The Paraclimbing World Championship in Innsbruck was an amazing experience for me. Just like in past years, the paraclimbing event was organized alongside the traditional climbing disciplines (lead, bouldering and speed), however, this year the organizers (Austria Climbing and IFSC) put a lot of attention to integrating paraclimbing properly into this 10-day celebration of climbing. As a result, the finalists of all paraclimbing categories got to climb on the impressively overhanging lead wall. This seemed as an impossibility to me at first, however, with the help of fixing huge downward hanging objects on the wall (which made the routes less overhanging), it became not only a possibility but a visually appealing and fun 3-D route. I was definitely very excited to have the chance to climb on it!
I was quite nervous before the qualifications, but I was just really happy to climb in the finals. I was looking forward to this event for a very long time, because the Austrian climbing federation greatly appreciates paraclimbing, and I knew that this event will be something special. And it was for me, indeed. I was happy and a bit proud of myself that I managed to push aside all the expectations and stress, and just enjoyed the festive atmosphere in the stadium during my climb. I still got a bit nervous low down the route (not wanting to fall too early), but then I was surprised how high I managed to climb. At that point, I was determined to just go for the last few moves to the top. Then I clearly remember getting stuck after a few moves, not believing that I have the reach with my little left hand to do the intended move. And that was it. Hesitation costed me precious energy at an inconvenient position, and I was out of it and fell. I was still happy that finally I fell on a route feeling the lactic acid pumping in my lower arms. I think I also managed to show what I was capable of at the time.
A few minutes later Solenne Piret surpassed my highpoint with an extra move, and she became world champion of 2018. Although I was naturally a bit disappointed, I was also happy for her. She trained hard for this, and it’s also motivating to see in the final ranking that training actually pays off. This should maybe be obvious, but luck actually often plays a crucial role at the paraclimbing competitions for many categories where the disability affects one side more than the other. It’s almost impossible to set routes that do not favor some athletes over others.
Luckily, I’m mostly competitive with myself and not with my competitors. That way every route is a new challenge just for myself. It’s interesting to see how others can solve the same puzzle, and admittedly also somewhat frustrating when I’m not able to do it. As I don’t really like competitive environments, I take it as a great opportunity to challenge and learn about myself. The mirror is not always kind, but it never fails to provide a generous list of things for my self-development both as a climber and as a human being.
The main lessons learned this year were: that I’m the most happy and sociable when I climb or can talk about climbing; that I have to work on my upper body strength – I dreaded letting go of my feet while climbing, unlike most of my competitors, and some more locking power would have certainly helped me do the final bouldery moves; and that defeat is first planted as a thought – if I believed more in myself and committed instead of hesitating, things could have ended differently.
So why do I compete in paraclimbing? Because we have a great paraclimbing community, and it would be a pity to miss the opportunity to see everyone. We’re also still a growing community, and every person counts – particularly in the categories for women, where there is still barely enough competitors. And of course because I love climbing and new challenges.
But I’m a hobby climber. I’m happy that in the less than two months I devoted to training hard for the world championship I managed to put together a training schedule (with useful tips from my friends) that worked for me and that I also enjoyed the training. It opened my eyes for endless possibilities of becoming a stronger climber. This and also the amazing feeling of climbing at the World Championship motivate me even more than before to continue my training and work on my physical and mental weaknesses. I’m curious to see how far this process will take me. I hope that next year at the world championship in Tokyio I can enjoy the climbing just as much as this year, and I will not be stopped by moves that would have seemed too far this year!
(Photos: Sytse van Slooten)
You can watch my climb in the finals here:
I encourage you to watch also all the other paraclimbing finals!