By Maxim Zolotukhin
This past weekend I made the drive down Alexandria, VA, for ABS nationals. This was my fourth time attending the event in five years, and while it was the first time I found myself watching from the sidelines during finals, I can honestly say this was best run/set climbing competition I’ve been to in 10 years of competitive rock climbing.
The theme of the weekend seemed to be PROGRESSION. This progression manifested itself in every aspect of the competition, from the production, to the atmosphere, to the climbing and the athletes themselves; CHANGE seemed to be afoot.
The first huge leap forward was USAClimbing hiring our good friends at NE2C to produce the event. Putting long time creative differences aside, NE2C and USAC teamed up to put on a spectacular show; professional lighting and sound, combined with Jason Danforth and Scott Mechler’s years of big time MC’ing experience, brought the architecture of ABS nationals to another level. This type of production is imperative to the future success of climbing on a larger commercial-scale. Additionally, local documentarian Pablo Durano was on hand to shoot incredibly tight footage with the help of a giant crane.
Another palpable difference this year over comps in the past was the energy and atmosphere surrounding the competition and the professional athletes taking part. It was hard to put my finger on, but everything just seemed…BIGGER. Daniel Woods signed posters for an hour and a half and didn’t put his pen down the whole time. This to me was pretty incredible. I mean, Daniel’s always been Daniel, but this year, he was DANIEL. For our sport to keep growing, we need our athletes to become larger than life; kids need role models, and companies need athletes that are marketable to hang their hats on. Perhaps we’re starting to get there…
Of course, finals themselves did not disappoint. Big props to Chris Danielson, Jamie Emerson, Kyle McCabe, and the rest of the setting crew for basically a flawless performance. These guys are the best in the business and their team chemistry and vast well of comp knowledge culminated in fantastic finals round that was invariably more challenging to set for climbers like Woods and Alex Puccio who keep breaking ground as far as bouldering standards are concerned. Results broke down perfectly with Daniel finishing the first three problems and falling on the last move of the fourth problem (which he quickly dispatched after the last climber’s time was up) and a last-minute ascent of problem number 4 by Puccio who knew she had to send after failing on problem 3 which runner-up Alex Johnson had done. I hope to be lucky enough to collaborate with this team of setters in the near future.
And let me just say it one more time: DANIEL WOODS. My Boulder friends Paul Robinson and Carlo Traversi were giddy upon entering ISO on friday. “I can’t believe he actually got stronger!” said Paul. “It really is a new level” added Carlo. Apparently this had been Daniel’s week: Monday – long training session at CATS, Tuesday – long training session at the SPOT where he was supposedly flashing V14, Wednesday – first ascent of The Game V16 in Boulder Canyon after 17 days of attempts and breaking a hold that day, Thursday – flies to Virginia, Friday + Saturday – wins ABS nationals in dominating fashion.
Damn. What else can be said? We are witnessing PROGRESSION in every aspect of our sport and I couldn’t be more excited. On the heels of this weekend came the announcement that the IOC will now officially recognize the IFSC, opening the door for climbing to enter the summer Olympics in either 2016 or 2020. Who will represent the US at the Olympics in 2020? My money’s on the progeny of former world cup champions Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou and Didier Raboutou, who, apart from being the cutest brother-sister team EVER, are also obliterating any rock climbing challenge that comes their way. I hung out with these munchkins in Spain this summer and in Hueco this winter and they are the real deal; Brooke, 8, has lead 5.13 and bouldered V9 on rock, while Shawn, 11, has sent 5.13c, flashed V8, bouldered V10, and reportedly spent multiple days falling off the last move of a 5.14a in France this summer. Sick!!
We here at the BRG have some big plans of our own for the future, so stay tuned.
THE FUTURE IS NOW.
Photos from Caroline Treadway @ carolinetreadway.wordpress.com