With the winter nights drawing in and the competition session well and truly underway, the last few months have seen the RCCAcademy preparing with hours of competition preparation training. With sterling performances at the BMC British Lead Climbing Championships and RCC’s very own Winter Bouldering League Round 1, our attention turned to the Welsh Climbing Championships and the Climbing Centre Groups Petzl Lead Climbing Championship.
First up, the Welsh Climbing Championships at Boulders Cardiff. It was an early start Saturday morning, but with a BBC Radio 1 shout out showing support for the RCC Academy, the drive went quick and before we knew it we arrived at Boulders!
9am came, and after registration the team joined for a group briefing with myself. With 2 of the RCC Academy returning to retain their championship titles, plus a further 7 members all wanting a piece of the action, psyche was high! With only an hour until comp kick off, it was time to put all those hours of route reading into practice! The team split into their categories and set off to find their routes. As a coach of over 10 years, I have to say I have never seen a group of kids work so well together to not only ensure they saw every hold, every move, every clip and every rest but they supported each other and their confidence just grew! Once they had discussed every element of their routes, including sequence options, clipping positions etc, it was time for me to have one last run through. The layout of the day was as follows, each competitor had 3 qualification routes to attempt. After these the top 10 go through to the Semi Finals where they have 5 minutes to view their routes as a group. After this they are sent to isolation, to then 1 by 1 try their route. The top 5 competitors from the semis then progress to the finals! Then it’s all down to the final route!!!! Scores work by each hold getting a point, then additional points for move off of, and then touching the next hold i.e. each hold is worth 3 points. Topping the route for bottom rope, or clipping the chain for lead climbs, gains competitors the full 100 points..
Qualifications up first and reigning champion and GB Junior Team member, Catrin Rose was up for girl’s category B. As always Catrin was calm, collected and knew exactly what to do! She completed route 1 without breaking a sweat! Next up was boys’ category B, and this saw Ewan, Joe and Sam follow suit with 3 awesome first climbs. Boys’ category C was a really exciting group for RCC. James Bateman, as Catrin, was returning to retain his title, plus Tom Wenzcek was making his first ever non RCC major climbing competition appearance and boy were these two psyched. Again, all the hours of training paid of and route 1 was completed by James, with Tom just missing out dropping the penultimate move. At this point I took Tom to one side to discuss his climb, see how he was feeling and to remind him, that yes he had dropped a few points, but he had to compose himself, think there where still two other routes left, and the semi finals were still within reach! Tom did exactly that, went grabbed a drink and off he went to route 2. In the mean time our last 3 competitors were up. All in category D, Saveliy, Harry and Molly started their 1st route. Saveliy and Harry up first and they didn’t disappoint again solid climbs both gaining a comfortable 100 points. Molly, Harry’s, sister was a 1 day guest of the RCC Academy, taking part in her first ever competition! She did amazingly, after spending a bit of time figuring out the crux, she just missed out on full points by a tricky top section. So route 1s down, great efforts, time to turn the attention to routes 2 & 3. Again, I couldn’t have asked for more. All members gave it their all, and just to mention few climbs, Joe, Ewan and Sams ascents of route 2, was amazing. Joe was first in his category, and with great route reading and team work all 3 boys completed. Sam was last up out of the three and with 50% of the moves being max span for him, it just goes to show no move is too big!
Qualis completed and I was proud to see that 6 of the team members had made semi finals! Catrin, Joe, Ewan, James, Tom and Saveliy had minutes to compose themselves, read theirs routes and then get to isolation! If you’ve never experienced competition isolation, it is intense. You can hear everything, but never sure as to wants happened, did the previous climber top, do you have to send to reach the finals and even worse, when it is your time to climb, it’s all eyes on you! The team how ever did….. well, I can’t think of another word, amazing!
Joe and Ewan unfortunately had a long wait, after 15 reached the semi finals, the day had dragged on and the competition was fierce! Both gave great performances on the comp wall but just missed out on reaching the finals. Saveliy had a similar story, a mid height ‘round the clock’ sequence confused so many, and meant he also just missed out. Tom, bearing in mind it was one of his first ever comps, was up first for his category. When we first read the route we were concerned as to the reach of a low section sequence so a few options were given to Tom. Well… he did need it, from his first step off the ground, every move was considered yet assertive and the first section of the route, he flew up. After completing the crux, Tom was faced by a move, were the setters had forced a tricky cross over, making the climbers trust their feet on a slopped volume. This was a reach too far for Tom, not quite trusting his feet, the move was just out of reach. It was then down to where the rest of his category would get. James, up next for boys C, and he showed why he was reining champ giving an almost flawless performance topping his semi route. I am also happy to say that after all boys C had completed, and I was grabbing time for a coffee, when I was greeted by a gleaming Tom, screaming at the top of his Lungs, ‘I’ve made the finals!!!’ Catrin, although having a fall right at the top of her route, also made finals but was joint first meaning it was going to be a very close one!
When the finals came, Catrin was up last in her category. We had already seen 3 girls top the route, meaning she would have to top, to be in with a chance to win! When I say she cruised her route, I mean that in the 4 years I have coached her, I have never seen her so relaxed yet when needed just turn the switch, a true comp climber and worthy of her GB place. Unfortunately, as 1 other competitor had matched her climbs, she was tied at joint 1st place meaning there would be a super final between the two girls, and boy did the route looked tough!
It was a tough final, with powerful moves from the start saw so many drops in the first few clips. However I’m happy to say that RCC saw its 2 reigning champions retain their titles and for first time Welsh Climbing Championship competitor, Tom came 5th!
A great day all round. A huge thanks to the Boulders team for running a great event, to all the academy members for giving it their all and lastly all the academy parents for their on going support and dedication.
Well, it’s officially the longest blog yet, but as you can see lots to write about and I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have writing it J