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Knowledge needed for the Championships

Climbing Basics

Knowledge needed for the Championships

Climbing pros from the Austrian national team demonstrate what their discipline is all about.

Text: Eva Schwienbacher, Video: Johannes Mair / Alpsolut, Aufmacherbild: 
Moritz Liebhaber

The 2018 World Climbing Championships in Innsbruck are just around the corner. Four national team climbers sum up what the individual disciplines are all about and what they demand of the athletes.

Bouldering: acrobatics on the climbing wall

Bouldering is climbing without the use of rope or harnesses at jump height. Soft floor mats are used to cushion the landing of potential falls. The competition is about mastering four or five short boulder challenges in three rounds (qualification, semi-final, final) with as few failed attempts as possible. One boulder requires an average of six to eight climbing movements and has a maximum height of 4.5 metres. Climbers must climb with both hands from the clearly defined start and finish hold (top) and grip it with both hands. The person that needs the fewest attempts to climb the boulder is the winner.

If a boulder problem is not topped, a so-called bonus hold may be defined in a certain zone, for which climbers are allocated extra points if they manage to scale that far. If a climber falls between the bonus hold and the top, only the bonus rating is taken into account. If the number of tops do not produce a clear result, the number of bonus holds is used to ascertain the winner. If there is still a tie situation, the number of attempts to reach the top is the next deciding factor. If a winner still can’t be determined, the number of attempts to get those bonuses is added to the equation.

Those wanting keep up with the frontrunners will need not only a high degree of athleticism and physical strength, but great agility and excellent coordination too.

All rounds are climbed ”on sight“, i.e. the athletes are not allowed to watch each other. In the qualifying round and semi-final, the climbers are allocated with five minutes per boulder followed by a five-minute break, before they move onto the next boulder. Before the final, all finalists are allocated an observation time of two minutes to inspect each boulder. Afterwards, each athlete is allocated with four minutes per boulder and a break until all climbers have completed the boulder. Attempts that are started in the final within the four minutes may still be completed, even if the time has expired.

Those wanting keep up with the frontrunners will need not only a high degree of athleticism and physical strength, but great agility and excellent coordination too.

Boulder, presented by Anna Stöhr & Jessica Pilz

Lead: Strength, endurance and technique

The objective of lead climbing is to climb a route within a fixed time limit, preferably free of falls or climb higher than one’s competitors on the same route. In lead climbing, the athlete must clip all quickdraws him/herself. The qualifying round usually takes place in so-called flash-mode, during which climbers can observe their competitors or a route setter shows them the route at the beginning of the competition.

In the final, the climber has to climb ”on sight“. For the finals, the climbers are placed in isolation and have six minutes, to inspect the route together with the other finalist and commit the hold sequences to memory. They then return to the isolation zone and are called out individually to complete their climb.

The qualification, semi-final and final rounds will each be climbed on three different routes, which become progressively difficult from round to round. If several climbers make it to the end in the final, the previous round is the one that counts. If they all reach the same height, they must compete again in an even more difficult super final route – a situation that occurs extremely rarely.

Lead climbing requires strength and endurance, as well as technical and tactical knowledge. The challenge for the route setters is to build the route in such a way, that a winner is determined at the end.

Lead, presented by Hannah Schubert & Mario Lechner

Speed: when not always the fastest wins

As the name suggests, speed is needed for speed climbing. The aim is to climb an internationally standardised route as fast as possible with a top rope, in other words, belaying from the top. The competition route is 15 metres long, has an overhang of five degrees and difficulty rating of 7-. The fact that the hold sequence is always the same allows athletes to prepare perfectly for the competition. The current world records are held by Russian Iuliia Kaplina with 7.32 seconds, and Iranian Reza Alipourshenazandifar with 5.48 seconds. In Austria, the current record holders are Matthias Erber from Tirol and Lukas Knapp from Salzburg with 7.30 seconds, and Nina Lach from Graz with 8.84 seconds.

There are two qualification runs, with only the better one being scored. Those who progress through the competition compete against each other in knockout rounds. Two athletes compete side by side on two identical routes. They have to climb once per side, between which there is a short break. The two times are added together and the faster overall moves into the next round. The winner is the climber who finally wins in this knockout system, which does not always equate to being the fastest overall.

Speed climbing therefore requires not only speed, strength, high precision gripping and stepping techniques, but also nerves of steel.

Speed, presented by Alexandra Elmer und Tobias Plangger

The combined format: The final with the lowest number of points

In the summer of 2016, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to include sport climbing in its Olympic programme. The qualification process and Olympic format were developed this summer, in which the Austrian Climbing Association, together with six climbing nations, played a major role.

The sport climbing competition mode for the Olympics is a combined format and consists of the three existing individual disciplines of lead, boulder and speed. The competition consists of two rounds in which each athlete climbs in all three disciplines. The current world cup modus is used in all disciplines. The sequence of disciplines is strictly defined: speed is followed by boulder and lead. The qualification rounds take place on two or three days. The results of this qualification round are multiplied and a ranking is created. The six athletes with the lowest number of points will enter the final. For example: climber A achieves places 1, 10 and 10 in the three disciplines, which multiplied together results in 100 points. Climber B lands in 5th place in all three disciplines and receives 125 points. Climber A has fewer points and is ranked ahead of climber B in the overall standings and thus has a better chance of reaching the final. In the final, the three disciplines are climbed ”en bloc“, i.e. one directly after another.

The combined Olympic format celebrated its debut at an international IFSC event at the 2017 Youth and Junior World Championships in Innsbruck.

Combined format, presented by Jessica Pilz und Tobias Plangger

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