The GB Ice Climbing Team headed to Saas-Fee, Switzerland, on 24-25 January to take on the exciting deciding round of the 2020 UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup season, their first senior Ice Climbing World Cup ever. Read on to hear their thoughts:
Having hosted ice climbing competitions for the past 20 years, Saas-Fee was no stranger to creating stunning spectacles for the UIAA World Cup and they once again delivered in style. Three athletes from the GB Ice Climbing Team headed there to represent and try their hardest against the world's best; Caitlin Connor, Emma Powell and Willis Morris. All three were there to compete in the lead event, with Caitlin also signing up to take part in the speed event.
The gold medal winners in the Swiss Alps during the weekend of 24-25 January were: Anton Nemov (speed) and Louna Ladevant (lead) in the men’s competition. Irina Dubovtseva (speed) and Maria Tolokonina (lead) took the women’s titles.
In the women's lead event, Emma Powell placed 29th and Caitlin Connor came 33rd. In the men's lead event, Willis Morris came in joint 49th. Meanwhile, in the speed event, Caitlin climbed in 34.33 seconds to come 20th. Congratulations to all on impressive performances at their first senior Ice Climbing World Cup! We look forward to seeing them in action at many more comps.
Talking about their experience of the competition, Willis said: “Saas-Fee, what a comp for my first ever world cup! A spectacular venue which holds such a huge reputation both for its fierce routes as much as its fantastic atmosphere. It's safe to say neither disappointed! I had an unfortunate time on the first route when a dropped axe left me without a score to be desired, however, with some encouraging chat from the team I managed to put in a massive effort on route two, almost seeing me with a top.
“As a team we've definitely all learnt a lot, as much about strengths as weaknesses and I think we can hold our heads high with how we all performed at our first world cup for such a young team. If anything, Saas-Fee has motivated us all to band together with our training and work hard over the next year to return even stronger for the next season.”
Willis Morris and Caitlin Connor competing at Saas-Fee. Photo: Stuart Rose
Meanwhile Emma's thoughts about the competition were: “While I regularly compete in the British dry tooling competitions, including placing first in the British Tooling series this year (senior women category) and also winning the mixed master’s competition (which included the men’s category), the competition at Saas-Fee was my first Senior World competition.
“On the day of the competition I was very nervous and excited as there were fierce competitors and teams from all around the globe including Russia, Japan, America and Korea. Most of these nations have structures to practice competitive ice climbing on all year round and they often trained as teams.
“Once my time came, I climbed up to around three quarters of the way up the first qualification route, which contained the infamous Saas Fee granite holds as well as a wooden log. Before I knew it, the four minute time limit over. I was frustrated as I still felt strong but was pleased with my first climb.
“The second route began on some ice blocks moving onto a strenuous stein move, which I was pleased to quickly get passed, followed by small side pulls which required good body positioning and lots of balance. Moving past these holds, I aimed towards the right-hand side traverse. Before the transverse started, there was a huge move from a hold with a little edge to a small hold with the edge on the left. I ended up battling and trying figure fours until I ran out of time again. Overall, I felt really pleased and happy with my performance, coming 29th in my first senior world competition. Also, I am excited to see how I climb in the next season with more training.”
And lastly, Caitlin said: “This weekend I competed in my first senior World Cup. I was already super nervous before I had even seen the structure but as soon as I did my nerves turned into excitement. The wall was really impressive and I was psyched to give the routes my best shot. I put no pressure on myself and had no expectations. Unfortunately I timed out on both my qualifiers, which I was disappointed about, but I now know what I need to work on for next time. I quickly realised that big moves and moving into a stein is something which needs improved on and something this comp really highlighted. I came off both routes with a smile and even though I'm sure I could have performed better, I’m proud that I was competing at such a large competition with so many experienced climbers. Saas-Fee had such an amazing atmosphere and it was a great opportunity to learn from the best; all in all, a brilliant experience!”
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