Saturday, September 22, 2012

Singapore Youth World Championships

     Josh and I woke up early, hauled our stuff over to East Railay to catch a boat, and bid our goodbyes to the best beach climbing in the world, thanking God for sunshine all the while. It was our last day in Thailand, and we'd been living in fear of another steep, muddy trek across the Prah Nang Peninsula like we suffered through when Emily left during a monsoon.
     A few hours later, our boat taxi pulled up to a remote dock hemmed in by jungle with little sign of habitation- let alone the resort where we hoped to stay the night before our departing flight. I thought well, if this guy's leaving us high and (somewhat) dry, this could be the adventure of a lifetime. Thankfully it wasn't, the resort was a five-minute walk inland, and our faith in the random boat dude was rewarded.
     That was the sort of mindset Josh and I left Thailand with. A couple days later we were back in the comp zone, pulling on standardized speed holds, and trying not to get psyched out. I must admit, I missed the beach climbing life, but I soon experienced some great highlights to ease the culture shock.

     The only thing you ever hear about Singapore is how clean it is. People somehow forget to mention the breathtaking urban architecture. There were awesome buildings left and right, but everything pales in comparison to "The Boat" (Skywalk, which is actually sitting on a hotel) and "the seashell" (the ArtScience museum. Yes, you read that right) in the Marina Bay area.

      There were a lot of malls. And yes, we referred to Sentosa, the resorty area we stayed at to be close to the comp venue, as "Disneyland with the death penalty." But on the flipside Singapore is diverse, culturally rich, and tolerant to the core. Just walking around after US Team Practice we found excellent vegetarian Chinese food and a Buddhist temple.
     Plus, I got to hang out with two of my favorite girls! (Cicada and Michaela)
     They asked the girls to wear sarongs, but aside from that understandable request the place was super welcoming to tourists, which we thought was pretty cool.

Indoor forest at customs. nbd.
     Also, I know this is a bit out of place but I have to give a shout out to the world's best airport (pool on the roof, movie theaters, world-record indoor slide, need I go on?) and the great food of every variety.
If I had to live on a desert island...
     In a flash, the comp was in full swing. Opening ceremonies were the exciting blur they always are, in large part due to the iffy camera lighting. I did manage to lift our flag higher than those of the other countries- a rare feat, since Russia always comes prepared with a telescoping pole- by sitting on Owen Graham's shoulders. It was a special moment for me, and I even got the crowd going a bit, but probably an unpleasant one for him. Then of course I handed it back to Shannon Lockridge and Alex Fritz, its rightful bearers through the ceremony.

    The venue was sick- an overhanging wood wall right on the beach- but they forgot to add rain covers. You know, during monsoon season. This was problematic, but the weather delays usually resulted in something awesome, like this game of ultimate frisbee:
Andy, some Malaysian climbers, and I won the first game

     I was bummed to miss out on a game of cricket that happened while Sport qualifiers was delayed, but oh well. There was even a huge international long-jump contest right there in the sand. We may not speak the same languages, but we all know how to have fun together.
     Soon it was Saturday, and it was my turn to represent my country (not counting the frisbee games earlier in the week). I got there early, warmed up, and then waited for a good six or seven hours before climbing due to slow-moving warm-up runs on the speed wall. Still, as before, the delays turned into a bonding experience, even if we were all a little stressed out.
The speed team, sitting still for longer than anyone can remember. Oh yes, and Sean McColl in the background.

     To our surprise, Ryan Strickland (USA teammate) and I raced each other, just like we had every day in practice! It was Ryan's first Youth Worlds, and he killed it. Unfortunately I didn't meet my goal of making finals, but I achieved a personal best speed time of 9.5 seconds and placed 18th in the Junior category. It felt good to perform my best under lots of pressure, but the most gratifying aspect of youth worlds, as usual, was coming together as a National team with youth climbers from across the United States. It is truly unique in our individual sport to experience that kind of unity, especially with our top competitors, and it is far more powerful than the divisive competitive habits we grow used to. So, if any of my US teammates- or any competitors, really, are reading- remember how much we all have in common and how much more we can achieve by working, climbing, and competing together, instead of just trying to beat each other.
      On that note...Josh and I got interviewed after our climbs by some volunteers with a serious looking camera. Maybe it went up on the live feed, maybe not. We'll probably never know where that footage went, but now I now what it feels like to talk to cameras after a big performance- very difficult. ("I'm really grateful to be here...what was the question again?")
     Chelsea had the great idea of having us race to the island and back for a limited number of free shirts. We all started out with enthusiasm, but our endurance for swimming was quickly depleted and it took all our efforts to simply avoid drowning. It was fun, in retrospect- especially wrestling for the finish line with Josh, five or so others passing us while we struggled to beat each other. Does that sound hypocritical in light of my previous discussion? Eh, whatever, we both got the shirts.
For the last night, I started out in search of artificial wakeboarding (among Sentosa's more interesting attractions) with Brendan, Andy, Josh, Cicada, Michaela, Nicole, and Jacquelyn. I ended up eating the best chicken quesadillas of my life (in Singapore...who knew), meeting up with Alex Fritz and Callie Walter, swimming in multiple hotel pools and the ocean, running from a crazy German guy... and (you expect this by now) bonding with my best buds on team USA. :)

Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome recap, Charlie. Glad you were able to share it! Now let's go climbing outside soon!