Can you truly specialise across a wide range of disciplines when it comes to climbing – or more specifically, can you do so all at the same time?
That’s been a key question ever since climbing was included in the Tokyo Olympic Games, as a combined event. Suddenly the world’s best boulderers were leading, the speed masters were bouldering and the endurance maestros were working on their power game.
While the combined event may well only last for one Olympic cycle, it does beg the question – can you stay on top of your game across the disciplines given they have such different requirements?
The question was posed this week after discussions about Will Bosi’s fantastic send of La Capella in Siurana, Spain. Will became just the second Brit to climb 9b, and the first to do so abroad. On top of which, his ascent was only the fourth since the route was bolted in the 90’s before the FA in 2011 by Adam Ondra.
The send ticked off a huge bucket list item for Will and shows what a powerhouse he has become in the sport. But away from life on real rock, he still has one chance to qualify for a spot in the Olympics. The European Championships in Moscow is coming up this April and the combined event here marks the final opportunity for any European athlete to qualify, with one place on offer for the top ranked individual who has not already qualified prior.
As climbers, there is always a general consensus that climbing on rock makes us better. The more types the bigger the range of skills built up. But most of us mere mortals aren’t competing against anybody but ourselves, and a day at the crag is a fun way to pass the time when not attending to the daily grind of work and life.
Since climbing was included in the Olympics, there have been huge debates as to whether it is or is not a competitive sport. Whether pulling on plastic holds is as real to the sport as getting dirt under your fingernails outside, baked by the sun or struggling to crimp when your fingers are frozen from the wind chill.
For elite climbers, they all had to make their own personal choices as to whether they were going to chase the Olympic dream or find dreams of their own making. Alex Pucci pulled out very early in the Olympic cycle to concentrate on climbing outdoors. Plenty of others vetoed the idea before the sport had even been accepted into the Olympics.
For the ones that are going for it, like Will, it has been a balancing act – work your weaknesses, don’t neglect your strengths, work out whether excelling in one discipline will gain more than being good across the board. But all of this must be balanced with actual climbing, the feeling of rock grating your fingertips, skin fraying as you grasp for that elusive hold.
By climbing 9b, Will has shown he is in pretty good shape (probably an understatement) and has firmly put himself into many a conversation as to just who is at the forefront of the British climbing scene right now. He has proved he is up there outside with the best in the world – and all we can do is wish him luck on his next training bloc and hope he gets the result he is hoping for in Moscow. Chasing multiple dreams on multiple fronts isn’t for the fainthearted, but fortunately, the fainthearted don’t tend to be climbers.