A busy month!
I figured it was about time I sat down and did some writing. It is time to do some processing and reflecting. It was over a month ago that I was sat in Manchester airport beginning the journey to the first round of the world cup season. I haven’t yet found the time to stop and think.
5 weeks ago myself and Mina left for China. I have now been on 7 flights, spent 36 hours in the air and a total of 82 hours travelling time (so far). The season this year is intense. Right now I am in Toronto and once again I feel that time has passed in a blink but the first competition seems so long ago. I am yet to understand how time can do that! Four world cups down and four more to go. I still don’t feel like I have even begun to reflect on China or Baku let alone Switzerland and Zurich. I guess my reflection starts here.
Thinking back to China is a little difficult. With the season being so tight there is so little time to process. We’ve often only had 5 days to travel, adjust to a new place and get psyched and ready for another world cup. Reflecting and processing have not seemed a great priority. The first world cup was held in Chongqing, China. It was our third time visiting Chongqing to compete but this time it was held in a different district. Chongqing is the worlds largest city with almost 30 million people so going to a different district was like going to an entirely new place. We were pleasantly surprised by the area and spent some time exploring the beautiful parks, bustling streets. But more importantly back to the reason why we were there – the competition. I finished in second place, satisfied with my climbing and just one attempt behind Jule Wurm. The problems in the finals were great as was the setting throughout the entire competition. The qualifiers for the women were made interesting as our final boulder problem was the same boulder that the guys had for their final qualifier. It was pretty cool to get to try it. Only myself and Akiyo made it to the top both on our first attempt. I hadn’t seen the mens qualifiers so I had no clue how they had got up it which I think was massively beneficial! For me the next round was not as much fun. I struggled physically and mentally but I fought my way up 3 of the 4 boulders doing enough to qualify for finals in 5th place. It’s a new game in finals and anyone can win. I know that now, although at this point I was actually yet to prove it. I went out and I tried as hard as I could but it wasn’t quite enough. A tricky jump separated the field on attempts. It’s impossible not to think back and wonder if I could have done it faster, but there are always if’s and like I said there is no time to dwell this year. Anyway, I was actually really happy I managed to complete that boulder problem! I was not at all disappointed with my performance in China. Walking away from a world cup with this feeling is new to me. It makes every single pull up, press up, core session, every single minute of training worth it.
The very next morning after the competition we were back at the airport starting a very long journey to Baku, Azerbaijan. We did not know what to expect from Baku but we were greeted by a bright, colourful, vibrant, thriving city with incredible food and better yet amazing tea. The competition in Baku was in a beautiful setting right beside the Caspian Sea but the conditions were harsh and unforgiving. There was a strong wind that never once subsided and the lack of any covering over the competition wall meant the hot sun came down strong and hard only to leave everyone with a cold, brisk chill as soon as it went behind a cloud. I appreciate that it was the first world cup in Azerbaijan and I know everyone has to start somewhere but the organisation was poor and the route setting was disappointing. When finals came around and I lost out on a gold medal for dabbing the mat I felt very ready to leave Azerbaijan. With regards to the dab I didn’t feel it so I didn’t know if I had. We appealed and lost. It was a shame that the setting in finals meant one dab bumped me to third place with myself, Anna and Akiyo topping all four boulders. I think we deserve to battle and fight in the final not to be separated on silly mistakes and count back. I was not disappointed with myself or how I climbed, I was just frustrated that a silly mistake could have such an impact.
We flew from Baku to Zurich. Zurich is one of my favourite cities. We had 3 days in there to hang out, climb and generally recharge our batteries. World cups are hard, they are not only physically demanding but they are emotionally draining too. I hadn’t appreciated how hard it was going to be spending 4 weeks on the road doing a world cup every single weekend. Luckily me and Mina were in it together. We made some incredible memories both good and bad. Like our drive from Zurich to Grindlewald. The pleasant, simple, easy 2 hour drive that took us 5 hours. I have made a short film about our experience travelling around the globe for the first comps, check it out on BMC TV and you can see how lost we got!
Back to the World Cups. With Grindlewald I don’t know where to start. The whole weekend is still a blur in my mind. The only thing I remember clearly is standing on top of the podium listening to the British national anthem. Yes! Finally! My national anthem was playing. I still get butterflies when I think about it and I can’t help but smile. When I topped out on the last boulder problem in finals I walked off the mat satisfied and happy but clueless about the result. Anna herself told me. Her genuine happiness for me means more than words can do justice. I didn’t stand on the podium next to my competition I stood on the podium next to my friends.
I compete to win. I compete to perform at my best. I compete to earn the spot on the top of the podium. We all fight for it. We all try as hard as we possibly can in that moment. It is an honour to compete along side determined, supportive and friendly people.
After Grindlewald I had Innsbruck in my mind. I was overwhelmed with emotion after my first win but I only had 4 days until the next competition and that was my focus. However, as the disbelief subsided a sense of relief consumed me. I had stood on the podium so many times. I had been knocked down. I had worked hard. I had spent so long working up the courage to just say out loud that I believed I could win. I had finally broken down a barrier that I had been scared to even think about. Winning was now real. I had done it.
Since I made my first World cup final in Munich in 2011 Innsbruck 2013 is the only world cup final I have not made. I remember all too clearly how it felt to watch from the crowd. It was a great final to watch but I didn’t enjoy being on that side of the fence. I was SO close to not making finals again this year. My most vivid memory from this years event was standing beneath the fourth boulder problem in semi finals. I had fallen from the top, twice. I didn’t know if I could do it. I wasn’t sure how to do it. I looked at the clock. There was time for one final attempt. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and pulled on. I let my body take over and I found myself holding the top hold with one hand and my eyes squeezed shut. I opened them and immediately felt a rush of pride and happiness as I matched the last hold. Completing that climb was personally one of my best achievements to date. I went into finals filled with excitement about climbing again. Innsbruck is always a stand out event in the season. They don’t just put on a climbing world cup they put on a world class show. It was insane to win in front of such an overwhelming crowd that created an atmosphere incomparable to any other event in the season (so far). It was a very hard, very close final. I was the only person to top the first boulder. I had to try flipping hard and I am still not sure how I stayed on the wall but I managed it. When it came to the final boulder I knew that if I did it I would win and I wanted to do it, I really did! But it was not to be. I knew that gave Anna the chance to step up and claim the Gold medal and I expected nothing less. I sat and watched as Anna breezed through the move that had shut me down just moments before. I am not sure if people will believe me but honestly I was sad to see her fall. She was so close! My second victory was not as sweet as the first but maybe it was never going to be.
The 4th semi final boulder problem
Probably the hardest I have ever tried in a competition. Boulder 1 in finals.
My favourite photo EVER!
Hearing my naional anthem play!
I woke up the next morning my hair crisp and sticky with Champagne, my head spinning, my stomach feeling a little delicate and my feet aching after the hours spent on the dance floor. Nothing at all was going to take away my smile. I had done it. Again. Not once but twice. I could not wait go home!
After a long day traveling I arrived back where it all began, Manchester airport, greeted by my favourite person in the world. I went on to spend a week surrounded by the people who have believed in me and supported me, as well as squeezing in some interviews, filming and of course some training. Going home to my family and friends made it all seem real. They made me feel proud, happy and psyched! I am back on the road again feeling refreshed and ready to compete. It’s just a few days now until the 5th competition of the season!
I want to say a quick thank you Mark Glennie. I couldn’t have more faith in you as a coach. Thank you for everything!
Here are a few of my favourite photos from past month…