European Championship Bouldering, Innsbruck 2015

If you're at all interested in competion climbing, you already know the results in Innsbruck. There was a live stream and the results aren't exactly difficult to find. So, this is more of my personal account of what went down. Next time, you should go there yourself!

The cab picked me up at the utterly ridiculous time of 04.10 in the morning. I left Stockholm's Arlanda airport at 06.00. The fact that it had been a late night in a bar celebrating(ish) the airing of a tv-show about climbing which I had played a part in making didn't help much.

On the bus out to the connecting flight in Frankfurt, still half asleep, I suddenly realized someone was sitting beside me. Too close...
I looked up and... good morning Kilian Fischhuber.
Nice to see a friendly face, although unexpected as I thought he was already in Innsbruck.

Kilian was on his way back home from the US, where he had taken part in a work shop with the US bouldering team, and hadn't had the best of trips. His flight from Denver had been cancelled and he ended up spending the night on the airport. He was tired and in need of a shower.
We had a quick chat and agreed a podcast I had suggested earlier that week was on.

Anna Stöhr, Kilian's girlfriend, picked us up at the airport and took me straight to the Marktplats where the men's qualifications were already under way.
To get into the press zone, I first had to pick up my press pass and black nylon vest however. I love wearing black nylon in the sun by the way...

On my way there, I bumped in to Adam Ondra. I asked him how the qualies had been and whether he had done all the problems in only four tries i.e flashed them all.
Giggling, Adam said that would have been a very impressive, considering there are five problems in the qualifications... but that he was very happy with his performance as he was the only one in his group who was able to complete all five problems.

Kilian Fischhuber explaining some move, 201 kb
Kilian Fischhuber explaining some move
© Björn Pohl

He also said his skin was really bad. Way too dry for climbing plastic. In fact, it was so dry that he had to bring a bowl of water with him when he climbed. He explained he held his hands in the cold water for three seconds, then dried them a bit before chalking up. In the long run, this makes the skin drier, but as a quick fix, it seemed to work. For now.

I got the stuff I needed from the press office and headed to the comp. On my way there, I met Dmitry Sharafutdinov. It's always very difficult to judge how things have gone from Dima's facial expression. It's almost always the same.
This time, he wasn't too happy with the setting. "It's only, jumps, jumps, jumps. This is bad for me."
But yes, he had flashed four out of five and he was in second place after Adam in his group so.. not too bad really.
He wasn't very optimistic about his chances in the semi final though. "More jumps. I know it.".

Checking the standings, I saw Jan Hojer risked not making the cut, and as I could see him I asked how he felt about that. He wasn't too worried, happy and smiling as always.
According to Udo Neumann, Germany's coach, Jan had predicted to be way down the list in both qualifications and semis, but making it through, and then winning the final.
Note to self: Talk to Udo before next comp, then bet accordingly.

I also talked briefly with Jernej Kruder, who wasn't happy at all with his performance miming a gun and pointing at his temple, he said he had climbed like an idiot and doubted very much he would make semis. Ending up 11th in his group, he didn't.

Men's Qualifiction
Well, the qualification was almost finished by now, and hanging with Anthony Gullsten at this moment, the question was whether he'd make it to semis.
He was 9th in his group right now, after flashing three problems, and he had to be top 10. With only a few climbers left, I thought he was in the clear and told him so, but Andy, who for obvious reasons were paying more attention, said the threats were two: Stephane Hanssens a Belgian who had done the first three problems, but using more tries than Andy.
The fifth problem was a tricky one, but very possible once you made it through the weird start. So... if Stephane could do #5, Andy would be 10th.

That's exactly what he did in his last possible try.

And then there was Stefan Scarperi... Stefan came out looking really strong, flashing the first, second and third problems... and then taking bonus on number four, curtain down for Andy...

Jan was 9th in his group while Jakob Schubert, who didn't do any bouldering world cups last season due to a finger injury, was on fire and came third in his group looking very strong.

Before the womens' qualies, I ran into Shauna Coxsey. Shauna was slightly injured she said...a finger that hurt a bit, but she didn't seem too worried and thought she would compete at the first World Cup event of the year in Toronto May 30-31.
Shauna now was here to support her friends on the British team, and of course all her other friends on the circuit, plus she was going to be the expert commentator for the webcast. A job she did absolutely brilliantly I should add!

Women's Qualification
Anna Stöhr came out first, flashing everything making it look easy. Too easy?
No, turned out it was just Anna being Anna i.e super strong and relaxed.

No big upsets, except it was surprising to see Jule Wurm climbing so... I don't know, but she looked quite nervous and lacked her usual confidence. In the end she made it, but had she done only a couple of attempts more, she woud have been out.

Jule Wurm, Q, 71 kb
Jule Wurm, Q
© Björn Pohl

The Austrian team looked stronger than perhaps ever on their home turf, with five of them moving on to the next round.

A couple of names to watch out for in the future is 17 year old Stasa Gejo from Serbia and 18 year old Jessica Pilz from Austria. At this, their first senior WC, Staso was 3rd in her group and Jessica was 4th.
Maybe this shouldn't be such a big surprise as Jessica is the reigning European Bouldering champion in the junior category and Stasa took a silver in Youth A at the same competition.

As the semi finals weren't going to start until the evening, I figured I needed to do something productive. Innsbruck is a beautiful city, but I can only walk around town for so long and too much coffee and/or beer isn't good for anyone

I realized Kilian and I hadn't decided when to do the podcast, so I texted him, expecting he would suggest we'd do it the following day, but instead:
"Today, now?! I can come to your hotel...".

This was obviously great news, but it also meant I didn't have any time to prepare...

20 min later, there was a discreet knock on the door.

The beginning of the podcast went great, until, after five minutes or so, I told Kili we had actually already started and that I was recording this. He glanced at the recorder and saw that it was in fact not turned on at all... Thanks buddy, if you hadn't seen it chances are there would have been no podcast.

Kilian did a great job and I... still have a lot to learn about podcasting. Will get there though.

The result can soon be found on The Ledge

Women's semi final
No big surprises here. Anna was her smiling self and climbed confidently without any big problems until the last problem, but then again no one did that one and only Anna and Moni Retchy got bonus.

Jule Wurm now stepped it up after her shaky performance in the qualification round. After the semi, she was in pole position.

Jule Wurm, Semi, 76 kb
Jule Wurm, Semi
© Björn Pohl

Udo Neumann, the German coach, later told me she had been extremely nervous. Made sense.

When the dust had settled, it was clear both Austria and Germany had had a good day. Three Austrians and two Germans through to the final.

Everyone placed 5th to 16th had done one problem, but to squeeze into the final, it had to be a flash, plus you needed to flash two bonuses. Extremely close in other words. Not ideal.

Men's semi final
If the women's semi final was extremely close, the men's was...even closer, with the very last problem, a sideways coordination step/jump, deciding who would make it through.

Jakob, Adam and Aleksey were the only one's to do two problems, but only just.
Adam waited till there were only just enough time for one more go and gave it his all. Fortunately his all was enough. Otherwise he would have been out. Wild celebration and screaming, Adam style.

Jan Hojer, Semi, 86 kb
Jan Hojer, Semi
© Björn Pohl


Places 4th to 14th all did one problem.

Yes, the problems were a little bit too hard, but the difference between too hard and too easy is incredibly small.

When we made the podcast, Kilian, who had tried the men's problems the night before, had told me he thought the best would do two, maybe three problems. Not a bad prediction, but at the same time... he was very uncertain, they could also be too easy, or too hard.



Two hours before the competion would begin, the venue was already more or less packed, buzzing with anticipation. It was of course going to become even more packed later on. I estimate around 5000 people were there plus the event was broadcasted live on Austrian national TV and of course on the IFSC-channel.

Climbing definitely is a growing sport.

It's difficult for me to describe the finals. Watching everything through a camera lense it's easy lose perspective and see what's going on, but like I said in the beginning, I'm sure you've already watched the live stream.

Among the women, the battle was between Anna and Jule.
They both did the same problems, but Jule simply did them quicker, and as this is the name of the game, she came out on top.

Possibly she had an advantage as she could hear Anna was doing the problems, meaning they were possible. Sometimes knowing something can be done can give you that extra confidence. If you can use it that is. It can also add pressure of course

Unfortunately, the end was a bit of an anti climax as no one got further than bonus on the last problem.

The men's final was the exact opposite with the last problem deciding everything. In fact, everyone still had the chance to win after three problems.

In the end, Jan Hojer and Adam Ondra kept it together best and both managed to top.

The big surprise was Stefan Scarperi in third place.

Jakob Schubert, Semi, 69 kb
Jakob Schubert, Semi
© Björn Pohl

To me, Jakob Schubert looked strongest of them all, but this wasn't his day.
Perhaps he wanted it too much infront of his home crowd. And besides, strength is far from everything in this sport, we all know that.

1. Juliane Wurm, GER/Jan Hojer, GER
2. Anna Stöhr, AUT/Adam Ondra, CZE
3. Katharina Saurwein, AUT/Stefan Scarperi, ITA
4. Monika Retschy, GER/Jakob Schubert, AUT
5. Jessica Pilz, AUT/Martin Stranik, CZE
6. Mina Markovic, SLO/Alexey Rubtsov, RUS
7. Fanny Gibert, FRA

Adam Ondra with his bowl of water, Semi, 203 kb
Adam Ondra with his bowl of water, Semi
© Björn Pohl
Adam Ondra, Semi
© Björn Pohl
Martin Stranik on problem 1
© Björn Pohl
Anna Stöhr on problem 2
© Björn Pohl
Stefan Scarperi off problem 4
© Björn Pohl
Jan Hojer on his way to victory, problem 4
© Björn Pohl
Adam Ondra, problem 4
© Björn Pohl

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