This year’s Australian National Boulder Climbing Championships were nothing short of spectacular. It marked significant progression in climbing as a sport, and displayed the best of the truly special community that we are all so lucky to be a part of.
Once again the competition, graciously hosted and sponsored by the City of Ballarat, was held on a purpose built wall rather than in a local gym. This made the weekend feel not so much like an obligation of Australian sport climbing, but an event that not only climbers, but the general public, wanted to witness and be a part of. The wall had a unique but effective design that really gave the routesetters a range of options when it came to crafting the boulders. This year’s organisational team should feel extremely proud of their efforts. The fruits of their labour were evident in what was possibly the best climbing National Championship ever!
The youngest youth categories (C and D) kicked off first thing on the Friday morning, followed by Open A qualifiers. In Youth D Henry Booker (International) took the top male spot, with Liam Botting (QLD) taking the title, and Ellisa Andres (ACT). In Youth C, the event was won by Jack Taylor (NSW) in the male’s and Theodora Kasimidou (SA) in the female’s.
The first Open round saw a fantastic split on a really great set of boulders. Seven women were able to finish all five qualification boulders, however in the men it was only Sam Bowman (QLD) and James Kassay (VIC) that successfully tackled each bloc, James doing so in less attempts. Emma Horan (ACT) went forward in the female top spot. The top twenty competitors of each gender went on to compete in the semi final round the following day.
The routesetters turned the dial up to eleven for the semi-final round – perhaps a notch too far in the women’s field. A fairly successful split was seen in the men’s category, with James again being successful in topping each boulder. Only five female athletes were able to put a top on their score sheet, and not a single athlete did so more than once. Each boulder however, was topped, showing the wide range of skills possessed by each individual climber. Emma Horan stamped her mark once again, progressing further in first place. With fourteen year old Sienna Wong, competing in Opens by invitation, making it through to the final, seven places were offered in finals to the women, seeing defending champion Claire Kassay scraping through by the skin of her teeth in seventh place. In the mens, a more traditional six athletes would be competing in the afternoon’s final.
With a mere few hours rest, the athletes were sent back into isolation. In this final round, the Australian National Champions for 2015 would be crowned. Both nerves and anticipation were high, creating an electric atmosphere at the venue. The crowd poured in, and the event was underway.
In a similar manner to the previous rounds, the routesetters had put forward a set of dynamic and powerful problems that gave a reasonable split in both fields. Whilst for the most part the women had a slightly harder set, both categories saw clear placings all the way down the score board. James Kassay and Sam Bowman took it down the the wire, leaving it until the very last moment to decide the winner. With a flash of the final boulder, James took his fourth consequtive National Championship title by only two attempts for a bonus! Sam took second, and Alan Pryce (WA) rounded out the podium in a convincing third place.
The first boulder of the women’s set saw no finishers, leaving the crowd anxious of a repeat of the previous round. However, each problem going forward served its purpose well and made for an exciting final round! Andrea Hah (NSW), one of Australias top rock climbers, showed that she also knows how to crush plastic, taking the win and the National Title. Sienna Wong, a guest competitor from Youth B, stunned the audience and her fellow competitors alike by taking second place a whole two years before she is officially eligible. Wong is certainly one to watch going forward in her career. In third place, Claire Kassay put in a commendable redeeming effort, rounding out the podium. Due to Sienna’s guest status, Sarah Davis (VIC), who put in a solid show, showing the growth she has had since her days as a youth competitor, took third on the official podium, with Claire in second, and Andrea maintaining first.
The third and final day saw the Youth B, A, and Junior competitors battle it out through qualifications, and for the first time in an Australian National Bouldering Championship, finals, to see who would be crowned Champion in their repesctive categories. Many of these young climbers had also climbed through the previous two days in the Open contingent, and their efforts had certainly taken a toll on their bodies and their minds. During the qualifications each category was to attempt, over the course of two hours, 5 boulders. The top six athletes in each category saw themselves through to the final round.
Seeing Australia’s best young climbers compete in a five on, five off format was incredibly exciting to watch, and proved that it is a posibility to work in this format at future competitions.
In youth B, the male and female champions, respectively, were Sam Lavender (QLD) and Sienna Wong (VIC). In Youth A we saw Olivia Campton-Smith (NSW) and Ben Abel (NSW) take the top spots. Our Junior champions were Roxy Perry (TAS) and Jarred Jordan (NSW). The problems, whilst they were quite hard considering the efforts the climbers had put in on previous days, saw a reasonable split in all categories. The routesetters did a great job making all of these rounds happen, and we are extremely thankful for their efforts.
On this third day we also had our Masters and Open B categories compete, which is always a fun an exciting element of the competition!
This year’s Nationals had an atmosphere and a feel that was different to all others. I can’t quite explain it, but there was a real sense of community and passion that was evident throughout the lead up and across all three days. It should also be said that I’ve never seen so much hard work and dedication go into a single event!
Whoever hosts next year’s National Championships certainly has their work cut out for them!! 😉