After hearing the news that the Paraclimbing World Championships were not going to be in Hachioji, Japan alongside the combined IFSC event, many para-athletes were left disgruntled. Just two events were set for the calendar – the Paraclimbing Masters in Imst, Austria and the World Championships, now being held in Briançon, France in July.
The masters is always a great competition put on by Kletterzentrum Imst and luckily, this year was no different. The setting is hard to beat, deep in the Tyrol region of Austria, 50 kilometres west of Innsbruck – the backdrop is snow-capped mountains. With 36 degrees C forecasted for both days and a large field from all over the world, the GB Team had their hands full.
Fortunately, the team have been training hard for the world championships, so this event is used as a pre-season kick-starter – ironing out any event management issues – such as route reading, timing and preparation – warm-up routines, resting between routes and learning from mistakes that will help us in Briançon.
This competition was set over two days. 3 on the first day and 2 on the second. The routes were brutal from the get-go. No confidence or ego boosters, just straight in, and hard at that. They were technical, crimpy routes with grades not really dipping below 7a for some categories.
Obviously the sport of paraclimbing is in its infancy, so many categories see a large variation of disability. Setting for these categories is hard at best, but the routes split the field well.
We finished the first day with 7 potential podium positions.
Day two was arguably easier for most of the team, but with the high heat and fierce competition, there wasn't any room for errors.
On top of experienced international team members, this year we also had many new faces competing internationally for the first time. Seeing such composure from young and up-and-coming athletes is encouraging, showing we have a bright future ahead for British para-climbing.
The team fought hard and climbed smoothly doing themselves and our country proud. We left with 7 podium places, one 5th and one athlete in 9th (in a large and very competitive field).
Joanna Newton AL2 (lower leg amputee) 1st
Richard Slocock B2 (visually impaired) 1st
Jesse Dufton B1 (visually impaired) 2nd
Abbie Robinson B2 (visually impaired) 1st
Matthew Phillips AU2 (Lower-arm amputee) 3rd
Leanora Volpe RP2 (Limited range, power and stability) 1st
Martha Evans RP2 (Limited range, power and stability) 3rd
Ken Ellacott RP1 (Limited range, power and stability) 5th
Luke Smith RP3 (Limited range, power and stability) 9th
This leaves Team GB in a great position in the run up to the World Championships taking place in Briancon next week (15-18th July). 20 athletes will be representing Great Britain in France, so please watch out for their progression and offer support over social media.
As always, a huge thank you to the BMC, Oakwood Climbing Centre and The Quay Climbing Centre for their support with the team. The funding the two walls provide allows us to attend these international events.
The paraclimbing team have huge goals for next year – on rock as well as in competitions, so if you are able to offer financial support, please get in touch with the BMC.