This weekend the British Bouldering Championships took place at the annual Cliffhanger event on Devonshire Green, Sheffield. A supportive crowd cheered on some great performances throughout the rounds, and this year's champions are Shauna Coxey and Matt Cousins.
Shauna Coxey, back in the UK after securing the overall world cup title in Vail, was in a league of her own. Looking incredibly strong, she topped every problem, flashing all but one. In the final round, while the other women topped only one and two problems each, Shauna cruised up all four in as many attempts looking confident and composed.
Fresh from the podium, Shauna commented on the supportive crowd at this year's championships: 'The atmosphere is amazing; the crowd here really got behind all the athletes. It's a knowledgeable crowd too which is cool.'
GB Junior Bouldering Team member Tara Hayes took second place, her highest position yet. Topping two blocs in the final round, she was the only woman other than Shauna to top more than one. Having narrowly missed out on the finals last year, Tara was justifiably very happy with her result: 'I didn't expect to be on the podium at all. I didn't feel that strong in the warm ups, so it's always good to be surprised.'
Leah Crane took third place, and although she only topped one problem in the finals, she enjoyed the competition a lot: 'Today was really fun; lots of quite challenging problems. There were fun and interesting blocs that you had to carefully work out and try really hard on.'
There was certainly a lot of trying hard on the women's set, 'You definitely had to fight a lot on the problems,' said Tara. One particular move on problem two was the scene of much difficulty. Success involved heels, or even knees and legs for some.
Michaela Tracy, with a very strong performance in the second round, as ever had smile on her face for the crowd. She came second in the semi-finals and fourth in the finals, placing fourth overall.
The men's event was much closer, with Dave Barrans leading the qualifiers and Matt Cousins heading the next two rounds. The finals were exciting, with four of the athletes topping three problems each.
'My favourite problem has got to be the last one,' Matt said. This was a big dyno move that, when Matt finally caught it, drew great cheers from a crowd that had watched much previous failure here. He topped with a massive grin on his face, waving at the crowd. 'It felt like it was my time to do well,' he said later, clearly pleased with his overall win.
In second and third place were Nathan Phillips and Orrin Coley who topped exactly the same number of problems as each other in every round. Nathan took second place as he took fewer attempts. They were closely followed by Billy Ridal in fourth place.
Orrin Coley, who hadn't stopped smiling since stepping off the podium, said: 'It's crazy, I can't really believe it. I cut it really fine in the semi-finals and only just made it through in sixth place. I basically had nothing to lose at that point.' Since being dropped from the British Team last year, Orrin explains that he has, 'Basically worked as hard as I could all year, recovering from various injuries, to try and be the best I could and put in maximum effort.'
The world-class route setting team - head setter Percy Bishton with Jamie Cassidy, Andy Long, Rob Napier and Ben Meeks working hard to create an impressive set in each round. Many of the athletes commented on how fun and varied the setting in the finals had been. The men's set included some big moves which made for good viewing, a tricky groove which proved testing and 'too many finger cracks' according to Orrin.
All three female podium makers liked the last problem best. This was an interesting bloc involving cracks to test jamming skills, a hard section of undercutting and a showy jump to holds on a volume. Tara said she loved the jump, while Leah enjoyed how, 'There was a bit of everything mixed in and it really was a test of different people's skills.'
Younger climbers in both categories put on a good performance, showing good potential for the future of British competition bouldering. Particularly impressive was Jo Neame. Just 16 years old, she made the finals in this, her first ever British Championships, and demonstrated poise and focused composure throughout. Jo took sixth place overall, after Gracie Martin.
Event organiser Matt Heason would like to thank Sheffield City Council and The Outdoor City. Without their support, the event would not have been such a huge success.
The event was organised and livecast courtesy of the BMC.
1. Matt Cousins
2. Nathan Phillips
3. Orrin Coley
4. Billy Ridal
5. James Garden
6. Dave Barrans
1. Shauna Coxsey
2. Tara Hayes
3. Leah Crane
4. Michaela Tracy
5. Gracie Martin
6. Jo Neame