IFSC commentator Matt Groom reports from a busy ten days of competition at the European Championships in Munich, a multi-sport event covered by the BBC and international broadcasters, with a focus on the main attraction showcasing a new format: the Olympic Combined final.
Climbing was back on the biggest multi-sport stage since the Olympics and it had a point to prove: that it deserved a place on a stage this big. Put simply, it was time to step things up. The climbing arena was in the centre of Munich and seemed to draw crowds. The number of spectators only increased each day as word spread about the sport.
After the individual events, the eight top-ranked athletes from Boulder and Lead qualified for the Combined competition at the end of the week. This was the first time that we saw the format for the Paris 2024 Olympics and the new proposed scoring system. Remember, this is a test event, things can be tweaked and improved before a final version is confirmed. Munich allowed everyone involved, from route setters to judges and organisers and athletes, to see where changes need to be made.
The boulder competition now had two Zones worth different points and a new decimal scoring system: 3 points for one Zone, 6 for two Zones, 25 for a Top and -0.1 points for an unsuccessful attempt. Lead used more literal 'zones', where the route was split into sections, each one increasing the number of points for one move as the athletes progressed. Almost inevitably we saw longer, more complex boulders to accommodate the two scoring Zones. In Lead, the last fifteen moves to the top awarded 5 points per hold/move, the ten before that 2, and then the next five just 1. This left around thirty moves at the start that would give the athletes no score at all.
The climbers had already had a long week of competing, and although they enjoyed two days off before the Boulder and Lead, skin and general fatigue certainly affected some of them. Despite this, they were keen to put on a show and thousands of people created an incredible atmosphere inside the arena. It rivalled Chamonix or Innsbruck, in terms of pure excitement.
I won't go through a blow by blow account of the climbing, but I wanted to share a few of my thoughts and highlights. I was discovering the intricacies of this new system for the first time, and generally I thought it worked well. We saw different graphics from normal, with the aim of simplifying the scoring, to make it more obvious who is winning at any given moment.
The new decimal system worked especially well for the Lead. It was exciting seeing the score gradually tick higher as the climber approached the top. The graphics showed the position of the other athletes, and where the provisional (or confirmed) podium places were. For me it made the story easier to tell and let the viewer enjoy the climbing.
I agree with some people that a flash of a boulder should perhaps be worth more points. A flash at this level is a truly impressive feat and taking only 0.1 off the score of someone climbing it second go seems a bit imbalanced.
There were a few changes in the tactics the athletes used. We saw them going for attempts near the end of the buzzer just trying to get the higher zone, when before they would have stopped knowing there wasn't enough time to get a Top. This meant we saw more action throughout, and the longer boulders meant athletes climbed for longer during each round. Boulder seemed to be about keeping in touch with the top three, and not falling too far behind on the score board. Even a 'Lead specialist' couldn't overcome a big deficit on the Lead wall, with only a top being enough for some of them.
I was with the brilliant Molly Thompson Smith (GBR) in the commentary box for the women's final and we were both watching nervously as the women crushed through the first two boulders, with flashes and quick tops. There has been allot of talk about the women's climbs being too easy recently and we thought it might be the same in Munich. I've said before how hard it is to be a routesetter, and although those climbs were undercooked, on the whole I think the climbs worked. I am making a video about the life of routesetters, and the need for more women to be involved for EpicTV and Climbing Daily. Keep an eye out for that! This new format puts even more pressure on them, and could make or break a comp.
Janja Garnbret (SLO) was simply unstoppable. She came into the Lead way out in front with an almost perfect 99.9 score from boulder. The other women pushed her hard, so she couldn't afford a single mistake. Janja is used to that kind of pressure though, and she did more than enough. Her win meant she clean-swept the week, with three golds in three separate disciplines.
I was concerned that the start of the Lead routes could be boring, with the danger that the no-points zone could be set too easy to allow the athletes into the points. It was actually really tense, especially on the men's route, as athletes tried to keep their nerves together as they approached the first scoring opportunity.
Jakob Schubert (AUT) is nicknamed 'Mr Championship' for a reason and once again he was on form at a highlight event. Only Adam Ondra (CZE) could beat him to gold on the Lead wall and he looked a little nervous as he climbed, trying to find any possible rest, shaking out throughout his run, and occasionally reversing to re-rest. Maybe it was a bit of tiredness creeping in, but Adam came one hold short and Jakob once again showed his quality with a win. If I was a betting man…I would certainly consider putting a cheeky early bet on him for Paris.
The whole competition was run slickly with a pace to the event that we could learn from for IFSC World Cups. The podium was almost immediate and the climbing ran to a tight schedule. We saw the use of a split screen on the Boulder round, with two athletes sometimes climbing together. It meant there was continually action to be watched, and again kept everything within a reasonable time frame.
There were discussions over whether an athlete might gain an unfair advantage by seeing some beta from the climber on the boulder coming next, and certainly that needs to be examined. My co-commentator Dave Barrans' (GBR) opinion was that an athlete should be fully focused on their own climb, and wouldn't be looking at the action on the next climb. I think the main danger is an athlete catching sight of a successful move as they leave the stage, but I'm not sure what a practical solution to that could be. Curtains might look strange, but perhaps having a longer wall with more space might be an option.
The European Championships was seen by many as the highlight of the season, and for a year without a World Championships, the one every one wanted to win. The event lived up to all expectations. There is a real sense of opportunity and excitement as we look forward into the next few years. We've proved the sport is a popular and spectacular event, both live and broadcasted. We've been seen by more people than ever with a live, prime time spot, on BBC1 for some of the events. I think it's great for climbing, but now the debrief and analysis must begin.
Tweaks and changes are inevitable and necessary, as we refine the format before the Olympic qualifying events start next year. The old combined format with Speed included wasn't the ideal solution, but necessary at the time. There's nothing holding us back now, and the sport will continue to grow. The responsibility lies on everyone involved, from athletes to camera operators, judges and commentators to keep representing our sport in the best way possible.
I'm now off to the Youth World Championships in Dallas, Texas. Although there is no livestream, we will be producing a daily show about the event, with interviews, round ups and behind-the-scenes content. Keep an eye on the IFSC YouTube channel and Social Media for that…
Watch the replays on BBC iPlayer. Most semi-final and final days received significant coverage.
|1||Nicolai Uznik||AUT||1T3z 7 9||2T2z 6 6|
|2||Sam Avezou||FRA||1T3z 6 7||2T2z 7 4|
|3||Adam Ondra||CZE||2T2z 8 7||2T2z 12 10|
|4||Mejdi Schalck||FRA||1T2z 3 4||1T3z 3 6|
|5||Filip Schenk||ITA||1T2z 3 5||1T2z 1 10|
|6||Jernej Kruder||SLO||1T3z 7 16||0T2z 0 6|
|7||Paul Jenft||FRA||1T2z 6 7|
|8||Christoph Schweiger||GER||1T2z 7 8|
|9||Manuel Cornu||FRA||0T3z 0 8|
|9||Jakob Schubert||AUT||0T3z 0 8|
|9||Alberto Ginés López||ESP||0T3z 0 8|
|12||Anze Peharc||SLO||0T3z 0 12|
|13||Yannick Flohé||GER||0T2z 0 2|
|14||Alex Megos||GER||0T2z 0 6|
|14||Luka Potocar||SLO||0T2z 0 6|
|14||Jim Pope||GBR||0T2z 0 6|
|17||Mickael Mawem||FRA||0T2z 0 7|
|18||Hamish McArthur||GBR||0T2z 0 10|
|19||Julien Clémence||SUI||0T1z 0 2|
|20||Sascha Lehmann||SUI||0T1z 0 3|
|25||Maximillian Milne||GBR||Qual: 2T5z 9 11|
|31||Toby Roberts||GBR||Qual: 2T4z 8 6|
|35||Nathan Phillips||GBR||Qual: 2T3z 6 12|
|1||Janja Garnbret||SLO||4T4z 7 7||2T4z 2 5|
|2||Hannah Meul||GER||3T4z 8 10||2T3z 3 4|
|3||Oriane Bertone||FRA||2T3z 2 3||2T3z 7 7|
|4||Chloe Caulier||BEL||3T4z 7 10||1T3z 4 7|
|5||Eliska Adamovska||CZE||2T4z 3 13||1T2z 4 7|
|6||Fanny Gibert||FRA||2T4z 3 10||0T3z 0 6|
|7||Ayala Kerem||ISR||2T3z 4 4|
|8||Jessica Pilz||AUT||2T3z 5 7|
|9||Camilla Moroni||ITA||2T3z 6 3|
|10||Vita Lukan||SLO||2T3z 8 5|
|11||Ievgeniia Kazbekova||UKR||2T2z 4 4|
|12||Katja Kadic||SLO||1T4z 4 10|
|13||Flavy Cohaut||FRA||1T3z 2 8|
|13||Petra Klingler||SUI||1T3z 2 8|
|15||Giulia Medici||ITA||0T3z 0 10|
|16||Alma Bestvater||GER||0T2z 0 2|
|17||Franziska Sterrer||AUT||0T2z 0 4|
|18||Staša Gejo||SRB||0T2z 0 7|
|18||Giorgia Tesio||ITA||0T2z 0 7|
|20||Lisa Klem||NED||0T0z 0 0|
|25||Holly Toothill||GBR||Qual: 1T2z 3 6|
|29||Emily Phillips||GBR||Qual: 0T4z 0 11|
|31||Erin Mcneice||GBR||Qual: 0T3z 0 7|
|44||Molly Thompson-Smith||GBR||Qual: 0T2z 0 5|
|3||Alberto Ginés López||ESP||43+||35+|
|12||Hannes Van Duysen||BEL||36+|
|27||Maximillian Milne||GBR||Qual: 23.98|
|14||Lynn van der Meer||NED||20|
|36||Erin Mcneice||GBR||Qual: 31.82|
|41||Jennifer Wood||GBR||Qual: 39.5|
|42||Thea Cameron||GBR||Qual: 39.95|
|44||Joanna Neame||GBR||Qual: 43.25|
|4||Erik Noya Cardona||ESP||5.65|
|6||Gian Luca Zodda||ITA||FALL|
|17||Alejandro Rivas Domínguez||ESP||Qual: 6.38|
|18||Matthew Fall||GBR||Qual: 6.58|
|19||Petr Burian||CZE||Qual: 6.65|
|20||Dorian Zedler||GER||Qual: 6.66|
|15||Anna Maria Apel||GER||8.42|
|17||Carla Martínez Vidal||ESP||Qual: 11.40|
|18||María Laborda Sagaste||ESP||Qual: 12.11|
|3||Alberto Ginés López||ESP|