The Munich World Cup is always one I look forward to. It holds a special place in my heart. Six years ago I made my first ever final in Munich. I remember how it felt to stand in front of that crowd for the first time. The atmosphere totally consumed me. It was exhilarating albeit a little overwhelming. This event has a reputation. As it should. This year was not a disappointment.
Since the news of climbing becoming an Olympic sport it seemed all too fitting to be competing in the Olympic Stadium in Munich. A venue quite unlike any other. It has this aura about it, so much history and yet despite it being over 40 years old it hardly looks dated at all. Almost 240 athletes had travelled to Munich to compete in the final World Cup of the 2016 season, the biggest field we have ever seen. 240 athletes would be whittled down to just 40 semi finalists after a long day of qualification. Team GB had 3 men and 3 women competing. The men got the short straw and were up early to get to isolation before 7:30am. Their boulders looked really fun but they were also on the easy side. There was a cool breeze and some very low temperatures for mid summer which meant the climbing conditions were abnormally good. The GB boys fought hard but it wasn’t to be this time. You needed lots of tops and fast to make it through, there was very little room for error.
The women’s qualification was also on the easy side. Again meaning lots of tops in few attempts were required to make it through. I qualified in first place with 5 flashes. In my group there were 4 friendly boulders and one really mean one to finish on which only myself and Akiyo managed to top. Tara was in the same group as me and finished up in 11th place in the group with top 10 making it to the semi final. So close! I managed to watch Leah on her final boulder, which she absolutely smashed! Turns out she smashed all the boulders too with just one fall putting her in joint 4th and firmly securing her a spot in semis.
I knew I had won the overall title before even turning up at this event but I still really wanted to give my best performance. I really wanted to make it to the final. The semi final boulders were pretty cool. I had lots of fun climbing on them and only fell once. Well I actually slipped off whilst matching on the final hold of the second boulder as it was absolutely boiling! I was happy with my climbing and hoping that I’d done enough to secure a spot in the final. I had and I was in second place to Miho Nonaka. Leah had a really good round and finished up in 8th. She also came painfully close to holding the slippery final hold on the second boulder which would have put her in 6th!
I have a big, very supportive, extremely loud, family. A total of 16 members of my family made the journey to Munich this year. Theses are the people who have been there since my journey began and supported my dream. It was incredible to have so many of them there when I was awarded the overall trophy. They even had special t-shirts made!
The final this year seemed to be even louder than ever before. That might be due to so many of my family being in the crowd 😛 Unfortunately the boulders were a little off the mark with the men’s first boulders seeing many flashes and the women’s not seeing a top at all. I managed to flash the second as did Akiyo, Miho and Melissa. Then Akiyo, Miho and myself also flashed the third boulder meaning we were tied in joint first before the last climb.
It was on the second boulder in the final that I found myself trying extremely hard not to slip off the hot, sweaty holds. I fought, I did not want to fall off. It was during this struggle and effort that I felt pain in my shoulder. I was able to get my foot on which took the pressure off my shoulder and allowed me to finish the boulder problem.
I knew something was wrong, Back in isolation I tried moving my arm around and it was evident that something was not right. I’ve had a shoulder injury in the past. I damage my rotator cuff in my right shoulder a couple of years back. The pain was a little similar but nowhere near as bad. I was pretty sure that I would be able to climb the third boulder. I really wanted to climb it too. So I decided to go out and see how it was. I managed to climb the third boulder, keeping calm and climbing with as much control as possible. I really didn’t want to have to stop climbing but I was concerned and nervous. It felt worse after. I asked for help and the Germany team physiotherapist kindly agreed to see me. It’s so hard in this situation to know how things really feel. Your body is pumped full of adrenaline, you desperately want to carry on climbing and there’s not long before you have to go back out on stage. Christopher took a look and after doing some tests he felt confident that I could try to climb on the final boulder without risking more damage.
I went out to the final boulder ready to try hard but I just couldn’t seem to get my shoulder to engage at all. Miho climbed after me and was the only person to top the final boulder taking her second gold medal in style!
After the climbing had finished there was lots going on. I had a doping control official following me around unable to let me out of her sight. I needed to pee but I’ve made that mistake before! Never pee before you have to go to doping control! Otherwise you end up waiting all night to pee again! The pain in my shoulder was getting worse and the range of movement seemed to be rapidly decreasing. I put too many clothes on and got really hot and we were all being ushered over to to the main stage to get ready to go on the podium. Before I knew it I was stood on the stage celebrating my silver medal. It seemed totally surreal. Not quite as surreal as standing on the overall podium though!
I had worked so hard to get there. I’d dreamt of winning the overall. It was a huge goal accomplished. And I couldn’t lift my flipping arms up in the air to celebrate! My emotions were all over the place. I was standing on top of the podium as World number one. I’d had a dream. I’d made a goal. I’d worked hard and with the support and encouragement of many people I had achieved that dream. I stood listening to my national anthem play feeling so incredibly grateful to everyone who made this moment possible.
Unfortunately, this sensation didn’t last long. I stepped off the podium and my mind was fixed on my shoulder. I couldn’t move my left arm without pain. I injured my right shoulder a few years ago and I can still remember how painful it was but I also remember how incredibly frustrating it was. I was scared. Christopher took another look at my shoulder after I’d finished in doping control. The pain was a good sign. It didn’t seem like anything was torn, just an impingement hopefully. However, nothing could be known for certain without an MRI scan. I flew back to the UK on Sunday and was at Harris and Ross first thing Monday morning where my physiotherapist took a look and came to the same conclusion as Christopher but we still needed the MRI to be sure. I was in the MRI scanner Monday afternoon. A massive thanks to Redbull and my team at Harris and Ross for making all of this happen!
I was sat on the train on Monday evening. It was busy as always at rush hour and I was feeling smug as I had a seat at a table. I’d spend the entire day over Manchester way starting in Wilmslow seeing a physio. My shoulder clearly wasn’t right but it didn’t seem to be anything too serious. Everyone was calm, positive even. We decided it would be best to get an MRI just to check, the likely and hopeful outcome would be that the MRI would show an impingement in my rotator cuff. However, there was also the possibility of a tear. I had the MRI at 4:30pm and expected to hear back the next morning. I didn’t feel worried. I was in the best possible hands and things were moving at a rapid pace. What more could I ask for!
I was sat on the train. Surrounded by people on their daily commute. My phone started to ring. I didn’t have the number saved and I wondered if I should answer. I did luckily as it was my physiotherapist on the phone. His calming voice instantly put me at ease. That was until he said “I’m afraid its not good news”. Wait, what?! How? The MRI showed a tear in my labrum and in the cartilage. The surgeon wanted to operate but of course there were options. His words were hard to digest, the wavering signal as the train zoomed through the peak district wasn’t making the situation any easier. I was trapped next to a stern looking business man in my seat by the window. I wanted to get up but I was unable to move. Not that there was anywhere to go. I was to meet the surgeon, my physiotherapist and my coach on Thursday. I took a deep breath and tried to clear my head. The roller coaster ride of being a professional athlete continues.
On Thursday he explained in detail what damage the MRI revealed. There was a tear in my labrum, it was significant and required fixing. There was also cartilage damage which would need to be tidied up.
During the operation the surgeon also discovered that I had a tear in my bicep tendon too. Luckily he was able to fix that too. The surgery was successful and I am really happy with how my recovery is going so far. I’ll get another post up about the rehab process soon.