Earlier this month, the IFSC Lead World Cup kicked off its American debut of the season in Atlanta, Georgia. I qualified for this event by making the finals at the SCS Open Nationals a few months ago, making this my 3rd World Cup appearance. Having performed well enough to qualify for the semifinals the year before, my hopes were high in terms of improving my result and potentially having a shot at making it into finals.
Training for this year's World Cup required a much different approach than I was normally used to, considering my full engineering courseload at Northeastern University I had to balance at the same time. However, the people over at Metrorock are awesome and I was able to catch some belays from friendly folks who were kind enough to let me run some laps on their project... Kinda felt bad about that. Oh well.
Heading into the competition, I felt decently strong given that I had just gotten over a severe cold brought on by my first midterms of the year. Nevertheless, my last training session on the "treadwall" that we have in our campus rec center proved to be a valuable asset, and I felt as prepared as I needed to be in the few days before flying down to Atlanta. Luckily, one of the youth climbers from Atlanta, Jeremy Heit (and his family), offered to let me stay at their house for the competition, so I didn't have to go through the trouble of booking a room and trying to pick up rides over to the gym. Thank you, Heit family!
When I walked into isolation for the competition, I felt right back in my element. The cool thing about competing in World Cup competitions is that the atmosphere is much more relaxed than any youth competition, which is crazy because you can look around at any given time and the person on both sides that you're warming up next to was on the front cover of that one climbing magazine last month. In total, there were about 65 competitors, which made for a small-competition ambiance. One of the cooler aspects was being able to chat with Jakob Schubert (reigning World Champion, nbd) on his recent win in Paris, and also got his side of the story on his even more recent disqualification in Puurs, Belgium. He felt that it was an unfair call and that he should have been awarded a yellow card, but that all he needed to do was perform well in Atlanta to move on.
When I finally stepped onto the wall in qualifiers, I felt a little nervous, but climbed decently well on the first climb, making it past the overhanging portion of the wall and onto the very technical slab. On qualifier 2, I didn't climb nearly as well after I made a poor rest about halfway up, but still was able to take the very last spot into semifinals after an two revisions of the scores and an appeal had me one spot out (lots of anxious waiting and deep breaths ensued).
Semifinals! After making it to this stage of the competition in Boulder last year, I was beyond psyched to have made it again. This time, my goal was to improve upon my placement from the year before, where I placed 23rd. After a quick preview, I set out on the extremely overhanging climb, making sure to climb quickly through the bottom section. My tactic worked well through some big holds and a sick campus section, but I tried to rush a tenuous section after a rest without taking time to breathe and assess the situation, and I fell while trying to pull a gaston. In the end, I placed 21st, my highest at a World Cup yet! It definitely pays off to go first in an onsight round - there's way less pressure.
After grabbing a bite to eat at the famous Little Cuba restaurant next to the gym (try their Cuban Sandwiches or Lucy lunch special), I headed back for finals with a bunch of US athletes, including Ben Tresco, Noah Ridge, Kyra Condie, Thomas Pitzel, Carina Claassen, Delaney Miller, and Michaela Kiersch. Finals were fantastic as usual, and it was amazing to see the world's best climbers come destroy routes on the walls that I know so well. Especially amazing was Jakob Schubert's climb, as he nearly fell off one section, only to calmly continue on and send the climb. Huge congrats to Ramon Julian and Jain Kim for winning the World Cup as well.
Inspiration from the competition now carries me through school every day. Whenever I find myself drifting off in my calculus lecture or doodling in my engineering design course, I often find myself thinking of how I could be training to compete on the World Cup circuit along with the climbers who I just witnessed. This dream needs to be realized! If there's a will, there's a way. Perhaps after I earn my degree I will pursue this course to the fullest. Until then, Dark Horse competitions will have to be enough I suppose...