove myself. Overall it was a pretty good day because everyone else in team GB made the semifinals as well!

Day 6

For the semi-final all categories went into isolation at the same time and one person from each category climbed at the same time. We arrived early on the shuttle bus from our hotel and had to go straight into isolation so we didn't get a chance to look at any of the routes.

Ellie was in isolation with us to help us and get us ready to climb. I was first to climb out of our team.

It was pretty nerve-wracking waiting in the chair to climb and all I wanted to do was put things I did wrong qualifying right on this route and prove to myself that I can climb well. I was happy with the route after observation. We were on the red over hang and it looked quite hard which was good because it meant there is a less chance of  tying with other competitors.

The only thing on my mind when I walked out to climb the route was sticking to my plan and really going for it. I knew if I stuck to my plan and tried my best there was nothing else I could do.

The moves were quite dynamic on this route but I enjoyed them. I made one route-read error that I corrected as I went up so it didn't cost me any more energy. I got the sequence right and in the roof I planed to shake out, so I forced myself to. I was feeling really good as the hold I was shaking on was a really nice jug. Just before I came out to the China clipping was a problem for me so I was worried about the clip in the roof of this climb. I reached out with the rope to clip it but it swung away and I couldn't quite get it in. I think I had around five goes until I finally got in. There was a big screen with live videos of the climbers. While I was shaking out I watched myself live. Here I rested again so I would be ready to complete the next section to get over the lip. I should have rested  a bit longer as I was still a little bit pumped when I started to climb on. I climbed on and made it as far as the first hold over the lip and then fell as I reached for the next hold.

I was so close to climbing my best and I couldn't believe I messed up just at the end. I wasn't as disappointed as the qualifiers because I hadn't made as many mistakes.

At the end of semis I was in 17th place which I'm not happy with as a lot of people got to the same hold as me so it went to count-back so I was pretty low down. So my mistakes in qualifying made a big difference to my final position. 

There was some very good performances from team GB but sadly no finalists.

Day 7

The main reason I decided to do speed was for the overall title but I would also like to train  so I can compete in that event in Europe and next year.

Both me and Kitty were competing in speed and on the start start lists by chance we were against each other. The format was on times so the fastest times would get into the final but there was still two climbers on the wall same time like a head to head would be. 

My first run was okay even though I false started on my first attempt. I don't know times as the IFSC only uses your fastest time. 

After everyone had finished their first run they started from the top of the list again for second attempts. I didn't false start on my second attempt but I felt a bit slower.

I wasn't as bothered about speed as I have no way of training for it in Cardiff. I was reasonably happy with 27th place and a best time of 14.94 seconds.

For the rest of the day I watched and junior male bouldering qualifications and by the afternoon we had a 2nd, 4th and 5th. Around this time it started to rain a lot. The climbing had to be postponed while the rain cleared up, leaving the competitors in isolation for even longer. They had already been there all morning! Billy was the only athlete from team GB left in isolation and he was the very last competitor to climb for the junior male category. After the rain stopped the finals resumed only to be completely stopped half an hour later. It was then decided that it was too wet for the rest of the qualifiers to go ahead so they cancelled it and all of the scores from the other competitors were deleted. This meant all of our great results were gone! Because there wasn't enough time to reschedule the qualifiers they decided to skip it and go straight to semi’s this meant that they had to separate 60 people down to 6 finalists. We all felt sorry for Billy and Tim (team coach) as they were in isolation that 8 hours and didn't even get to climb. 

Day 8 

After being a little disappointed with my performance in lead climbing I was excited to start the bouldering. I felt like my bouldering was slightly stronger and I was determined to climb better.

In lead I was really happy to be out late but I have now changed my mind. It is much better to be out earlier so you can get it over with and there is less time to get nervous. After deciding this I found out I was 50th to climb and would spend 4 hours in isolation!

Michelle (team chaperone) was my coach in isolation. The warm-up walls were okay. Also the holds were very chalky and there wasn't much space but as I was climbing very near the end most people had already gone out so there was lots of space for me.

I hadn't seen any of the problems so I had to be ready to climb any style. It was hard to be prepared for slabs as they only had one volume to use and both the warm up walls were over hanging. 

I couldn't help but hope there would be not many slopers as even with practice they are still my least favourite hold. The format was 5 on 5 off one of my favourites. It means the competition is over much quicker and this is more about endurance than just strength.

For my first block I was a little disappointed to see only slopers and sloper volumes the whole way up it. I pulled on and had missed a crimp in my route read so I was finding it hard to move up. I was getting more and more pumped so I looked different ways of doing the move until I finally found the crimp! I grabbed it and easily made it to the bonus hold which was giant volume sloper. There were only two moves left and I really wanted an on-sight. I got the next sloper and jumped to the top hold also sloper. To my surprise I manage to hold it and get the top. Later I found that I was only 1 of 4 people to on-sight the problem!


The next block wasn't just slopers. I pulled on and did a massive cross to a pocket and dynamically pushed out to volume. I messed around with my feet for too long which cost me a lot of energy for the last moves. I got to the moon shaped sloper and matched the top of it. I was really pumped and the wall was very overhanging. I went for the next move which was only one hold away from the top. I wanted to get straight back on as usual but I forced myself to rest before pulling on again. In total I had 3 or 4 attempts but none were as good as my first. I decided that when there was 30 seconds left I wouldn't have another go but save my energy for the the following 3 qualifiers.

For the third block I had a dyno. I am pretty bad at these but after a few goes they can sometimes happen. For my first few attempts I tried dynoing and static ways even though I new it was definitely a dyno. After six tries I stuck it, the next move was big and I had all the wrong beta. I managed to do a double heel hook and then fall off jumping! The time ran out after this, I didn't even get the bonus! I wasn't very happy in the transition area.

Block four was overhanging, short, and slightly less slopery than the last few climbs. I knew when I saw it that I could flash it so I was eager to get on. Maybe a bit too eager. As planned I route read for 10 to 20 seconds and then pulled on. The holds were much better than they looked and I got to the bonus easily I then jumped to the next hold and my hand slipped off it. I felt really stupid because I rushed and it cost me a flash because in the next attempt I did it easily. 

My fifth qualifier was a slab. I'm not usually very good at slabs but this time I was okay. It was a four point start on a ramp shaped volume then a stand up and go to a wiggly snake shaped crimp. At this point I had to jump and catch a volume, my worst nightmare of a move. It took multiple attempts but I did finally stick it. The last hold was a sloped volume with a chalky screw on top. In the last few minutes I tried jumping for it three times and slipped down every time.

I was reasonably happy with my climbing in bouldering and my position was 12th. If I had flashed qualifier four I would have been 10th!

Day 9

Sadly this was my last day of competing out in China as I didn't make it to the finals. The format was the same as qualifiers but this round we only had four blocks. Isolation was much shorter as I'd qualified in 12th place, meaning I was out 9th, this was much better even though it was harder to get onto the warm up wall. Michelle was in isolation with me again and we did the same warm up routines as before. Time slipped away much quicker this time and I was soon sitting in the chair ready to climb.

Bloc 1 had volumes everywhere and was very confusing to route read. I did pretty well first go, getting to the bonus even after I spent ages messing around in the middle. After a long rest I was still too tired and couldn't get anywhere.

Semi-final B2
Bloc 2 was one of the hardest and only one person topped it. You had to rock onto a volume and push into the roof with your hands then turn around and walk your hands down the wall to a sloper. I attempted to do it fast and slowly but I just couldn't stick it. The bonus was only a little bit above the sloper so I also tried going quickly to that as well. I must have had about 10 attempts or more at the problem because it wasn't costing much arm strength and I really wanted top it and make the final.

Bloc 3 - my favourite style. There were a few of the sloper rings and moons but they had crimps on them! I think I got the bonus on my first attempt and fell on the second last move because I didn’t move my feet up. I had 3 more attempts after this and fell off the top move every time, almost sticking it on the last go. When I went back into transition I remembered what I needed to do. This was such an easy thing to fix!

Bloc 4 - I just wanted one top! And I got a slab. My least favourite. After placing my feet and hands onto the four points I rocked onto the next volume and balanced across trying not to match my feet to much. As I balanced across I saw the bonus at my feet so I reached down and put my hand onto it and it slipped off. On my next attempt I got called off because I crimped a bolt hole on a volume which was allowed for most of this year but the rule must've been changed before I went out to China. I didn't really know what to do so I just jumped off and ran straight back on. I wanted to argue with the judge but I knew that would just waste time. I edged across again and put my feet on the bonus making it easy to get the top to hold. My only top in the semifinals! It was really nice to end on a high

The small mistakes I made were pretty frustrating that I was reasonably happy with my end result of 14th.

On the last climbing day of the trip we watched William Bosi and Tara Hayes come third and second in the bouldering finals our only medallists.

Day 10

It was really nice to have one day before we left to go out and see China. We hired bikes and tandems from the hotel. It was a lot of fun. 
So my final results were:
Lead - 17th
Speed - 27th
Bouldering - 14th
Overall - 11th

My current world ranking is now 13th!

As it was my first world championships I am happy with my results but feel like I could have done better. I am looking forward to next year when I am in the top of my category!