Preview – World Youth Championships 2016

The World Youth Championships is about to begin in Guangzhou, China, head coach Will Hammersla gives us a preview

On 4 November the best young, strong and hungry competition climbers from across Australia will board a plane for Guangzhou, China, to take part in one of the biggest climbing competitions on the IFSC calendar – the World Youth Championships. Coming off the back of what was an amazing World Championships in Paris, expectations for the event are sky high.

Last year’s World Youth Championships was the largest in history, with more than 1000 young climbers congregating under the arching competition walls of the Arco Rock Masters, one of the most iconic climbing locations in Italy.

Rosalyn Blake climbing at Boulderwelt as part of the Australian 2015 team. Image: SCA collection

Rosalyn Blake climbing at Boulderwelt as part of the Australian 2015 team. Image: SCA collection

Arco’s event organisers really showed their experience in running the first World Youth Championship to include three disciplines – Lead, Speed and Boulder – and pulling it off without a visible hitch. Arco has set the bar high for the Chinese organisers this year.

The quaint little streets of Arco buzzed for ten days as the strong youth of the world gorged themselves on gelato and pizza in between competing fiercely. The atmosphere was electric in spite of rainy conditions, and the event had the added benefit that after the main youth competition some of the biggest names in world climbing duelled it out for the Arco Rock Masters. Climbers such as Shaun McColl, Adam Ondra, Akiyo Noguchi all received hero worship from the young, hungry crowd who all dream of one day being in their place.


The stage for the 2015 World Youth Championships, Arco, Italy. Image: SCA collection

The Chinese-held event will continue the tri-discipline format comprising Lead, Speed and Boulder, a format that pushes the event out to eight days of competition beginning on 7 November.

Our team is strongly represented in the Boulder and Lead, with 11 Aussies in Bouldering and 13 in Lead, and five athletes qualifying for dual disciplines (Lead and Boulder), including Campbell Harrison, Alistair Earley, Roxy Perry, Riley Thurstans and Oceana Mackenzie. Two athletes – Campbell and Oceana – have opted to also compete in Speed, this is despite Australia remaining one of the few major nations without an official Speed wall on which athletes can train. This decision to shoot for an overall ranking is a strategic step in the direction of realising Olympic hopes, where it looks as if athletes at Tokyo 2020 will need to compete in all three disciplines.

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Oceania Mackenzie cutting up the shapes at Urban Climb in 2016. Image: SCA collection

It is a very exciting time to be part of competition climbing in Australia as standards rise and participation increases, giving climbers more opportunity to develop the skills needed to perform in competition. We have just held a training camp in lead up to the Youth Championships, spending a week in sunny Queensland to help prepare our athletes for the world of elite level climbing. We ran multiple mock competitions to prepare the athletes as much as possible and conducted performance reviews to help iron out any wrinkles before hitting the big stage. Performance against World Class competition requires solid preparation.

International competition is notoriously tough and this is equally true for youth events. Many youth athletes have taken podium places during the open international competition season, including the likes of Janja Gambret (multiple World Cup winner) and international climbing superstar Ashima Shiraishi. The exceptionally high standard of competition will put our young athletes to the test and we are hopeful that they will rise to the challenge and be rewarded for all of their hard work.

Support from back home is really important for the team. I, along with the other members of management (Kim and Yvette), will do our best to keep everyone in Australia up to date with the progress of the team, that said China makes it notoriously difficult to update social media. You can follow us as we prepare and then as the athletes compete through our Facebook page and Instagram feed.

Go Aussies!

Will Hammersla was born in America and has been climbing for nearly 20 years, beginning in the indoor gyms of England before coming to Australia. He is the head coach of the Australian team.

To read our in-depth analysis of what climbing’s inclusion in the Olympics might mean, check out our three-piece article beginning here.


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