Tuesday 16 June 2015

2015 Australian Lead National Championships

I always knew it wasn't right or productive to fixate on past competitions. The most important thing is to accept your results and keep training harder for the next event. But despite the 2014 Australian Lead National Championships being what I consider my breakthrough performance in competitive climbing, I could never let go of the fact that I had come so close to winning the national title. I think at least once everyday since the Open Male final, my thoughts would linger back to the final moments of the route. I would watch the wall slip away from me again, and again, and again... To take second place was amazing, but since then all I have ever dreamed of was that one day I could take the title and stand at the top of the podium.

My 2015 season flew by, and I was super stoked with the results I had come away with. Aside from a third place in Junior Male due to a count-back, I had taken a clean-sweep of the competitions I had attended. Unfortunately I was unable to climb at one of the events, so I can't claim the grand-slam, but it really couldn't have gone that much better. By the end of the last event I realised that I was climbing beyond what I ever have before! This year Nationals was taking place in Brisbane at Urban Climb. Known for having the shortest walls on the Aus circuit, I was definitely worried that the routes would not suit my power-endurance style.

The Junior component ran entirely on the Saturday, with Opens on the Sunday. It was really nice to only have to focus on one competition at a time, and something that should DEFINITELY become a trend!!!! *WINK, WINK, NUDGE, NUDGE* ;). My first qualifier was steep and fairly straight-forward, and in typical Urban Climb fashion, the second qualifier was a tricky slab designed to split. I was very happy to have managed to top both, despite making the slab look much harder than it needed to be. Due to an unfortunate incident with a missed quickdraw, Jarred Jordan, who had also topped both routes, would be going into finals in fourth place, leaving me in first on my own.
Up-and-coming Bayside Rock crusher Maya Stasiuk wowing spectators
 with her amazing performance on the Youth D final, taking second! At only seven
years old, this girl could have a bright future in climbing ahead of her!!

We had a long break before finals, which was also appreciated, and were able to watch the Youth B, C, and D finals before heading into isolation for our own. It was really great to see so many climbers with such great potential. Dreams were realised and shattered, but overall it was highly entertaining.

Soon enough we were in isolation and getting ready for out own climbing. Everybody who comes to nationals does so with the intention of doing their best, but it was evident that there were a number of climbers who had eyes only for first. I did my best not to let this put me off. I knew what I had to do, and I knew I was capable of doing it. When viewing the route, we all noticed that it was exceptionally short - little more than twenty moves. And when it ramped up, it kicked in hard. It all made sense to me bar one sequence, in which a large brain-like hold sat above a small crimp, and pushed up high into another small piece. I moved around to find the best angle to view the brain from, but it looked horrendous no matter how I saw it. I made the decision that if I got there I would be able to skip it entirely and move through the crimps.

Australian Youth Climbing Team captain Jarred Jordan trying to unlock the sequence.
This guy is STRONG, and deserves the win that is definitely coming his way!

This turned out to be the winning sequence! I pressed high and hard into the crimp, out right into a small gaston, took the final holds with a small cross-over, and clipped the draw! This is my third consecutive time winning a National Title in Youth Lead, and every time I come back with more pressure on myself to succeed, so it was great that I could breathe easy again and look onto the next day with optimism. The Australian Team had a brilliant showing, of course, with titles being won by Mitchell Mullins, Roxy Perry, and Nanki Soin. Congratulations to Jarred Jordan and Alistair Earley for taking second and third respectively in Junior Male

The big day was really the Sunday. Of course we all want to give it our all in the Youth divisions, but the Open title is what every climber aged 16 and above is really gunning for. I was definitely happy with my form, and felt like I would carry it through to today's comp with no issues. This was certainly not the case. I came undone at the top of the Open Male first qualifier, and then moved much too fast for a pocket on my second qualifier, placing 5th on each. I was through to finals, but I think had some other climbers not made mistakes, my position would have been far less secure...

Lucy Stirling - Topping out the Male and Female shared qualifier.
Unraveling from this hold, I smacked the draw and missed the pocket, but such is life!
Claire Langmore showing that she's no one-trick-pony!

I was in a bad place. I had no idea how to feel. My climbing in competitions had been spot-on for months, yet somehow between Saturday and Sunday I felt like I had forgotten how to climb. My coach Will took me out for lunch and a coffee, and we managed to chat away my anxiety. By the time iso came around for finals, I was in exactly the right headspace again. It almost doesn't make sense, but I climb my best when I know I can lose. It's a balance between trusting in my abilities but accepting the possibility of failure that allows me to climb with the right level of caution and abandon.

Isolation was very long.... Which wasn't an issue when we saw what the routesetters had put together, but it would have been nice if officials had kept us better informed of how much time we really had. This was my only real criticism of the event, though.

Viewing was full of surprises. I read the route through to where I thought it finished for most of time, only to find out with a minute thirty left that it continued across two pinnacle features onto the next wall... and then to realise that the climb continued for another several draws. A series of volumes built the final bouldery slab that was to finish the route. I wasn't sure if it was necessary, but I admired the creativity.

Always an honour to climb with this guy! James Kassay making his way into the crux, taking second place.

 With nine climbers in each final due to ties for
eighth place, I was to come out bang-on in the middle of the final. The route was punchy from the word go, easing off through a pair of cubic volumes, then ramping right up again, building a fierce burn in my forearms. I was pumped much more quickly than I would have liked to have been, but the crowd cheered my high point early, so I knew I was doing well. I fought to make it to the pinnacle, but when I was there I scored a really great rest that allowed me to recover significantly. I sat there for what might have been two minutes before I began to worry about my time. I had passed the six minute mark, which I have never done before. I wasn't sure how long it might take me to climb the rest of the route, so I pushed on, but made some mistakes through a hard drop-down sequence and slid down the volumes like a fireman's pole :P

When I came off I was really happy with my climbing! A few of us had doubted that anyone would make it through to the other side of the wall, and I knew that it had been hard for me to do it. I went and found my coach and watched anxiously. Someone had obviously decided that I looked like death and handed me a stress ball, but it really wasn't hard enough for the amount of stress I was trying to squeeze out of it. My heart was in my throat. I struggled to think about anything other than how badly I wanted to win this title.

The next male finalist to climb was my friend and training buddy James Kassay. James and I really make no secret of our competitiveness, and so climbing with him in a competition is always fun. I basically watched through the gaps between my fingers as he made his way higher and higher, looking strong the whole way. It was only at the final crux before the features that the pump got to him and he was off! It was all a blur from there as it hit me that I was on the podium. It wasn't over yet, though, and I think watching the next two climbers was harder than climbing the route itself!

Jarred Jordan came out next and took a shocking fall just below the first major crux. It was heart-breaking to see him fall that way, and its something you would never wish on any of your competitors. But ultimately I was one step closer. Alistair Earley came out next. Al has been pushing new limits in his climbing over the past couple years, and he had certainly out-climbed me in the qualifiers. He made his way into the steep section of the route, into the crux.... and he was off!

In an instant I was in the arms of my coach, overcome with emotion. All of my time, effort, and training and been for THIS, and it tasted sweeter than any victory before!! I honestly couldn't believe that I had done it.

Earlier in the day I had accepted that my time was yet to come.  No matter how dramatic or even cheesy it may sound, standing on that podium, holding the trophy high above my head, was one of the greatest moments of my life so far.

Thank you to so many people for all of your support!! Thank you to the organisers of the competition, thank you to my family, thank you to the people that put up with me in training, and thank you to my sponsors, ICP, TRI-Climbing, and La Sportiva Australia. Words cannot describe what it means to me the encouragement I have received before and after the event. This community really is something else :)

 Congratulations to Mae Mackenzie, and Alistair Earley for both taking third place, Lucy Stirling and James Kassay for second, and to Claire Langmore, 2014 Australian Bouldering Champion, for winning her first ever lead competition and taking the female title. I think she's discovered her true passion in climbing, and I will have a route training partner in no time ;)

Lucy Stirling was the only female to top the women's final, but was unfortunately called for dabbing on a neighbouring climb, putting her down into second place... I wasn't in a position to make a call, but I know that you're a winner in the eyes of everyone who was there! Good luck in Europe Lucy, we couldn't be more proud of you!!

A special mention also goes out to the above climbers, Jarred Jordan and Roxy Perry, who similarly made unforeseeable mistakes early in their routes and were robbed of their chance to show us what they were really made of... Both of you are without a doubt two of the strongest climbers in the country, and I can't wait to travel and compete with you overseas!!

Anyway, this post is long enough as it is! I'm really enjoying a couple days or relaxation whilst I recover from this cold that has hit me since the comp, but I can't wait to get back into training. I really know what I need to work on from here, and I'm amped to do it!

Monday 6 April 2015

2015 AYCT Tryouts - Day Two (Boulder)

The first day of tryouts was over. I'd done what I'd set out to do, having qualified in the Lead Tryouts the day prior, and was totally relaxed and ready to just have a good time bouldering. I very much intended to qualify for the bouldering team, but as lead is generally my focus, I wasn't going to let the outcome bring down my mood.

I arrived at the gym at around 9.00AM to find that Male Juniors would not be climbing for several hours. I immediately wished that I'd stayed at home for a little while longer, as many of the boulders were shared between categories, and as such we could do nothing but wait in isolation. I found myself a nice quiet space and tried to flush out any nerves that still lingered.

Ned Middlehurst manoeuvring his way through his
final boulder.

Nanki Soin, bonus in hand on the slab.

Liliana Scacheri showing off her flexibility.

Time passed as category after category of athletes were shuffled up and onto the wall, ready to give it everything with the hopes of qualifying to represent at the 2015 IFSC World Youth Championships in Arco, Italy. This will be the first time that bouldering is included at the WYCH, and as such nobody quite knew what to expect when our timer started and we were faced with our qualifying boulders.

The event ran in the format of a World Cup qualification round. We had five boulders, five minutes to top each boulder, and a five minute rest between each. In order to earn a place on the team, it was expected that the athlete complete three of the five boulders, and score a bonus on four of the five. This felt like a lot of leeway until we were faced head-on with the idea. Realistically, that only left room for you to not complete a boulder and a half at most. With a variety of styles and difficulties on show, we all knew this could prove a difficult task.

My turn came, surely enough. I was warmed up and ready to fire. I suspected, given that the gym's slab was closest to the entrance of the bouldering cave, that this would be our first boulder. I tried to keep myself relaxed, breathing slowly, knowing I would have to be patient rather than powerful if I planned on topping out. In the past, I rarely perform well on slabs, and as such I was not going to allow myself to become frustrated if things didn't go so well.

My initial efforts went more or less as I had expected. I found myself unable to read the sequence and couldn't make the bonus hold. I took a step back from the boulder and really tried to analyse what might be going on. An idea struck, and with the clock ticking down, I knew I only had a short time to execute it. I took to the wall, moving through the first sequence to stand atop two sloped footholds, located the bonus from where I was standing, and made a short and sharp sideways pounce to the next volume. Funny enough, it stuck! I moved up into another rather poor volume, put my heel up high, rocking over until I found myself matched on the final hold!
I was ecstatic! If there was any boulder that would sweep qualification from under me, it was that slab. But this time it was me and not the wall that emerged victorious, and I found out shortly that I was the only climber to do so on this boulder. I returned to the edge of the mat and waited my five minutes until I was to take to problem two.

Problem two was exceptionally tricky. It began crouched on a blank volume, moved into a round ball in a roof, into a sloper over the lip, and finished up a series of positive holds to a top in an under cling jug. Once again, the intended beta totally evaded me as I was spat back onto the mat again and again. Clearing my head once more, I started to think more rationally, and worked my way into a scrunchy press between the hold in the roof and the top of the blank volume. From here, it was a careful lean into a good sloper, catching a big swing, and then a fun final sequence. I was now two-for-two, with only one top and a further bonus keeping me from a place on the bouldering team.

The next boulder, a series of rock-overs and presses between volumes, proved to be no issue. I flashed it and returned to the mat, soaking up my extra rest time and feeling pretty hopeful knowing that I need only obtain the bonus hold on either of the following problems.

The next boulder looked like a series of powerful movements between jugs up a steep overhang. I took a silly slip on my first attempt coming out of the starting holds. I shook it off, and after a quick breather, finished the boulder with little difficulty. Having topped all four boulders so far, I was in the team, and pretty pleased with myself. One more boulder to go, and I had no intention of heading home defeated by it.

The last problem appeared to be the most difficulty. It mostly consisted of  many small tick-tacks between large holds, and a punchy top. I was progressing nicely, moving into the final sequence, totally sure I was going to flash it, before peeling off near the top. I was frustrated, but I took a long rest on the mats knowing that I could climb up there easily and make the top. Unfortunately, each attempt sapped my energy, and the moves felt harder every time. My five minutes came to a close, and the boulder was left un-sent. I was a tad bummed, wanting to back-up my four out of four tops from the previous day with five out of five problems, but it wasn't to be. Never-the-less, I was stoked with my efforts!

The day was over, and seven boulderers joined the team alongside seven route climbers from the previous day. Myself and fellow Junior Male Jarred Jordan were the only two athletes to meet both standards, bringing the total count to twelve.

Congratulations again to everyone who made it. It's going to be so cool competing with you and watching you all crush in Italy! Thanks to the route setters, organisers, volunteers, and to Bayside Rock for hosting the event. Also a big thank you to my sponsors, Indoor Climbing Productions, La Sportiva Australia, and TRI-Climbing.

The complete team, plus coach Will Hammersla and Open Team members Emma Horan and Tom Farrell.

After a quick Easter break, climbing on rock and totally over-indulging on chocolate, I'm super keen to kick into gear and get beastly strong for the season to come! My next adventure sees me in Brisbane at Urban Climb for the Queensland State Lead Titles. Last year I fell short of first place on time, and so this year I'm hoping I can push just that little bit further and not give anyone the chance! ;P But in all seriousness, I'm mostly looking forward to hanging out with the ICP crew and seeing some good mates I haven't seen in a good long while.

Time to train!! :D

Tuesday 31 March 2015

2015 AYCT Tryouts - Day One (Lead)

Let it be said, first and foremost, that tryouts are the most stressful, least enjoyable event of the year. I love competition climbing, I wouldn't give it so much time if I didn't. Even competing at the World Youth Championships, with the months of hard, focused training, the days of travel, and the intense atmosphere, is less stressful than the few routes and boulders that you have to top in order to get there.

My lead-up was less than ideal coming into this year's tryouts. A shoulder injury around the new year had me taking 5 weeks off, followed by some very poor climbing at the Pre-Tryouts Training Camp in January, and a less than satisfactory performance at the 2015 Bayside Boulder Bash. The stress was building, and I was finding it difficult to motivate myself whilst battling my injury and consistently falling short of the standard of climbing I expected from myself.

Bouldering at the 2015 Australian Youth Climbing Team Pre-Tryouts Training Camp in January.

 The week of the tryouts came on way too fast. Since the Boulder Bash my training had well and truly kicked into gear. I was fit and strong, but the stress was mounting, and I had an overwhelming fear that after such a good season in 2014, I would not even get the opportunity to represent in the 2015 season I had been looking forward to. I remember looking in the mirror a few days before the tryouts and seeing a ghostly pale figure with dark circles beneath his eyes staring back at me. Nerves are important, but this felt like a step beyond nerves and into debilitating dread.

The day came, no matter how much I wished it could wait, and somehow I managed to hold myself together and get a good night's rest. I ate well in the days prior, and was generally spot-on with my preparation. I did my best to push all of the worry out of my mind, and simply focus on the task at hand. Whilst warming up, I felt strong and in control.

My first route consisted of fairly technical moves that trailed up an arete, and looked incredibly precise and balanced in the way that they had to be maneuvered. I pulled on, and fell right into the zone, progressing up the wall quickly in what felt like a flow of effortless movements. Before I knew it I was at the top, feeling incredibly relieved. With a perfect start, I looked toward my next routes with a new found confidence. However, there was still work to be done, with two more routes to top out of the next three before I could truly relax.

Routesetters didn't spot this one ;)
Alistair Earley working the slopers on the second route with a solid heel-hook.

Rocking over to the finish of Q2

My next route looked considerably less daunting, with only a short technical section at the start, and then very straight forward climbing to the end of the route. Everybody in my category dispatched this climb with little difficulty. Two down, one more to go. The next two qualifiers were certainly a step above the first two, though. There was still more work to do.

Our third qualifier consisted mostly of good crimps and off-balance moves. I stepped on very wary of each shift in my body, making sure that I was secure before progressing to the next hold. At the end of the climb the wall became slightly more overhung, and the only thing that sat between me and qualification was a punchy push to the final jug. I took a slopey pinch in my left hand, brought my feet up, and pulled for the last hold. It fell securely into my hand, and I clipped the final draw, relieved and ecstatic that I had made it!! A great weight had lifted off of my shoulders, knowing that once again I would be representing Australia on the world stage!

It was at this point that the competition truly became hard. Knowing that my dreams had been realised only made it harder to watch those of my best-friend's fall to pieces before my eyes. I tried my best to be happy and content with my own performance, but simply couldn't, seeing people in the position that I had been fearing since lowering down from my semi-final in Noumea.

But there was still one more route to climb, and I couldn't go home defeated, so I refocused and took to the wall. This climb was steep and powerful, and remained unconquered when I pulled on as the last climber. I moved quickly through the route, past the first crux, and into a solid rest while I sussed out the rest of the route. The next four or so moves had proved to be some of the hardest of the day, so I approached them with caution, and calculated every twist and turn, until I was there once again. I flicked my rope through the final draw, four out of four!

This year's lead tryouts were a total roller coaster! I went from absolute doubt, to a perfect score, and a place on the Australian Youth Climbing Team for the fourth year in a row! Congratulations to Sarah Mckenzie, Oliver MacGibbon, Nanki Soin, Jarred Jordan, Roxy Perry, and Mitchell Mullins for qualifying for the team as well! Train hard, stay focused, and this will be an amazing year for the Australian Youth Team :) Those who didn't make it all put in solid efforts, and can return to their training with a better knowledge of where they can improve. It sucks HARD that you guys won't be with us in Italy, but keep working, and I know you'll be ready for China in 2016.
The 2015 Australian Youth Lead Team!
Thanks to the routesetters, volunteers, and to Bayside Rock for hosting the event! It couldn't have happened without you guys. Also, thank you to my sponsors La Sportiva Australia, Indoor Climbing Productions, and TRI-Climbing for supporting me in my bid for a spot on the team :)

But the weekend was not over, with bouldering to follow the next day! I'd done what I'd set out to do, but couldn't go home totally satisfied without earning a place in both! Stay tuned for part two.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

2014 IFSC World Youth Championships (Noumea, New Caledonia)

It's taken me a while to write this post, and I don't really have a good reason why. It has been busy at school with exams drawing near, but I think it's mostly because I wasn't entirely sure what to say. I'm writing about an entirely different experience than I thought I would be. This year, for the first time, I have come home from the World Youth Championships proud of my achievement. For the first time I can safely say I climbed to the best of my abilities, and am looking forward to next year not as a chance to redeem myself, but an opportunity to better myself in a way I now see possible.
My trip began with a training camp held in Sydney for the Australian Youth Climbing Team. We were to spend a week here before heading off to New Caledonia where the WYCH would be held. I was just coming to the end of an almost two week break from climbing, due to a hand injury I had sustained for unknown reasons, that was preventing me from completing tasks as basic as tying my shoe laces. As such, I was somewhat anxious as to how I might feel pulling onto the wall. Fortunately my hand was good, but I felt I had lost some endurance, and was taking a couple sessions to feel like I was moving well again.

Our first point of order was the New South Wales State Bouldering Titles. I was not feeling in ideal shape for this comp, and it was recommended that I did not compete by my coaches. However, when the morning of the event came, my hand hadn't been giving me any trouble, and I thought it best that I take it as an opportunity to pull hard and get my body into gear.

It is fair to say I was not totally satisfied with my performance overall when compared to my past results. I managed to take 4th place in a highly contested Youth A Men's category. A good result, but the first Youth podium in Australia that I had missed in almost 5 years. As such I was a little disappointed, but I focussed on the fact that my hand wasn't hurting, and I could approach my training over the next few days optimistically.

Having a good ol' time in Sydney!!
After a rest day touring the Sydney CBD, myself and the rest of the Aussie team spent a couple of sessions trying to onsight hard routes in gyms around Sydney, where we met a number of members of Team USA. With every route I climbed I felt I was moving better, resting more efficiently, and generally climbing stronger as the days went by. I was getting back into the swing of things, and it felt great!!

Hanging out with U.S crushers Margo and Kai!!

And so off to Noumea we flew!! I was super excited, but so nervous!! An ever-so-slight feeling of dread was looming over me. Twice I had come home from the WYCH having under-performed, feeling like I could have done much better. I was hoping that with this trip I could prove to myself that that was true, that I was capable of more than peeling off the wall merely a few draws up.

The emphasis of myself and of those around me in previous years had been on positive affirmations, telling myself that I would achieve a certain result. Whilst the intention was to build up self belief within me, I felt more as if it was being forced down my throat, and so I made the decision to take a more laid back approach to my determination. This year I had only one goal: to climb to the best of my abilities and return home satisfied. This new approach left me far less stressed, taking pressure away from making the semi-finals, and onto simply enjoying my climbs.

Up and away!!... And then down again very shortly, for once!! ;P
The competition day came, and I was more than excited to get onto the wall. My route looked good - my style completely, and whilst warming up my body was primed and ready to fire! Things were looking up! Negativity still loomed overhead, but nevertheless I shook those feelings away and reminded myself of how much I want to be here, and this is what I dream of doing everyday.

There I was, tied in, warmed up, and as ready as I would ever be to climb my first qualifier. I had an ideal balance of nerves, excitement, and relaxation that all seemed to settle in the pit of my stomach. Taking my first steps onto the wall I moved with precision and meaning. Every movement felt accurate and efficient. Quick and easy. The holds remained fairly positive as I pushed further through the route. In the back of my mind I was waiting for the moment when I would lose my cool and make a soul-crushing mistake, but the moment never came! I was nearing the top of the route, and as I pulled through the roof and into the final face of the climb, I truly, genuinely believed for the first time that I belonged to be there. Each move was powerful, the holds were positive, but a burning in my forearms urged me to keep climbing. I took the third to last hold firmly in my left hand, bringing my right foot across my body and pulled, taking the second last hold in my grasp.... and watching it fall away as my foot blew from the wall!!
It took a couple of seconds for it to sink in how close I had come to topping a World Championship route.... I was ecstatic!! Over the moon!! My efforts had landed me in equal 11th place, making it my best placing on a WYCH route, having previously been equal 28th.

My second qualifier was later that night, and with little luck, I attempted to nap back in my hotel room. The little rest I did get helped me relax before taking to the wall for a second time. Whilst I had my theories, I was eager to know which route would be mine that evening. It turned out to be a funky little blue route that the Junior Males had climbed earlier that day. Having seen that this route was particularly cruxy, I knew that it could play to my strengths if I stayed switched on and maintained body awareness.

The route began in quite a technical fashion. In the past, I would have been totally defeated by these early sequences, but I managed to execute them perfectly and make it up to what I knew was the first crux. It consisted of an off-balance drive-by from a small edge to a sloper atop a volume. I caught the sloper confidently, and held tight to ensure I kept core tension. I continued to climb after realising I was not going to score a rest here. The next sequences were awkward, with strange feet and body positions. I worked my way through them, into a sloper at which I had intended to rest. With the beauty of hindsight, I see now that this was a terrible idea! I tried to shake away the pump very unsuccessfully before moving on to some harder sections, through a rad rose move to progress and then again to clip, and upward. I reached a number of extremely positive holds, but having wasted my energy I was in no position to rest, and simply resolved to keep moving. I had only a few moves in me before I was off. I had a good climb, not ideal, but good enough that I was satisfied knowing I had given it my all.

I had very little idea as to where my efforts would place me... whether I had earned myself a semi-final placing or not! But, as it turns out I had managed 16th place on that route (not too shabby as far as I was concerned!), adding up to a 14th place overall going into the semi-finals!


Well, turns out third time's the charm!! I was in, and I couldn't have been happier! I had hoped and dreamed of this for three years, and as silly as it may sound to some, I was stoked to climb a third time at this year's WYCH.

But it was there that I learned something new, something I had not expected to learn. I had always envisioned myself in total elation when making the semis, and that I would attain a state in which my placing going forward wouldn't concern me.... But that was when I had expected to creep into semis around 26th place, not 14th! All of a sudden having simply made the semis was irrelevant. I wanted to place as highly as I could. I wanted to make finals! I had re-awoken a long lost drive within myself, and without positive self-talk, or scrawling my hopes into a diary, my sense of self belief was back :)

I was not the only Australian to have placed in the top 26th! Jarred Jordan, Sam Bowman, Matt Tsang, and Roxy Perry had all gone through after a long time coming, and newcomer Rhys Brandon managed to do so at his first ever World Youth Championship!

Isolation was a new, exciting, and incredibly daunting experience that I had been looking forward to for a long time! I looked around me and saw climbers from various parts of the world that I had respected since first watching them climb in Singapore, and could now appreciate this aspect of the event as one of them, and not simply a spectator.

The time came to view our route. It looked fairly straight forward. Not too difficult to start, moving into a dynamic roof, and then a pumpy run to the finish. Very little of the sequence eluded me, and that of it that did I quickly sorted out with those around me. I returned to isolation confident that this was a route I could perform well on.
Viewing the Youth A semi-final.
The wait for my turn to climb did not take nearly as long as I had expected, leading me to believe that maybe the route was much harder than I initially thought. I simply did what I would always do in isolation - talk about the route, get warmed up, keep somewhat to myself and try not to get overly amped. Before I knew it, I was tied in, facing the wall, and ready to climb...

Similar to my first route, every hold felt positive, and I didn't get too pumped through the first face of the climb. It wasn't long before I made the transfer into the roof and things started to change. I knew I had a number of committing moves ahead of me, but couldn't quite find any positions to rest. I pulled up into a shallow edge in the roof... it was tiny, and I did not feel confident putting my weight into it. The next hold was hidden amongst a formation of volumes, and I lunged toward it hoping to catch it just right. I hit the side of the box, just short of the hold. And as my feet slid from beneath me, I made one final push, and it was just enough to catch the jug one hand. I squeezed as tightly as I could, bringing my body back up to the roof. My left hand was solid, but I just couldn't find anything good to rest on with my right, so I made the next big move over the lip. I caught the hold with my right, following shortly with my left. By this stage, I was pumped. Accidently missing a crucial foothold and a potential knee-bar, I pressed on for every point I could score. Shortly after, I fell, fairly pleased with the height at which I did so.

My efforts were enough for me to land 15th place, and I was stoked! It seems that I accomplish my WYCH goals a year after I set them ;P With my goal for Singapore being top 40, and I took 46th, my goal for Canada being top 15, and falling into 33rd. I learnt some valuable lessons about efficiency and route awareness watching the following athletes climb the route. I also saw how close I was to finals, only 4 movements away, and I was hungrier than ever to resume training and work even harder for next year!!
Cutting loose on the Youth A Mens semi-final.
This year, the Australian Youth Climbing Team did our country proud. But more than that, we were proud of ourselves and proud of each other!

The rest of the competition was absolutely amazing! The finalists in each category put on a spectacular show that was entertaining for all. I just know that very soon, we'll be seeing our own athletes in the top 8, climbing for a podium finish. And if all goes to plan, I'll be one of them!!

Thanks to everybody again for all of the support and encouragement you have given me over the past year, and in the lead up to the competition. Special mentions go to my parents, who I love very much and put up with me in some of my most unbearable pre and post competition states! Thank you also to Rob LeBreton, who did an extraordinary job coaching us throughout the trip, especially in isolation where we were all feeling a bit daunted!

Thank you to my sponsor, La Sportiva Australia, who provided me with the gear I competed in and have been training in the lead-up to this comp!! You guys are awesome, and I'm ever-grateful to be a part of the team!!
Now there's only one more competition until the end of the season: The Australian National Bouldering Championships and the Australian Climbing Festival in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales. I'm super excited after coming home and taking a 1st in Youth A and a 3rd in Open men's at the Victorian State Bouldering Titles, and I'm hoping I can take another podium, or even a title, at this event!

I'm so thankful everyday that I get to be a part of something as special as sport climbing! Here's to years more of incredible experiences and friendships to come!!