Well, I’m sitting here back in Munich, Germany once again. The coaches said goodbye to our athletes today in Imst. It was so very cool to see how the whole team came together in the very end, having developed new relationships and strengthening present ones. The wide-eyed new climbers left feeling comfortable, donning their various team jerseys after some exciting trading during semi-finals and finals (Elise Sethna proved to be the designated jersey trader. That girl can sweet talk her way into anything, and she has an Austrian jersey signed by Johanna Ernst to prove it).
The semi-final event was very exciting Team Canada. Dung, Sean and I were in isolation with our four athletes, Elan, Alannah, Miles and Marc. Due to a complete 180 degree turn in the weather from blistering heat to freezing rain and snow in the mountains, the event was delayed for 1-2 hours. This is tough for athletes, as they warm up with a specific time frame in mind and then have to maintain this warm up while waiting for the new scheduled time to climb. Our athletes handled this very well however, and each one was calm and collected waiting as the route-setters reset the ending of each route to finish on the roof instead of over the lip due to the rain.
Miles and Marc were both out immediately after preview and as I stayed in isolation with Alannah and Elan, and I was unable to watch their climbs. Both athletes were able to improve upon their qualification results with Marc moving up to 24th place in Youth A and Miles moving up to 22nd in Juniors. Congrats boys! As Alannah headed out to the wall, I bundled up and joined up with the rest of Team Canada, who were busy trading t-shirts with goofy grins on their faces despite the cold.
Alannah had an AMAZING semi-final climb. Watching the girls climb previous to her, I saw that everyone was falling just after a great blue feature high up on the wall before the roof. I was confident that Alannah would make it up to the crux, yet I was concerned that she would rush this section and pump out too quickly. However, I’m usually wrong when it comes to predictions, and I am happy to say that I wrong about this as well. Watching Alannah climb was inspiring. She was calm and confident through the technical section in the beginning of the route and climbed strongly up to the blue feature. As I watched her stop, rest and reassess the next section, my heart was beating so fast. I wanted her to make these next few moves so badly. With the entire Team at the bottom of the wall, yelling their hearts out, Alannah stuck each move with determination and ease. She was able to fight hard to be able to be the first competitor in her category to reach the roof. I was so excited for her that I definitely had tears in my eyes when she came down from the wall with a big smile on her face. It is so amazing to see a climber fight so hard and fall at their max. Congrats Alannah, I’m so proud of you!
Our last climber to go was Elan. This boy can climb! And, as we all found out last night, he can sing as well! I think every time I hear “The Edge of Glory”, I will think of Elan. He climbed very well on his semi-final route, climbing high on the route despite looking a little more shaky than usual, which I found out later was due to the cold. Such a change from the day before.
Unfortunately, neither Alannah or Elan made it through to the final round (13th and 15th place respectively), exemplifying the extremely high level of climbing here in Europe. We returned later on in the evening to watch the final round. It was spectacular. The two highlights that stand out for me in this event was watching Julia Serriere (FRA) climb from 8th place to 1st place in the Junior category, as well as watching Domen Skofic (SLO) be the only climber to top his route. The advanced standard of climbing here in Europe is so humbling and inspiring. I could see stars shining in all of our athletes’ eyes that night. I know they were shining in mine!
Yesterday was speed finals, which our athletes used as a day of fun and relaxation at the event. Last minute jersey trading was completed, and they said good-bye to the friends they had made from various countries all around the world. We then returned to the hotel for one last dinner, a great slide show made by Ian Stewart-Patterson (our team manager), and fun and games. With a 1am curfew, the kids were psyched! I felt very lame when I fell asleep watching a movie at 10pm. Wandering down at midnight to check on the kids, I was greeted with two of our athletes walking down the hall, soaking wet and fully clothed from being pushed into the pool (I put a stop to that game), and another group of kids playing “drinking games” with espresso as a substitute. Finally, a group of kids were giggling and psyched as Chris Neve had told them he would drive them to McDonald’s for a late night snack, immediately earning the “cool coach” status. It was a great last night for the team and I just love the community that developed during these last 8 days.
I fly home tomorrow, back to Vancouver and immediately back to school. I had an amazing trip, and I learned so much from all of our athletes and team officials. Next year is Singapore! I hope all the kids maintain the psych they felt at this comp and use it as a motivator for the upcoming season!