Tuesday, June 03, 2014

What is it like to Judge an IFSC Bouldering World Cup?

Ready to judge at the 2014
Toronto IFSC Bouldering
World Cup. Boy do I need a haircut!
This weekend I had the privilege of serving on the judging team for the 2014 Toronto IFSC Bouldering World Cup, held at Gravity Climbing Gym in Hamilton. You can occasionally glimpse me in the footage!

I’ve judged at a number of local Tour de Bloc, Summer Sweatfest, and OCF Youth bouldering competitions, so I’ve got reasonable confidence in my judging ability—but nevertheless leading up to the event I felt nervous.

What if I made a mistake and embarrassed my community? Literally some of the best competition climbers in the world were in attendance. Ideally, you avoid making any obviously wrong calls—yet it can happen that you make the right call, and it still generates a controversy.

The night before, the judging team met with IFSC Jury President Johannes Altner, Head Judge Paul Leday and IFSC Technical Rep Graeme Alderson. We reviewed the rules and format for the event, and the expectations for our performance. Every bouldering problem had 2 judges, so there was always a second pair of eyes watching each competitor in case the first person missed something.

My official Judge’s badge: I’m legit!

I was assigned to judge Men’s 2 during the qualifiers and Men’s 1 for the semi-finals. It was thrilling to be able to witness some of the world’s elite climbers working on a problem right in front of me.

Technically as officials we’re not supposed to cheer for the athletes, but it was kind of difficult not to feel the enthusiasm of the raucous crowd watching behind me.

Rustam Gelmanov shows his mettle: an anecdote
Part of the reward for serving as a judge is that you get an up close view of the athletes. Allow me to digress briefly:

Rustam Gelmanov eyes
Semi Finals Problem 1
I got a peek into the mental resilience of Rustam Gelmanov from Russia, during the semi-finals round. I’ve always been astonished by his ability; his climbing often features totally different movements that are enabled by his incredible strength.

However, for whatever reason he was shut down by the first problem, which I was judging. Every other semi-finalist was able to make at least the bonus hold, so I could hardly believe my eyes when Gelmanov kept trying and failing to make the first move on it.

I could tell he was frustrated. A lot of people would be thrown off by this initial defeat, and would have a disastrous performance after. Not being able to complete the first problem put huge pressure on him.

And yet — what did he do next? He reeled off tops on the three remaining semi-final problems, and proceeded to Finals. Truly impressive, and perhaps something to learn from for my own climbing.

No serious incidents; one appeal
As it turned out, my problems were easy to officiate — clear starts, straightforward bonus holds, and we didn’t experience any time-completion issues.

On Semi-Finals Women’s 4, my fellow arbiter Rolly Magno made a call that was appealed—the outcome of which would have affected who made it into Finals.

Rolly ruled that Anna Stöhr—last year’s defending World Cup bouldering champion—had not achieved the bonus on the problem. The Austrian team appealed that decision, and upon video review, lost.  The appeal is mentioned right at the end of the semi-finals commentary.

Defending Champion Anna Stöhr prepares to climb

Watch Stöhr’s attempt and assess it for yourself. She touches the bonus, but does not control it. Per the IFSC rules,
The Bonus Hold shall be considered as “controlled” where a competitor has made use of the hold to achieve a stable or controlled position.
If Stöhr had achieved the bonus, she would have made it into Finals. As it turned out she didn’t, and so 16 year-old Julija Kruder from Slovenia got to compete in her first ever World Cup Final. And Rolly was fairly pleased with himself.

A memorable show
It was fantastic to see so many top-level boulderers in person. Shauna Coxsey! Sean McColl! Juliane Wurm! Alex Puccio! Jan Hojer! Rustam Gelmanov! Kilian Fischhuber! etc.

Congratulations to Akiyo Noguchi and Guillaume Glairon Mondet on their hard-earned victories (and to Sean McColl for his bronze medal finish).

I hope that they enjoyed their time here and will return to compete again.

It was also so exciting and filled us with pride to witness the Canadian team climbing with everything they had. You guys are amazing! Lucas Uchida, we’re watching you...

Thanks very much to Lorraine Winger, the Volunteer Coordinator; Luigi Montilla, the Bouldering Canada Director; and Julia Bonnell. I sincerely appreciated this opportunity to participate. Organizing and executing a complex event at this level and scope requires enormous effort and skill; everyone involved should be pleased with the outcome.

Thanks to Gravity, my fellow volunteers, and the event sponsors. And thanks to all the climbers for putting on such a memorable show!

Results & Video
Full results: Women | Men. Gripped recap.

Semi-Finals: (climbing starts about 9 minutes in)


Finals (climbing starts about 30 minutes in):


Bonus: Chief Routesetter Chris Danielson discusses the Finals problems

Other Climbing Posts I’ve written
IFSC Bouldering World Cup in Hamilton a success (recap from last year)
Why is Tree Climbing Illegal in Toronto?
The Secret Life of Iyma Lamarche, Rock Climber
Hurrah For The Ontario Access Coalition
Interview with Rock Oasis' Founder and President