In this interview Jack Geldard talks to Sasha Digiulian, the 19 year-old, 9a climbing, puppy-loving, pink-wearing American who is taking the competition and sport climbing world by storm.
Jack: First off, who is Sasha Digiulian? Where are you from, what are your motivations? What, in a nutshell, is your 'climbing philosophy'?
Sasha: Hmm, my name is Sasha DiGiulian, I am 19 years old as of October 23, and I have been climbing for going on 13 years as of this year... and my love for the sport keeps increasing! I am from Alexandria, VA and my local gym is Earth Treks Climbing Center but over the past year I have spent the majority of my time in transit and climbing at different international destinations both for outdoor pursuits and for competitions. I am motivated by my friends, beautiful climbs, and pushing myself to better my performance.
Sasha: I loved meeting all of the international climbers through the World Cup Circuit (the competitions I did and the time I spent in Europe) and I became addicted to the energy that the competition ambiance produces, but I will always prefer climbing on rock and lately, more so than ever. I have a hard time being motivated to climb on plastic instead of on real rock because to me, it is the more authentic, natural form of the sport and where I feel the most cathartic. I will do the World Championships in Paris most likely (missing the first week of University for it..!) and I will do a small handful of international competitions - both invitational masters and World Cups.
I find Angie Eiter and Jain Kim inspirational competitors because they never give up and they know how to fight beyond fatigue and to perform optimally almost every time. I also think that Jakob Schubert is an incredibly driven and inspirational competitor and I admire his determination to work hard and to succeed. I am optimistic about climbing being in the Olympics because it will help the sport as a whole grow and it will simultaneously expose more people to the sport, and who wouldn't want to share this passion?! Arco was an incredible experience and the entire event was enjoyable for many reasons, in particular the support of the crowd and being with my friends. My mom also came to Italy and watched the competition.
Jack: Speaking of Arco - this is a photo of you running to the wall. What were you thinking at this moment? What tactics do you employ in situations like this?
Sasha: The best mind, in my opinion, that you can have during a competition is one that is as stress-free as possible. If you can take in the moment and see the fun aspects of the competition then this will help destress the situation. In competitions I am competing with myself above anyone else; I want to feel as though I have put forth my best effort and tried as hard as I could. Then, no matter the end result, I will be satisfied. In the process of competing, if I can engage with the crowd and have fun, then I have less stress about the end result as well because the experience as a whole has been enjoyable.
VIDEO: Sasha Digiulian Climbs Pure Imagination - 9a
Jack: Tell us about climbing Pure Imagination - the 9a grade, the place, the route? Do you have any plans to do other routes of this standard?
Sasha: Pure Imagination is a 9a located in the Red River Gorge, Kentucky. Of course I have plans to do more :) But I also am not fixated on searching for that next 9a or 9a+; whatever inspires me most is the next route I'll try, whether of equal or higher grade, or a lower grade but challenging nonetheless. I enjoy pushing myself and this is what fuels my motivation to try hard routes but grades are so style-subjective and I am sure there are plenty of climbs that are atypical to my style and not 9a that would still give me a run for my money!
Jack: Where do you climb most and where is your favourite place to climb in the world and why? And where would you most like to go next and why?
Sasha: Hmm.. this year I have really not spent too much time in one place in particular at all. Before I graduated from high school I trained in the Earth Treks Climbing Gym near my home in Washington, DC. Lately I have been on the road however; so I have been experiencing little doses of everywhere. I love the Red River Gorge because of the concentration of beautiful, challenging lines, the environment, and Miguel's Pizza! I also love climbing in Spain - tufas are incredible! and Southern France because I love french culture and the whole setting is beautiful. I am leaving to Spain, Cataluna region in less than 2 weeks.. YAY!
Jack: Okay - so University - what were you going to study? And you are waiting a year before going right? Can you tell us a little bit about this? Plans, ideas, career etc?
Sasha: I will go to Columbia University this fall and I am interesting in getting a Business Degree. I am intrigued by Marketing and Public Relations in particular, at least at the moment, so I will probably gear my studies towards this area of studies. I value education as equally important to my climbing career and I find that without pursuing education, I am leaving a big segment of my life behind. I have loved the past few months of just climbing but for me it is not fulfilling enough. While I know that it would be easiest for my climbing to put off school for longer, I do not want to. I feel capable of challenging myself to excel at both simultaneously and that is what I plan on attempting come this fall when I am in NYC for school. Also, NYC is my favorite city in the world so I am so excited about living there!
Jack: And - what don't we know about Sasha Digiulian? What should I ask you about? Other hobbies? Normal life? What's to know?
Sasha: I like to hang out with my friends, go to parties, watch movies, cook, and shop. Normal life.. lately it's just hanging out with friends, climbing, and doing sponsorship-related events/appearances. I am very grateful for my sponsors who are always supportive of my ventures and enable me to create and aspire to my dreams (adidas, Native Eyewear, Five Ten, Petzl). My favorite color is pink, I love puppies, I have a big sweet-tooth, and I tend to laugh a lot. I guess that's me in a nutshell.