Sure footing is needed for every sport, but especially this next one, as CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.
Like spiders, athletes inch their way up huge walls in downtown Denver. Welcome to the Ice Climbing World Cup finals, the first of its kind in a major U.S. city.
Ice climbing is catching on these days, those involved with the sport tell us.
“It’s got height, it’s got gymnastics, it’s got extreme athleticism,” said Dirk Tyler, a judge at the two-day event that drew 70 competitors from 16 countries. Each used spiked boots and ice tools to scamper up man-made, ice-free walls (this is an urban environment after all), hitting eight targets along the way.
“All of these climbers here they can make these moves but in this case you have to be really fast and make these moves as efficient as possible,” said Dennis Van Hoek, a competitor from The Netherlands.
The event featured two different competitions: speed, who gets to the top fastest, and lead, a much more technical exercise in which athletes have four minutes to complete their routes. That takes supreme conditioning.
“Strength and endurance are the primary components,” Tyler said. “Core strength, arm strength.”
“You have to find that balance,” said Gordon McArthur, a climber from Canada. “You know, there’s a line in the middle of speed and technical and you can’t lean one way or the other too much or you make mistakes.”
“Speed is just this pure vertical wonderful sprint,” said Kendra Stritch, U.S. Team Manager and competitor.
“The really good athletes can do 13 meters,” Tyler said. “The men can do it in six seconds, the women eight seconds.”
The American Alpine Club is trying to get more people hooked on ice climbing, which is often done on rugged ice formations in nature.
“We’re really out there promoting it and pushing it and we’re running lots of local competitions and so then more people try it out and they love it,” Stritch said.
It’s big in Europe and Asia. China hosted a recent tour stop.
“They love this sport and they have a big passion and heart for the sport,” McArthur, who competed recently in China, said. “So it’s cool to see them dive in headfirst and give it 100%.”
Ice climbing also appeals to fans.
“I like the way all the teams just got behind each other, that’s really cool,” said one spectator from Ireland. “But some of the moves just look insane. Yeah, it’s a great spectator sport.”
Russian athletes won three of the four events here. The U.S., lacking permanent man-made structures on which to train, still has a ways to go.
“Almost of all these athletes from America are training on small backyard climbing walls,” Tyler pointed out.
But they’re dreaming big in this sport. Climbing has been added to the 2020 Summer Olympics. Ice climbing may not be far behind.
“We would love to,” Stritch said. “We’re pushing for it.”
Added McArthur: “We’ll get there one day.”