Tiffany Melius reports on the 2017 Oceania Sport Climbing Championships
On 12–15 October, a team of almost 40 Aussies competed in the Oceania Continental Climbing Championships in Nouméa, New Caledonia. A French Territory in the South Pacific, New Caledonia is known for its beaches, snorkelling, and native Kanak culture.
The majority of the team were youth competitors, with only four non-youth women competing in the Open category, and no non-youth men. Campbell Harrison, the previous men’s Oceania Champion, was notably absent due to him competing in the Lead World Cup in Xiamen, China on the same weekend. The team was made up of three Tasmanians, ten from NSW, 12 from Victoria, one Western Australian, two from the ACT and nine Queenslanders.
The ‘Structure Artificielle d’Escalade’ is situated in the Magenta area of Nouméa, and consists of a bouldering area with 350 square metres of bouldering with a diverse range of angles and features, a 16m lead wall, and an IFSC-certified speed wall.
Day one was epic, with the Youth A category battling it out for the chance to attend the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires. Completing both qualifier and final rounds in all three disciplines in one day, the new combined event is designed to start preparing competitors for the Olympic format which requires mastery of all three disciplines.
Australia’s Annabelle Cleary and Lilly Magditsch placed second and third respectively in the female category, with the top place being taken by New Zealand’s Sarah Tetzlaff. Australia placed first and second in the male category with Ned Middlehurst and Sam Lavender in the top two spots, with New Caledonian Marceau Garnier coming in third.
Day two saw Youth B boulder qualifications in the morning, the Youth speed competition in the middle of the day, and Youth A, Junior, and Open boulder qualifications in the evening. Boulder qualifications were in an unexpected format, with eight problems for each category and no bonus holds – meaning that only tops counted. A more social and strategic format, competitors were able to watch their peers, learn beta, and support each other from within the competition zone.
In Youth B speed, Australia took the top spot in both male and female thanks to Matthew Austin and Oceana Mackenzie – both clocking up 12 second runs. Xanthea Vazey (AUS) and Emma Larthomas (NC), and Tomy Papin and Sacha Lehmann (both NC) rounded out the podium positions in Youth B. In the Youth A female speed New Zealand’s Sarah Tetzlaff again out-performed her Aussie counterparts, with Alana Frankland and Annabelle Cleary coming in second and third. Marceau Garnier and Elliot Caillet from New Caledonia took first and second in the Youth A male, with Australia’s Riley Thurstans placing third. Junior male speed was also taken out by a New Caledonian, Yann Leclerc de Lannoy, who posted the fastest time of the Championships with a 7.34 second qualification run. Australian Ethan Jordan placed second with New Zealander Samuel Munday third. There were only two competitors in the Junior female category – Lucy Whitehead of New Zealand beat Loan Maillard of New Caledonia.
Lead qualifications for all categories took place in the morning of day three, with Open Boulder finals in the afternoon, and the Open Speed competition in the evening. In the Open boulder finals, reigning Australian National Bouldering Champion Tiffany Melius was able to take the women’s top spot for Australia, with fellow Aussie Lucy Stirling taking second, and New Zealand’s Erica Gatland rounding out the top three. Australia also placed first and second in the men’s, with Youth A competitors Sam Lavender and Riley Thurstans triumphing over New Zealand’s George Sanders.
In the Open speed competition New Caledonia dominated, taking the whole podium in the men’s with eight second runs by Yann Leclerc de Lannoy, Marceau Garnier, and Raphael Serrecombe, and winning the women’s competition (Loan Maillard, NC) over Tiffany Melius in second and Lucy Stirling in third.
The final day of the competition saw Lucy Stirling top her final route to take out the Open female lead title and retain her Oceania Lead Champion title from 2015, with an all-Aussie podium rounded out by Roxy Perry in second, and Tiffany Melius in third. The Open male podium was split across three countries with George Sanders from New Zealand in first, Riley Thurstens from Australia in second, and Jacques Larthomas from New Caledonia in third.
Youth boulder finals followed and Australia again took full podiums with Jun Park, Angus Simpson, and Finn McCallum-Packham taking the top spots in the Youth B male competition, and Oceana Mackenzie, Madison Mulligan, and Leah Jeffries doing it for the ladies. Youth A female saw Sarah Tetzlaff again taking the top spot, with Lilly Magditsch from Australia in second and Clelie Leroux from New Caledonia in third. Ned Middlehurst, Alexander Cvetkovski, and Riley Thurstans secured yet another green and gold podium sweep in Youth A male. Junior male went to Oliver Soar (NZ) in first, Nathan Bartlett (AUS) in second, and Samuel Munday (NZ) in third. Junior female was a New Zealand sweep for Lucy Whitehead, Alicia Chan, and Tessa Steel.
The last event of the competition was the Youth lead finals. An evening event, the wall was lit from below with floodlights, the crowd spreading across the sports fields to cheer and clap – the battle for the final podium places was on! A clear balmy night with a slight chill in the breeze was the perfect backdrop for hard-fought victories, and heart-breaking falls.
Junior male was won by Ethan Jordan from Australia, with his teammate Nathan Bartlett in second, and Patrick Soulier from New Caledonia in third. The Junior female competition was won by Australian Sarah McKenzie, with Lucy Whitehead and Alicia Chan from New Zealand rounding out the medal spots. Clelie Leroux from New Caledonia won the Youth A female competition, with Gina Sao from Australia and Sarah Tetzlaff from New Zealand as runners up. Ned Middlehurst again took the top spot in the Youth A male, with Sam Lavender (AUS) and Marceau Garnier (NC) not far behind. The Youth B female competition duplicated the boulder results – again being won by Oceana Mackenzie, followed by Madison Mulligan and Leah Jeffries, all of Australia. The Youth B male category saw a battle at the top of the wall with some incredible climbing by Angus Simpson and Finn McCallum-Packham from Australia, them taking the top two spots, and Sacha Lehmann from New Caledonia in third.
The awards ceremony was well-attended, with the audience witness to Australian podium dominance. Of 26 national anthems played, 13 of those were Advance Australia Fair. We took five full sweeps of the podium, and collected many more silver and bronze medals as well.
The next time we return to this Continental Championship, in 2019, it will likely be a qualifying competition for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. You can bet that competition will be fierce. Competitors have just two years to hone their skills to try to secure the single male or female spot assigned to the Oceania region.
Many thanks to Australian team coaches Will Hammersla and Kim Kamo, all the routesetters (especially Carlie LeBreton and Romain Thevenot from Australia), Sport Climbing Australia, Oceania Council for Sport Climbing, Structure Artificielle d’Escalade, Fédération Française de la Montagne et de l’Escalade, Climbing New Zealand, and the International Federation of Sport Climbing; and to all the volunteers, competitors, parents, and supporters of our incredible sport – it wouldn’t be possible without you and your passion!
Read Tiffany’s first-person blog on the Championships here.
You can watch recordings of the livestreams of all rounds on the Escalade NC YouTube page here.