GB Junior Bouldering Team Smash European Champs

by Clive Phillips and Gracie Martin Aug/2013
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The largest Junior Team GB yet, all ready to crush in L'Argentierre, 99 kb
The largest Junior Team GB yet, all ready to crush in L'Argentierre
© Rachel Carr

The second round of the European Youth Bouldering Cup was held in L'Argentiere, France on 22nd and 23rd July 2013. The event forms part of the renowned Tout a Bloc festival and therefore many countries send big teams.  Great Britain also sent their biggest junior team yet, consisting of 9 athletes.

As Gracie Martin reports in her blog of the event: “Everyone was really excited to be going and keen to put in some amazing performances. As the Team Manager, Tom Greenall and his partner Michelle were getting married (congratulations guys!!) the team was accompanied by 2 parent chaperones and Clive Phillips, the Assistant team Manager. Hopping on a flight from Gatwick on Saturday afternoon to Turin in Italy, we then drove over the border into the south east of France. As Youth B Team members James and Ed Mabon had already been out there on a holiday, so they had sorted the house out and cooked us dinner for when we arrived! It was lovely to be able to arrive and just chill out straight away. On the Sunday we had a pretty relaxed day consisting of swimming, getting used to the environment and then in the evening registering and checking out the wall”.

The team was really positive at the Team Briefing the night before the comp, showing clear learning from previous competitions and thanks to the hot weather back at home this was probably one of the few GB Climbing Teams that had ever gone away at least  partially acclimatised to the heat.

Monday morning, the competition day, finally arrived and the team headed down to the wall in stages to avoid over exposure to the blistering heat.  First up was Sidonie Graham (Youth B females) who flashed two problems early on and set to work making good progress on many of the more difficult blocs. With a few minutes to go and on her 5th attempt of 5 she topped a problem that many of the older age grouped females failed on.  This pushed her well up the rankings and Sid can take much encouragement from her performance.  Sid who was 'team tweeter' for the event commented “Vive GB! Allez! Allez! Excellente. Fantastique. Magnifique.”

Team GB showing good teamwork by supporting each other despite the intense heat, 101 kb
Team GB showing good teamwork by supporting each other despite the intense heat
© Rachel Carr

Next up was the Youth B males - the strength of this class in the UK is a promising indicator of future success. In France we had Ed and James Mabon and Luke Murphy. It was Ed and Luke’s debuts for the team and both started very well topping 2 problems in quick succession followed shortly afterwards by James. Luke fought valiantly on all of the remaining blocs gaining bonuses but no more tops, but never the less his first outing in Europe was a great success. "It was an awesome first trip and I gained loads of experience which will help me to do even better next time" he said. James went on to top a further problem improving significantly on his overall placing from his previous result in Sofia. Ed got 4 out of 8 and went on to be our most successful Youth B male yet earning himself 8th place overall in his first ever Euro Competition. He should take great encouragement from this for future competitions.

Youth A females were next onto the wall and they had what was the most challenging conditions of the day with temperatures into the 30’s. GB is very well represented in this group by Gracie Martin, Rachel Carr and Tara Hayes. Youth A females is widely considered to be the most competitive of all the classes inthe  Youth Bouldering Championships and our girls did us proud.  Both Gracie and Rachel significantly improved on previous performances topping three blocs each and in post competition debrief both felt that there were several others that were well within their grasp. Gracie commented “Yet again consistent improvement - if I keep doing a bit better each time then I will eventually be topping all the blocs and making finals” and Rachel felt that it was her “Most enjoyable trip so far, so proud to be part of such a strong team”. Tara went on to methodically dispose of 6 Blocs in quick succession and made valiant attempts on the remaining two. At the end of qualifying there was the anxious wait to see if she had made it to the final and in the end she missed out on number of attempts finishing in 8th overall, Tara said “I am really pleased with my top 10 position” and related this to the fact that in Lead comps, of which she has much experience, 10 go through to the final.

In Youth A males we had Hamish Potokar whose name the commentator really liked. "Hameeesssh!" This was Hamish’s second ever Euro event and after a promising 15th in the European Championships in Grindelwald was looking forward to what he might achieve in France. Well, Hamish topped all 8 blocs in fine style showing - under the potential threat of interruption due to rain - a high degree of patience and planning in the process. He qualified in an outstanding 3rd place for the final.

Hamish Potokar climbing well to qualify for his first ever European Final
© Rachel Carr

Last but not least, was Team Captain Nathan Phillips who, after his 4th place in the Male Juniors in Sofia was optimistic of at least making the final again in L’Argentierre. This, he appeared to easily accomplish by systematically topping 8 blocs in 10 attempts, and with 45 minutes of qualifying to spare he handed in his score card. The completion of 8 blocs was however also achieved by 7 other competitors resulting in a qualification position of 4th in the final.

This was the first time we have had two GB finalists to cheer on. Also there in the Youth A male final was Dominic Burns from Ireland, and when the GB and the Irish teams cheer together we make a lot of noise!

The Youth A male final was Hamish’s first ever European final and in isolation he warmed up well and controlled his nerves. The final itself was very competitive but turned out to be decided upon whether or not the competitor could work out the trick cross hands start to problem 1 and then go on to complete the problem.  Unfortunately by the time Hamish resolved the conundrum there was not enough time for him to complete the problem. However he can take real encouragement from his performance on the other two blocs in the final, in that he got further than anyone on problem 2, and as far as the overall winner on problem 3. Hamish was pleased with his performance stating that “From a competitor’s point of view it was a really enjoyable comp in a pretty unique setting! I think  everyone learnt loads and were all feeling ready for the next one”. Dominic Burns continue his string of successes in Euro bouldering comps and with an excellent 2nd place in L’Argentierre. Top work Dominic.  

Nathan Philips climbing his way to 3rd place in Argentierre, 2013, 59 kb
Nathan Philips climbing his way to 3rd place in Argentierre, 2013
© Rachel Carr

Nathan came out for his final looking confident and topped problem 1 in 2 goes putting him in second place going onto problem 2. This problem was topped by two others but Nathan got the bonus. Cheered on by what is becoming the loudest team in Europe he still had a chance of winning if he could flash problem 3, a convoluted lateral volume-based problem requiring acute route reading and much strength. He could not flash it but got as far as anybody else did on this problem. This still meant he was on the Podium in 3rd place and with it the honour of being the first ever Junior Brit to do this. 

In fact the Podium was made up of the top three World Ranked Junior Boulders:-

  1. Micheal Piccolruaz– Italy (WR1)
  2. Alex Khazanov – Israel (WR3)
  3. Nathan Phillips – GBR  (WR2)

Above all this was a fantastic performance for the team in general in that every single member of the team achieved more than they had done in any previous competition. It was also massively important for team development as they have developed a cohesion that is actively enhancing performance. Nathan said "I'm well happy with my result! But it is being part of the new team that has really motivated me to train hard". Gracie commented that “It was amazing to be a part of, and I think the friendships and team spirit being created are one that will carry us on to all do great things in the future” and James Mabon feels that “I think that this trip really made the team bond and become a team”.

Nathan Phillips on the first ever British Junior Podium!, 67 kb
Nathan Phillips on the first ever British Junior Podium!
© Rachel Carr

We have also being doing our bit for European relations along the way: GB is definitely making a good impression on the European scene; we have started to make some friends within the other teams and the commentator in L'Argentierre was definitely entertained by GB!

You can view a video of the competition here:

The British Junior Bouldering Team are supported by Sherpa Adventure Gear


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