Monday, 25 July 2016

2016 IFSC Lead World Cup Chamonix – A Turning Point

When you’re a big fish in a small pond the transition to becoming that same fish in an entire ocean is by no means easy. It’s a physical, mental and emotional battle, and can be a very humbling experience to say the least. It is a test of character, passion and your ability to pick yourself up after failure, learn from your mistakes and to have the maturity to accept that ‘no true success comes without failure.’ That saying is easy enough to understand, but the very meaning of it signifies that actually going through that failure is easier said than done.

Failure itself can make or break anybody. It would be so easy to quit when you’re the only one pushing yourself to begin with… To just throw the towel in and say “I’m just not good enough for this.” But I believe that true success is understanding that failure is actually just a stepping stone from which you can learn and become stronger. The more ‘failures’ we pick ourselves up and learn from, the stronger we actually become. These past few days over the course of my first Lead World Cup for 2016 in Chamonix, France have certainly been a test of my maturity to overcome such ‘failure.’ I can say with all honesty that to begin with I wasn’t very mature about it at all...

Chamonix IFSC Lead World Cup 2016 Qualifiers - Photo by Campbell Harrison 
I went into the Chamonix comp this year with the same nervousness as if it was my first ever World Cup again. Without meaning to, I had built a massive cloud over my head full of intimidation, self-doubt, lack of self-confidence along with very high personal expectations and pressure. I could somewhat sense the cloud’s presence but didn’t do a good job at all of removing it. Instead, I tried to force myself to relax for the climbs ahead without changing my mental approach. How can one possibly relax when an ominous cloud looms above, making you question whether you deserve to be there, whether you’re at the right level to compete or even just strong enough to do the moves? Hindering questions begin to pop into my head like; “What happens if I fall off too low and embarrass not only myself, but my country?” I’m not entirely sure how I’d managed to develop such a horrible storm of self-doubt, but as I climbed my first qualifier climb at the Chamonix Lead World Cup, the first comp in the Lead World Cup circuit, that storm of doubt did nothing but rain on me. Every move was hesitant, every hold was over-gripped, every breath was swallowed and before I knew it I was off the wall.
Chamonix IFSC Lead World Cup 2016 Qualifiers - Photo by Campbell Harrison 
Initially I was incredibly upset with how I had climbed and my first thought was that I was just not good enough to do the climb. The initial shock of it all took a little while to wear off and for the feelings to mull over before I could gain some clarity and perspective. By the time my second qualifier had come around, I managed to let go of my ego-driven expectations and embraced a ‘nothing to lose’ mindset. I also now had a point to prove to myself that I was worthy of the climb and had the strength to do it. I took a moment just before I hopped on the wall to close my eyes and just picture myself at training, where no pressure or expectations exist… just myself and the wall. I began the climb so much better on that second qualifier, but there was still a lingering cloud above my head with a touch of disappointment added to the mixture. As I climbed and approached a big intimidating move, I had a momentary lapse of doubt and hesitated, almost making all the same mistakes as I had done on the first qualifier. I’m quite proud to say that in that moment however, I managed to pull myself together, take a deep breath, relax and clear my head. I committed to the move completely and believed in my ability to do it. I kept going and managed to do a lot better than quali 1, but I knew deep down I still could’ve done a heck of a lot better. I just had to believe in myself... I know it sounds ridiculously corny but I honestly just had to truly believe in my ability to do the moves and fully commit with no hesitation or self-doubt.

Even after the comp was finished for me the initial feelings of disappointment still took a little while to wear off. However, by the next day the cloud had finally cleared and I was ready to make a fresh start. We decided to head to the gym in Les Houches and I was sick of the self-pity I had been mulling over since the qualification round the day before… I knew I was better than that. I evaluated my weakness and concentrated on what needed to be done. I decided the whole climbing session would be focused on committing to moves completely, getting on the routes I had previously thought too difficult and believing in my strength to pull every single move. I was incredibly excited to immediately see a massive improvement in my climbing and began to recognise the strength I forgot I had, just waiting to be used.
Chamonix IFSC Lead World Cup 2016 Qualifiers - Photo by Sytse Van Slooten
Changing my attitude and mental approach to climbing such elite level routes amongst World Class athletes is going to be a massive turning point and learning curve in my climbing and competition performance. The most important thing I’ve learnt from my first World Cup of 2016 in Chamonix is to stop comparing myself to other competitors. Yes, the routes and the climbers can be intimidating – they’re the best in the world… But I can use this to inspire myself to push harder, learn from my mistakes and recognise that I am there for a reason, I deserve to be there and compete with the top climbers in the world. I am competition. Once I had let go of those hindering thoughts and expectations and climbed my own climb with purpose, determination and just enjoyed the climb, I amazed myself with what I could do.

I cannot wait for the next competitions and the long, exciting journey ahead of me. 

2 comments:

  1. 2016 IFSC Lead World Cup Chamonix finale was so much exciting. At the point of trust,the game has turned into the nail biting match.The results were totally unpredictable.

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