23 July 2011

Another Update from Arco

With the bouldering competition long since finished and the week nearly over, the World Championships are soon coming to an end.

A few nights ago the Arco Rock Legends Awards took place, with idols such as Lynn Hill and Yuji Hirayama making guest appearances. Up for the Rock Award, given to nominations who had an outstanding performance in outdoor rock climbing in the past year, were Frenchman Enzo Oddo, Adam Ondra and two Americans Sasha DiGiulian and Chris Sharma. This award, not surprisingly, was given to Adam Ondra.

The Competition award, given for outstanding competition results, was up for grabs with nominations being Spaniard Ramon Julian Puigblanque, Adam Ondra again, and Korean Ja-In Kim. I had expected Kim to be the recipient due to her incredible last year of competing, winning every single Lead World Cup in 2010 except in Chamonix when she was disqualified for missing a clip. It's unheard of so far for anyone to completely sweep a World Cup Season, and had she won in Chamonix, she would have gone down in history for sure. Alas, the award was giving to the equally deserving Ramon Julian.

Yesterday brought the women's lead competition to an end, with the semi-finals in the afternoon and finals in the evening. As Greenday would put it, our "Last of the American Girls" Sasha DiGiulian continued her domination of the World Championships and qualified for yet another finals.

Watching the finals was... incredibly frustrating, not only from a spectator's point of view, but also from a competitor and a climber. The women's finals route had a big dyno to a slopey jug three-quarters of the way up, and seven of the eight finalists fell attempting this dyno. Needless to day, it was very disappointing and anti-climactic to witness this, and the final results for second through eighth had to count back to the semi-final round, which is heartbreaking for the competitors who expected to go into finals with a clean slate.

Single-handedly saving the finals was Austrian comp queen Angela Eiter who, after countless exhausting minutes of debating how to get past the slaughtering dyno, ended up ninja kicking her foot up to the slopey jug and continued upwards feet first. Had she not succeeded in this sequence it would have been the most disappointing World Cup finals ever. Maybe it still was. A seven-way tie for second sounds just as ridiculous as it was to watch, and I know many people left the venue with an unsatisfied feeling. It was heard that the intended sequence was not the way Eiter managed, but in fact the dyno, and in that case, in my opinion, it means route setting failure. The eight best lead climbers in the world were in this final, half of whom can also be dubbed some of the best boulderers in the world. (Meaning they are also powerful dynamic climbers.) If not a single one of them could complete the dyno, it shouldn't have been there.

Another frustrating aspect of watching the finals was the event commentator. The same speaker has been announcing for the past week, and it can only be described as constant, ear-splitting noise. It was impossible to cheer for the athletes over the aggrivating, unstoppable sound of this woman's voice blasting nonsense out of the speakers, and although her attempt at broken-English commentating is appreciated, many of the climbers explained that it was overbearing, annoying and distracting to them while they were on the wall. When we head to the event to watch the men's lead finals tonight I will be bringing ear plugs.

Today will round out the overall competition for me, finishing on the third discipline: speed climbing. The bouldering and lead branches were fun for me and right now I'm just looking forward to being done. :)

19 July 2011

Sasha DiGiulian Takes Silver in Bouldering at the Climbing World Championships!!

I guess this blog title pretty much says it all! We have a great team represented here in Arco, Italy for the 2011 Climbing World Championships, and with the bouldering competition already finished I'm excited to see what we can do with speed and lead still to come.

I am extremely proud and impressed by our women's US bouldering team here this week!! We had such a strong and amazing showing in the qualification round last Saturday, with four American ladies making semi-finals!! The quali round used the split group format (Girls are split into two groups, "A" and "B", based on current world ranking. Those girls who have never done a bouldering world cup have no world ranking and are split randomly. Then the two groups are put on five completely different boulder problems and top ten girls are taken from each group totaling the 20 semi-finalists. I am personally not a fan of this system for many reasons, I think it is an unfair way to hold a qualification round, or any round of competition, but since we're about to head out sightseeing in Verona I have to withold from going further into this subject.) Francesca Metcalf (only American girl in group "A") had an impressive first place qualification, and in group "B" (where the five other American girls were placed) Angie Payne was qualified in third, myself in fourth, and Sasha in sixth. I was so proud to have four Americans representing the US in the group of 20 semi-finalists!

The semi-final round was difficult and stressful, as only six qualify for the finals. Sasha managed to step up and qualify in third place as the only American in finals!! I, once again, for the fifth time this season, placed 7th, just missing finals. (Side note: my bib number this weekend was "77"... Coincidence?!?)

Sasha absolutely killed it in the finals securing the silver medal early on in the round. She had the support of the whole US Team behind her, and she made us all very proud! The lead competition begins tomorrow with the girls, and I have a feeling Sasha is gunning for the overall combined victory, and with such a great start to the event she has an excellent shot.

Stay tuned for more updates from the 2011 Climbing World Championships!!

07 July 2011

30,000 Strong in Sheffield

As I've mentioned before, my friend Chris Webb-Parsons and I have been doing the commentating for the live webfeed for IFSC.TV. In the beginning of the season we averaged about 16,000 viewers per world cup, it constantly grew throughout the season until we reached around 22,000.
If anyone had asked Chris and I how many people we thought were hearing us, I'm sure we would have guessed five thousand, tops. We had no idea so many people tuned in to watch the world cups every weekend. I guess you could say a little excitement, and also pressure, were added when we heard how many people were listening. But I think it also heightened our game as well, made us more on-the-ball with our comments. Apparently it's paying off.
Last weekend in Sheffield we made IFSC history. It was officially recorded that we exceeded 30,000 live feed viewers!! Needless to say, Chris and I were shocked! As was everyone else who heard the statistics. You could fill a football stadium with 30,000 people!

As for the actual competition, Sheffield marked the end of the world cup season for me. Holding it down for the US Team in finals were Daniel Woods in 4th and Alex Puccio in 3rd. Courtney Woods was just barely bumped out of Semi's in the devastating place of 21st. I've had my share of 7ths this year (four in a row to be precise), so I know the heartbreaking feeling of being the first one kicked out of the next round.

In some non-patriotic news, my fellow Innsbruck dweller Nicky De Leeuw of the Netherlands made his first world cup finals ever!

And my friend Katha Saurwein of Austria joined her teammate Anna Stohr in her first finals of this season. Being good friends with so many in the finals made it an extra special round to spectate and commentate for.

The grand finale will be the World Championships in Arco, Italy in a few weeks, then back to the US for the Outdoor Retailer Tradeshow in Salt Lake City.
This season, like last season, had it's series of rollercoaster ups and downs, as every climber experiences sometime in their career/life.
Last year I had a goal of consistency, and with my placings jumping around from first to fifteenth, I wouldn't say I attained it.
This year I didn't set blatant expectations for myself, but I believe I came over here, if not stronger, than a more experienced world cup competitor, and I believe gained the consistency I was reaching for in my previous season.

Just over a week now until the Arco World Championships. I spontaneously decided to compete in the all-around, which includes speed and lead along with bouldering, so it's going to be a hectic and busy ten days of competition. Boat loads, or I guess "plane loads" of more Americans will be arriving in Europe to attend this event, making it the most Ami-overloaded European competition. Watch out Arco... We are coming for your pizza and gelato!
It'll be my last chance to try to make finals this season, but you can bet if I don't, you'll be hearing my voice on the live stream!