World Youth Climbing Championship
By: Shania Gibson
Source: Canterbury / Westland Section Newsletter (February 17)
On the 31st October 2016, eight New Zealand climbing athletes and two Climbing New Zealand officials made their way to Auckland international airport, one of them being myself. This would be my first time leaving New Zealand and therefore my first time internationally competing in sport climbing and bouldering. We were headed to the World Youth Climbing Championships which would be held in Guangzhou, China, however our first stop was Singapore for four days to train with the Singapore Youth Climbing Team at Onsight Climbing gym. The reason for this was due to the lack of training facilities that would have been available to us in China.
The first day of training was more of a fun session where the team and our coach spent a couple of hours working on some pretty awesome competition style boulder problems. Day two, three and four were more intense and longer training sessions, covering lead climbing, more bouldering including a mock boulder competition with the Singapore Youth and even speed climbing which three New Zealanders had chosen to compete in (youth A males). Singapore’s heat and mugginess made our training sessions so much more difficult, trying to climb in heat that was no less than 30 degrees Celsius each day. However, we all knew it would be good acclimatisation for the days to come in China.
Whilst in Singapore, the team also did a bit of sightseeing. One of the highlights was gardens by the bay where we explored Cloud Forest and Flower Dome. It was very pretty and full of interesting species of flowers, plants and cactus which kept us all mesmerized for quite some time. Leaving Singapore personally felt a bit sad for me as I had already made so many memories whilst being there but at the same time I was incredibly excited to get to China and be able to compete in the sport I am most passionate about.
Arriving in China at 1am in the morning (local time) was an interesting experience, we all got through customs fine and our team manager had booked a shuttle to get us all to our hotel, however the shuttle never arrived. This left us stranded at the airport for quite some time while Jo tried to track down another shuttle. Not having any international data or calling minutes, let alone the language barrier, made it quite the mission. We managed to finally get a shuttle around 2.30am in the morning. The driver did not speak any English so he would stop in one of the lanes on the motorway every fifteen minutes to check his GPS. We were all a bit concerned he may not have been going in the right direction but after about an hour and a half we finally made it to our hotel. We all crashed as soon as we got there, I was incredibly exhausted.
We had a couple days prior to the competition of down time to chill out and recover from the previous four days. During this time, I met a lot of climbers from different parts of the world who were all staying at the same hotel as us. The evening of the second day in China was the opening ceremony of the World Youth Championships. We all turned up in our uniform and decided that Sam would be the flag bearer. Our team mascot was an inflatable kiwi that we carried around with us. There were so many countries at the opening ceremony; it was a pretty incredible experience.
The first day of competing began the morning after. Lead climbing qualification one. My first climb was on a wall that gradually became more overhung. Route reading the climb, I felt reasonably confident that I would be able to get quite far up. Warm up was a push and shove due to the amount of wall space available being small. I felt ready going out for my first climb which settled the nerves a little bit. I got on the climb and managed to get up to clipping third clip but at the same time, my heel popped off and I slipped and fell. I felt quite disappointed but fortunately my team mates were onto it and quickly put me into bright spirits again.
Day two was lead qualification two. This time, my climb was on more of a straight wall. I came out feeling a bit more nervous than the day before. I managed to get further on the second climb before falling off at a move that was very hard. I felt happy coming down from that climb that I had tried my best and given top efforts. None of the New Zealand team made semi-finals but we were all very happy with our performance and stoked to have had the experience competing in lead climbing internationally.
Further on in the week, bouldering qualifications started. I was incredibly excited to compete in bouldering as it is my favourite discipline. I enjoyed all five of my boulder problems. Some of them were incredibly hard to the point getting off the ground was a struggle but others I was able to get a decent amount of the way up. I managed to obtain a bonus hold which I was pretty stoked about. The boy’s bouldering had to be called off halfway through their qualification due to wet weather. This gave their entire age group automatic entry to semi-finals so they all got to compete two days in bouldering which they were pretty excited about. None of the New Zealand females made semi-finals and none of the males made finals but once again we were all content about our performances. We watched the finals for bouldering a day later which was incredibly inspiring seeing world class climber’s absolutely crush the problems. This upped my psych to a whole new level and has made me want to train harder and get stronger for 2017.
Leaving China was very sad for all of us, leaving behind all the people we had met, the memories we had made and knowing it would be the last time properly together as the 2016 New Zealand Climbing Team but in many ways we were all excited to get back to New Zealand to see our families and share the amazing stories we had experienced while across the other side of the world.
The world Youth Championships 2016 was an incredible experience of a lifetime and one I will never forget. It has inspired me, motivated me even more, changed me and allowed to me to meet so many great people worldwide which I am incredibly grateful for.
Posted By: Narina Sutherland