Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Paris World Championships

I really thought I'd already blogged about this- oops! I hope my hordes of dedicated readers aren't too upset with me.

Paris is a city best experienced first-hand. With a baguette in the other hand. If you've been, it shouldn't be too much of a surprise to you that the food was the highlight of my trip. It was very difficult to stay away from those chocolate croissants until I was done competing, but because I didn't make it past qualifiers, my dilemma was short-lived and I was quickly consuming pastries to my heart's content.
Creds to Rachel Schwartz for kick-ass restaurant recommendations. Chez Omar, above, was unreal.

Even when we ate at the apartment, I could still get excited about the CHEESE
Also, I have this weird habit of napping excessively frequently in Paris. It's just something about the city, I guess.

Oh yeah, and I also represented the United States for speed climbing. As awesome as that necessarily was, there are a few reasons that this, the reason I traveled to Paris, was ultimately not the highlight of my experience there (which should help explain why I'm writing this halfway into the post).

Stepping up for my first qualifier run

Here's what I took from the experience. I executed well, given my level of preparation, and that felt good. Shockingly, I actually managed to beat Sean McColl, one of my heroes and a former world champion in the speed climbing event. However, this success, along with the ridiculously low cutoff times for the final round (below seven seconds!) drove home a message that wasn't what I expected to learn from the comp, and it wasn't the happiest one. The lesson was simple: if I want to succeed in speed climbing, I will need to specialize. The day of the generalist competitor is over. None of the speed climbers in finals were a threat in the other events, and vice-versa.

As sobering as this realization was for me, I still had a great time with the Speed Team and we managed to laugh off our collective destruction by the professional speed climbers we were up against.

Julian, Ahmed, and I waiting out the speed delays

Julian, Dominic, and I ("The Dream Team") celebrating our 36 through 38th sweep.
Even if the professionalization of the speed event was unnerving, it was part of a broader trend the competition spelled out in bold terms: this sport is getting awesome. Watching finals was like a dream come true, and not just for the quality of the climbing. The crowd filled a stadium larger than the Staples center. Even the live feed was awesome (ok, I did a little watching from the apartment, I admit), and the commentators are professional quality. They even use those drawing tools now, the ones that football analysts always play with! And the Olympic Committee was there to see it all firsthand.

Just seeing climbing on TV's made me so happy.
For anyone denying that climbing is a spectator sport, I have 19,000 fans here who would say otherwise
As inspiring as it was to see my sport growing before my eyes, that source of inspiration paled in comparison to the paraclimbing events. I saw a Brazilian athlete with cerebral palsy fight his way up a forty-five degree overhang, a British woman lifted out of a wheelchair to battle it out on the same route, and a blind Japanese man nearly send it. As climbers, we often make flimsy excuses for ourselves to forgive our own shortcomings in climbing: "I'm too short for this route," "that move was too scrunchy," or, my personal favorite, "my shoulder hurts." These men and women had real excuses. But they kept climbing, kept training, and overcame greater challenges just to get on the wall than I've ever been faced with, in climbing or in life. It was enough to make me feel guilty to be able to just get up and climb without thinking about it. But I believe that being grateful is more productive than feeling guilty, so I adopted a new mantra: No more excuses, ever. Craig DeMartino was the only American athlete to medal in Paris, and he did it with an amputated leg. Let's follow his example.

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