GB Junior Bouldering take on the best in Europe

On Thursday the 23rd of May the newly formed GB Junior Bouldering Team travelled to Grindelwald in Switzerland to take part in their first ever European Youth Championships. 

With the 2013 comp season now finally underway the spotlight was to fall on the GB Junior Bouldering team as they travelled to take on some of the strongest countries in Europe at the first ever IFSC European Youth Championships (EYC).

The location for the competition couldn’t have been more fitting. Held in the local sports centre, the beautiful mountain town of Grindelwald sits at the foot of the infamous Bernesse Alps and magnificent Eiger.

The team for the trip consisted of 5 athletes. Travelling was Nathan Phillips (Junior), Hamish Potokar (Youth A), Tara Hayes, Rachel Carr and Gracie Martin (Youth A).

This year the competition wall was built inside the local ice rink and was needless to say a pretty chilly reception. The presence of the other teams was however very invigorating. At senior level we all know the strength of countries such as Austria, Germany, Slovenia and France and at Junior level they look equally as impressive. These guys all go about their pre competition routine with alarming efficiency and cast an intimidating shadow in their colored strips.

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The Competition Wall: Photo Michelle Forrest

Being the first comp of the season our hotel team talk was focused not on results but on trying to achieve positive performances, to road test our tactics and training and see how we compare with these big name nations.

The first category to go out was our Youth A girls The competition atmosphere seemed relaxed as Tara, Gracie and Rachel nervously edged onto the mats to begin their campaign. For those of you un-aware of the format for EYC, qualification consists of an 8-boulder scramble. With a maximum of 5 attempts on each bloc this in a very tactical game as prioritizing correctly can mean the difference between grabbing one of the 6 finals places or not.

The qualification boulders are ranked in order of difficulty from 1-8 so the tactic here was to head onto some of the harder ones before fatigue set in. The style of the setting here is very different to that we are used to seeing in UK climbing gyms. The problems tended to revolve around lots of volumes, difficult to read and technical in nature.

The GB girls all performed admirably, seeming to improve with every attempt as they shook off their nerves, feeling more at home out there with every second the clock ticked away. Sadly on this occasion we didn’t manage enough tops to make it through the brutal cut down to the final 6.

Next out was Bristol’s own Hamish Potokar. After a nervous start his grit skills seemed to shine through as he padded his way though the volumes to earn a respectable top 20 finishing position.

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Hamish on M2: Photo Michelle Forrest

Finally it was the turn of Team Captain Nathan Philips. Nathan is the most experienced member of the team and is the only athlete to have any previous EYC mileage. This showed from the off as he effortlessly dispatched some early problems in a methodical approach. He made light work of the easier qualifiers, sadly loosing out to some hideous volume wrestling later on up the order finishing in 14th position.

Sunday was spent back in the arena but this time the athletes joined me in the stands to watch Europe’s finest battle it out for podium places in the top 6. Emotions were mixed with a desire to get out there to compete ourselves and also admiration for the standard that was on display with some amazing looking blocs, combining strength, precision and agility.

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Happy Team GB: Photo Michelle Forrest

Next we head to our second competition in Bulgaria at the end of June.  With some valuable lessons learnt in Swiss and pages of coaching notes, our summer team training should set us on course to go further as we enter the first round of the IFSC European Youth Cup.

GB Final Positions

Nathan Phillips – 14th

Hamish Potokar – 16th

Tara Hayes – 26th

Rachel Carr – 35th

Gracie Martin – 41st

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