Sunday 26 January 2014

Intro and Summary (PART 3)

Photo: Christ Hampton
Such a strong performance at nationals was the cherry on top of a super exciting season so far! I looked forward to worlds, knowing and believing that I could make the top 26 and progress through to the semi-finals. Friends showed me a lot of support, and so I trained my heart out in the last few weeks before the World Youth Championship.

 I believed so intensely that this was the year I'd make my first semi-finals, I put a massive load of pressure onto myself. My mental state became fragile. On a good day I was invincible, and would climb harder than ever before, building onto a positive mindset. Just as easily though, on a bad day, it would all come crashing down. One bad redpoint or onsight session, getting too pumped too quick or losing my composure on a route, falling off on moves I felt I shouldn't have. All of these things were enough to send me crashing. My mind would fill with thoughts of how I KNEW I could make semis, and that I HAD to! The whole idea of going to the WYCH was no longer fun, it was just an opportunity to break out onto the world competition stage. I almost felt that if I didn't climb hard in comps now, then I never would.

Second qualifier WYCH 2013
Photo: Yvette Harrison
Before travelling to Canada, we stayed in San Francisco to train and build a sense of comradery as a team before the event. I cant speak for the other members of the team, but I know for myself that these sessions were mentally the hardest sessions I had been faced with all year. I felt like way I climbed in SF would indicate exactly how well I was climbing and how I would perform at the WYCH. Our first session on rope for the trip went horribly. It was my first time climbing on taped routes, as opposed to colour, and I was getting frustrated. Coupled with some not-so-great climbing I was having some serious doubts about where all my training had gone. But then, sure enough, we came back to the same gym a few days later and I climbed some of my hardest routes indoor, putting me back into a positive space. It was fickle and irrational, but the pressure I had put on myself had well and truly gotten to my head.

Slowly but surely the event etched closer. We flew out to British Columbia, Canada and took a look around, including a visit to the gym at which the competition would be held. Vancouver Island was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. To just have deer walk through the university campus we were staying in was incredible, and I'll always remember the sights, sounds and smells of BC.

Soon enough we found ourselves at the opening ceremony for the event. The roller door that covered the wall rose up, and for the first time we were able to see the routes we would be climbing on the following day. None of them were marked, so of course we began to make assumptions as to which routes would be ours. Aside from one nasty looking green climb, which just so happened to be my second qualifier, I was pretty happy with all the climbs. Most of them looked my style, and the holds did not look nearly as bad as I was expecting. I was looking forward to the event with optimism.
I could not have been given a route that was more my style if I had asked for it! It was steep and powerful, with some cool shoulder and drive-by moves at the top. I was so sure that I could top, or at least climb close to the op of the route. I was the last climber of the whole day, and with all eyes on me, I pulled onto the wall. I had viewed my route countless times... you could almost say I overviewed it. In my mind I overcomplicated simple sequences and tried to dumb down those I thought I might struggle through. When I started climbing, the route felt easy. Every hold was good, but I couldn't shake the sudden tsunami of nerves that overcame me. The route became do or die, and I crashed into disarray before taking a low fall about mid way up the route.
I came off the wall, untied and left. I needed to be alone. I climbed much further than I had on either of my qualifiers in Singapore, but I was far more devastated than I ever could have been then. I felt disappointed, shameful, embarrassed.... Everything I had worked for felt like it had been for nothing. I was in 34th place going into the second qualifier, meaning I had to climb at least into the mid teens if I was to have any chance of earning a semi-final ranking. The next day I climbed only so-so on a technical, tricky route, and placed 28th for that route, giving me an overall placing of 33rd..... no where near semi-finals. I came off the wall, took my gear off, walked out into the middle of the oval out past the wall, and just lay in the grass.
It would take me a good long while to fully come to terms with and accept what happened in Canada. It sounds silly, but I poured my heart and soul into that one competition, and it was difficult to know what to do when it was all thrown back at me.
Now I realise that what happened there was not all in vain. I have never learned so much about myself as a climber and an athlete. There I uncovered the weaknesses and strengths I can and have been building on in order to succeed in my goal of one day becoming a top international competition climber. I might not happen this year, maybe not the next, but I will take each experience as it comes and try and learn from what occurs.
So with a new-found mindset, I'm training for the 2014 AYCT tryouts harder than ever before. This year, all I'm asking myself to do is find the simple enjoyment I once got from climbing. I want to go into competitions with at peak physical condition and a positive perception of my abilities, but overall just tackle climbing with the goal of enjoying world class competition routes in incredible places, with incredible people.
I eager to see what 2014 has in store. With the 2014 Melbourne Leading Ladder beginning tomorrow, I've made the decision to take a more casual approach this year, and use the opportunity as training as opposed to a high pressure competition setting. My next competition in which a title is up for grabs in the Victorian State Lead Championships, in which I will be vying to win the Youth A title that I was unable to compete for in 2014, and defend my title as Open A champion!
Thanks for taking the time to read these posts if you have stuck around for the whole series :P I felt like I needed to get a lot off my chest, and I really appreciate having people who take interest in and support me and my climbing. I'll try and make an update after the VIC State Titles, but until then, climb hard and enjoy yourselves!! :)

Saturday 25 January 2014

Intro and Summary (PART 2)

Whilst in Singapore, heading out for something to eat before watching the speed climbing finals, I was in discussion with a friend about qualifying for the team next year. I was moving through to my first year of Youth A in 2013, meaning I would have to meet a higher standard of climbing in order to qualify for the World Youth Championships. Youth A male was the most hotly contested category at the 2012 tryouts, with 6 athletes meeting the standard where Australia was only able to send 4. Youth A was looking to be a strong category in 2013, and I was told by this particular person that I was going to "really struggle to qualify next year"..... It had personal intent to it... that I personally, was going to struggle whilst my competitors took my place with ease.... This person was someone I least expected to say something like this... There are always going to be people who don't want to see you succeed, and there certainly was in my case. I was hurt initially, but that's not why I'm writing about this now. I think every athlete has to face doubt head-on and overcome it if they want to be the best. It can be especially hard when it comes from someone you respect, or when the facts are staring you straight in the face that maybe you're just not as good as you thought you were. But you endure, accept and move on from these experiences, converting them into positive thoughts and drawing from them in order to push yourself even harder. This is exactly what I did with comments like this, and my experience at worlds. With new-found motivation to train, 2013 was looking to be a bright year!!
2013 Australian Youth Climbing Team Tryouts
I qualified again for the AYCT, topping out all five of my qualification routes, and climbing in a super final with two junior climbers I had looked up to for some time. It was exhilarating, and I'll always look back on it with pride. I made quick progression in my onsighting abilities, taking part in a state-wide competition called the leading ladder that had me attempting to onsight 24 routes every three weeks. I started to push my training further than I ever had before.

This year I was faced with the choice of competing in either Youth A or Open A at the Victorian State Lead Titles, as the organisers had decided they wouldn't be running youth a open categories separately as is traditional. I chose open, which turned out to the right choice! I placed equal 1st in the qualifiers, and came out as the 3rd last climber in finals. I pulled through the first section of the route on quite good holds, into some smaller edges and came up into a large slopey pocket from a flat undercling..... and all of a sudden the crowd started going crazy! I've never climbed for such a supportive crowd! I climbed, pumped, through each of the bouldery sequences before coming off a couple draws from the top. I was sure that I hadn't climbed well enough to win myself the competition, but was content with a third place against two formidable climbers. But one after the other, I saw the climbers that followed fall before my highpoint, and knew I had won my first ever open title!! I was ecstatic!!

Two months late I was to compete in my first ever continental championships in Noumea, New Caledonia. This was also set to be my first time overseas without my parents, but with the help of a fellow competitor and her grandparents, it wasn't too daunting! The competition wall was pretty fantastic, especially considering it was the only climbing wall on the island!
The competition wall prepped and ready for finals viewing time.
Photo: Ingemar Johnsson
 Here I climbed on some of the best comp routes in my climbing career thus far! Official IFSC routesetters set for the event, which was really exciting both for the event and for climbing in the Oceanic region. Throughout the competition the male Youth A, Junior and Open competitors were placed on the same routes, which meant that everyone could gauge how we were climbing in comparison to the categories above us. Most climbers topped our first qualifier, with significantly less topping out the second. I had a foot slip pulling into a no hands rest towards the top of the route, putting me into semi-finals in fourth place in Youth A.

Despite having less than 26 competitors in all categories, we all competed in a semi final. A Youth A competitor from New Zealand  and I were the only two climbers to top out on our semi final route, putting us into first and second respectively. As the evening approached, we moved into isolation and waited for viewing time. Being the second last climber out, I timed my warm up so that my mid warm up rest would land in viewing time. We were introduced one by one, and our time began. Our route looked considerably harder than what we had previously faced. It consisted of a tricky sequence down low that I could not figure out, into some moderate moves over volumes, into a sustained pumpy boulder problem, and then finally a vertical, straight forward top out.
My turn to climb came and I pulled on to the wall. I felt good. I climbed through the tricky sequence in a way I'm pretty sure it was not set to be climbed, but kept moving. The holds started to feel poor as I got more and more pumped, and I came off on a move just before the lip. I was a bit frustrated, as I went for the hold I came off of as a crimp, but it was a juggy pocket that I probably could have held onto. I untied and asked what the high point was... and it was me, which I found surprising. One more climber to go until I knew whether I was to be placed 1st or 2nd. And surely enough, the next climber came out, climbed up past the next high point below mine, and fell... It took me by total, utter surprise... but I was excited all the same! The bouldery moves were my style, and I'd just won myself the Oceania title! I waited and watch the Open males climb the same route, and the Open champion fall one move from my highpoint!!
 So despite being a little disappointed with a couple of my climbs, I went home as the Youth A Oceania Champion! Perfect prep for Lead Nationals in just a few months. I worked hard on building my power, but went into nationals a little worried about my lack of endurance and resistance. I Came to the competition to discover that my resistance had not left me and I was climbing well. I topped my first open qualifier and looked up at Q2.... It looked really hard! It was a massive jump in difficulty, but I pulled on, the holds felt good, the moves felt good. I got pumped towards the top, but kept on pulling. I was just at the last move, and pulled as hard as I could, getting just far enough to feel how much of a jug the last hold was before it slipped from my grasp! I qualified for my first Open National final in equal second as one of two youth athletes to make the final.

Youth qualifiers were later in the day. I topped both my qualifiers, being one of only two to top out our second route, putting me through to the finals in equal first(VIDEO: ). I was to be the last climber out. Youth finals were to be the next day, but for my last climb I had my Open final. I was to come out second last. I pulled onto the route and it felt good all the way through to a pumpy pinch sequence, into a roof. I was feeling quite pumped as I hit the roof, so I shook out and continued climbing, but a crux got the better of me (VIDEO: I was scored for a solid on the 30th hold, putting me in third place! I was pretty psyched with this, as it was my first ever National Open final!

Photo: Chris Hampton


Youth Finals.... the last climb of the comp. Two years in a row I'd placed third, and it was my goal this year to win. We came out to view our route and I felt as confident as could be. The route looked really nice, just my style, and the holds weren't too bad either. I warmed up and prepped myself mentally to climb. One by one I heard cheers as each competitor climbed higher than the last, and then a thud as they fell into the wall. The strongest of the other guys came off, and I began to doubt my initial thoughts about the route... but I pushed this out of my head. It was negative self talk and I didn't need it. I walked out in front of the crowd, read the route, chalked up, and pulled on. Every move flowed, every hold felt good. As soon as my fore arms began to burn. I recovered. The last few moves were big and powerful, but I pulled through them and clipped the last draw. It may not have been the cleanest climbing of my life, but regardless, I was over the moon. I punched the air, knowing I had accomplished my biggest goal of the last three years!!! (VIDEO:

Intro and Summary (PART 1)

Hey all,

             So maybe I'm a tad late, but happy new year! I hope everyone had a great holiday and got to spend it with the people they love. At the culmination of the Earth making a full circle around the sun, it's tradition to make a number of promises to oneself that, more often than not, will be left ultimately unfulfilled and piled onto the following years empty resolutions.

At the end of 2013 I made myself the new year's resolution that, among other things, I would start a climbing blog. Only difference here is that I've made sure to follow through! I figured a blog would be a good way of not only keeping my friends and family updated on the climbing related goings-on in my life, and direct some of the traffic on my Facebook timeline elsewhere, but help me better understand myself as a climber by recording my thoughts both privately and publicly.

So with my competition season not far from beginning, and this blog taking it's very first steps, I thought the best place to start would be an introduction for those who don't know me, and a summary of what I've accomplished in competition climbing over the past couple years.

Open final of a local comp at Hardrock: Nunawading.
Photo: Chris Hampton
I began climbing over 7 years ago at a small gym near where I live. I asked my dad one day if I could try climbing out, so he signed my two sisters, my brother and I up for the kid's club they ran. I loved it and continued to climb as my siblings decided one by one that it wasn't for them, and found new interests. After about 4 years climbing, the gym closed, and so I moved to a much grander gym, Bayside Rock, at which I have trained for close to 5 years now. With a new gym, new coach and new training buddies, I found a new love for the sport, and after entering a few local competitions and competing in my first state and national championships, I decided that comp climbing was something I really wanted to focus my attention on.

The 2012 Australian Youth Climbing Team in Singapore.
The real turning point for me, though, was when, after much training and hard work, I qualified for the 2012 Australian Youth Climbing Team as a Youth B. In the lead up to the tryouts it never even occurred to me the possibility that I might ACTUALLY make the team! It was the most exciting and motivating thing that could have happened to me at this stage in my climbing career.

Shortly after qualifying I began  travelling the country (at the expense of my parents, which I am forever grateful for!)  in order to participate in more competitions to contribute to my national ranking and gain experience. For the first time I was achieving regular podium placings and testing myself against older climbers in the Open A category. About a month and a half prior to the World Youth Championships I arrived at nationals with relative confidence in my ability to place. I came out of the competition with a third place under my belt. I was happy, but still hungry for so much more!

Before I knew it I was in Singapore. Tryouts felt as if they had occurred an eternity ago, and all of a sudden in this hot and humid climate I was expected to compete against the top youth climbers from across the world, some of which had impressive open rankings!! I was filled with excitement from my first time overseas and the prospect of such a competition. But the night before the opening ceremony, I came down with the sudden onset of an intense stomach bug that kept me awake and dehydrated for an entire night. I rested for a day and awoke the morning of the comp feeling mildly unwell, but capable of getting myself to the event and pulling onto the wall. I was the second climber up, so with the our forerunning video etched into my brain I pulled onto my first qualifier only to fall moving from the fifth hold......

It took a few moments for me to process what had happened.... But when it finally hit me, I felt a feeling of total devastation I had never felt before. All the hard work I had put in felt like it was for nothing. I'm not sure if what happened happened because I was sick, all I know is that I tried to pull through a moved that should not have been that hard, and simply came away from the wall. The next day went much more smoothly, and I climbed to a point I was happy with. It enjoyed my second qualifier, but came out of my first WYCH with a final placing of 46th...... I took this, and used it as motivation for my next WYCH!!
(: PART 2 TO FOLLOW!!! :)