World Youth Champion!

From September 1st to September 5th I competed in the World Youth Championship in Arco, Italy. My last youth competition.
Every time I had been to a World Championship I was fully prepared. But every time something special had happened and I had never been able to win. So this year… I knew that there was still one chance left for me to become world champion as a Junior. But of course, I was not the only one with this hope since many of my peers are strong and experienced climbers.
I am blessed to be born in the year 1996, a year with several top climbers. It has always been difficult to win youth competitions, but that has motivated me to keep training hard and has taught me a lot even before I started doing worldcups.

While being in Arco, I could feel the pressure increasing. With only one route to climb every day and a rest day in between, the competition was spread over 5 days… a lot of time to think, worry and wonder. As the day of the finals came near, the load of uncertainty became too heavy for me. I was trying to control everything. But thankfully, I could give it over to the almighty God. Because only He knew what was going to happen and what the final result would be. And only His will for me would happen, whether that was a 1st or a 2nd or any other place.

I passed the qualification round with 2 tops and also reached the top in the semifinal – along with 2 other girls. Then the finals started…

After the observation of the final route nobody seemed certain about the roof section. Did we have to turn around there or not? Most other movements looked fairly logical. My goal was to top the route and surely to not give up.
And then I started climbing my last ‘youth-route’. Somewhere in the middle of the route, just before the roof, there were 2 big round holds. As I reached for the first one, I realized that it was extremely flat. I hesitated a little, but then concluded that there was no other way than to match the hold with my other hand. So this I did, determined not to let go. I reached for the next one, which had a little line for the fingers carved into it and, phew, made it past this point.
The roof was less complicated as it looked and the holds were better than in the previous part. When I came out of the overhang, I could hear the crowd and my teammates screaming, but I had no idea what I had to do. In the isolation I had heard the people cheering the other girls so loudly, that I thought they had possibly topped out.
I was more tired there than I had hoped, but since I wanted to give everything I had, there was no way I was going to let go. So, I held on to a grey volume, felt that there was a hold on top, moved my hand towards it, made another move, tried to do the next one and fell.
It seemed like I had climbed well, but I wasn’t quite sure whether it was enough for a first place. But when I saw all the smiling faces in front of me and all those thumbs pointing up, there was no doubt anymore… I had won!

This was such a great gift and a beautiful way to end my time in youth climbing. Now the mental battle was over and I could just enjoy. 🙂

Podium Anak Verhoeven World Championships 2015

Congratulations to Harold Peeters who took the silver medal in Youth B! Together the Belgians collected these places in both Lead and Boulder: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 -5  and 6!

Later that evening I also participated in the Duel competition of the Rock Master event. It was a fun competition, even though the route was probably too hard to be climbed in speed modus, especially for the girls. There was a jump in the beginning and a hard move with a super flat hold further on, so part of the girls were eliminated because they fell (which is not the goal in speed-lead climbing). So when I became 3rd, I was really thankful.

I would like to thank everyone who encouraged me and cheered me on during this competition: my parents, teammates, coaches and friends… And especially the people from my climbing gym in Puurs who came to the airport especially to welcome the Belgian team!

Please take a look at my friend’s website to see the surprise she had made for me when I came home.

 

Stavanger in Norway

The first time a climbing worldcup was held in Scandinavia!
I am thankful for a good competition with tops in the qualification and the semifinal routes and a 3rd place as the final result. 🙂

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World Cup in Imst

This year’s worldcup in Imst has unfortunately been a dissapointment for me.
I had climbed well in the qualifications and I was tied in  2nd place after the semi final. But in the final my foot slipped and I fell very early in the route, so I ended up 8th. That’s a nightmare for competition climbers. But I put my trust in God, because He only knows why things happen the way they do. So I will continue with good courage. 🙂

 

World Cups in Chamonix and Briançon

For my family July always means celebrating birthdays, but this year it also meant the start of a new lead world cup season.

The first worldcup was held in Chamonix and counted as the European Championship as well. Just as the previous years, my father’s birthday was on a competition day. So I hoped to make him a nice present by climbing well.
In the first qualification route my foot slipped off a foothold. In a reflex I tried grabbing something in order not to fall, but what I took was not a hold, but a quickdraw. So… I had to let go. Thankfully I was already quite high up when I slipped. So after a tough second route, I was qualified for the  semis.
The next morning I climbed the semi final. In the beginning of that route I was close to falling. I made a move to a big hold, but I didn’t take it far enough. Thankfully I could correct it, and managed to reach the last part of the wall. I fell a few moves from the top. Many climbers reached the top part of the route, so when I heard that I was in the finals, I was really thankful and relieved.
In the semi final route I had made a high heelhook. When I put all my weight on it, I heard a little ‘crack’ in my left knee.
After a long afternoon rest, my parents and I headed back to the wall for the finals that night. While warming up I had a very painful knee, but I did my best to do what I could. In the final route I tried not to give up and fight as hard as I could. I finally became 4th. Congrats to my friend Jessi for taking the bronze and to Janja for her amazing performance and silver medal! 🙂

The first 2 days after the competition were filled with training in the gym and after that we drove on to the next competition city: Briançon. Just before the competition we had a relaxing day at one of my favourite places in France. A beautiful little lake which is perfect for swimming, camping and making campfires. A little holiday in between 2 not-so-relaxing weekends. 😉

In Briançon I topped both qualification routes. The semis were climbed that same evening, so after a few nap-shower-meal hours, I prepared myself for another route. As I was standing behind wall I suddenly thought: ‘Wipe off your heels’. I normally only do that just before climbing, but I did it anyway and then I noticed that the soles of both my climbing shoes were completely wet, even though I was wearing socks over them. Oh no. The carpet I was standing on was soaked because of the rain. I didn’t want to slip off very early, so I asked for my backback with spare shoes. When I got it, I hurried to put on change my shoes and then, phew, I was ready to climb.
After the first vertical part and the roof I managed to do a hard move. Then I hesitated about how to take a hold. When I finally managed to take it with my right hand and then match with left, I couldn’t put my left foot higher anymore and I fell. I was quite sure that it wasn’t enough for the final. But then I met Nikki from the Netherlands on the square who told me that I still was in the final. I almost couldn’t believe my ears! That night I went to bed very late, but I was oh so thankful for another final. 🙂
The presentation of the finalists the next evening was unique and very funny: they let us walk through the public, who were seated all over the big square in front of the wall. Quickly after the observation it was my turn to climb.
I was glad that I managed to do the tricky moves on the last vertical part of the wall. There were lots of small holds and I began feeling pumped. When I wanted to take a hold on a volume, I didn’t take it far enough and I fell.
After a few climbers, I realized that I was on the podium! I became 3rd, with Jessica 2nd, and Jain 1st. 🙂
Delaney from the USA had to stop right in beginning of the route, because she had skipped a quickdraw. 🙁 And Mina couldn’t compete in the final round because she had injured her heel during warming up for the semis. Competitions climbing can be really tough…

European Youth Championship 2015

In Edinburgh!

I vividly remember the first time I competed in the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena in 2010. Back then, I was one of the youngest girls watching the Juniors who seemed so much older and way more experienced than I. And this year I already belong to the oldest athletes myself!

The Belgian Youth Climbing Team!

Saturday – Qualifications and Semifinal

I topped both qualification routes, but in the second one I made a little mistake…  Because the routes were quite slabby and technical, I had to climb more slowly and precisely than in overhanging routes. So before I started, I reminded myself that I had to be careful not to run out of time. But while climbing, I completely forgot to pay attention to my watch and steadily made my way up – too slowly. When I suddenly realised that I only had 6 minutes, I speeded up and rushed on to get as high as possible within the remaining time. I took the last hold, clipped the quickdraw and let go. When I came down, the judge showed me his stopwatch: 6 minutes and 1 second! As we only have 6 minutes to climb a qualification route, I didn’t get my TOP. I was a little disappointed with myself, but I had to focus on what was coming next: the semifinals that evening. The semifinal route was an overhanging one which I topped along with 4 other girls. That meant that this 1 second still counted and I was placed 3rd on the provisional ranking.

1 second…

The next morning all finalists returned to the climbing hall to climb their final route. Ours was a pink one in the middle of the overhang. As I climbed, the movements felt quite difficult and surely harder than those of the semifinal. But I was able to top out and clip the chain again! 🙂 Jessica and Salomé were both ranked first and I knew that they were capable of topping as well. Unfortunately one move was extremely far for Salomé who is a lot smaller than most other girls. She still managed to do it and climb on, but it had cost her so much power that she couldn’t top out anymore. Jessica did manage to top the route and she became 1st. Congrats to Jessi for her strong performance and to Julia Fiser for taking the bronze!

I had hoped that my 1 second wouldn’t make a difference, but eventually it did… How a small amount of time can have such big consequences! 😉

Jessi, Julia and me on the podium

Jessi, Julia and me on the podium (photo: Tijl Smitz)

 

MAD in France 2015!

Half a year ago I had been asked to come and participate in a christian youth congres in Valence, in the south of France. And what an awesome time I’ve had during those 3 days!

MAD in France is held during the turn of the year and about 1000 youngsters from all over France gather to celebrate New Year’s Eve in a safe and alcohol free setting.
But more importantly, it’s a chance for them to hear about God’s love for everyone of us. About how we are all lost and seperated from Him due to our sin and how Jesus came to this earth to die in our place. And it’s a chance to make the biggest decision of your life: following the One who loves you more than anyone else and surrendering to Him who is perfect and wants the best for you.

It was just a huge privilege for me to be able to go there and I was super excited when I jumped on the express train from Brussels to Valence. On my own! It was my first time ever being at such a big youth event and I already got to see everything happen behind the scenes! I stayed with a French family who were so kind to me that I immediately felt at home. The Richard family: Sébastien and Bélinda with their 2 sons Samuel and Jonathan (6 and 7). They organise adventure camps with canyoning and rock climbing and started Vertical Horizon. Their house was beautiful and situated in a French dream village, just like the ones I have always admired. And of course I was submerged into the French language (and food, yum!) and forced to speak it every day, which was exactly what I had been dreaming of since a long time. Wonderful.

It was Sébastien who had asked me to come and do a workshop about extreme sports and faith. It was extremely encouraging for me to meet other christians, especially other athletes and to be able to tell about my climbing and competitions and how Jesus takes the highest place in my life. I really enjoyed meeting other young and enthusiastic people who speak another language, but have put their lives into the hands of the same almighty God.

And it took place in Valence, so yes… in the exact same building as the worldcup last year! Amazing to be on the same spot again and remembering all that had happened there.
Sébastien and I also participated in the opening show with a giant swing over the public. I just loved doing that! And I also got to do a demonstration on the climbing wall during the show on the 31st of December. It was just lovely.

Thanks to the organisers for making such a great event happen and to Sébastien and Bélinda for their warm hospitality during my stay!

Pictures by Sébastien Richard.

 

The last competition of a long season

Kranj in Slovenia!

It was quite hard to end the season with a dissapointment. After the qualifications I was sure that my body was ill and it was a big mental fight to climb the semis the same evening. I almost couldn’t believe that I still made it to the finals!

I had a lot of time to rest since the finals were only the next evening. I hoped that my body would be recovered by then, but it was not the case. I still felt weak and I had lots of difficulty warming up in isolation. It was as if I was living in another body which did not have the strength to perform. I had never felt like this during a competition before, but I had no choice and I did my best to do what I could. I fell quite early in the final route and I became 7th, but I am happy that I was still able to climb the finals although I felt really bad. Already before this last competition my body was feeling different and during trainings I never felt really strong. After a bloodtest I now know that I was ill indeed and that I had an infection on my lungs. It’s time to rest! 🙂

It has been a long season with joy, pain, smiles and tears. I have loved the contact with the other athletes and the border-crossing friendships where nationalities don’t matter anymore. I would like to thank my parents for all their support and mental coaching and all those lovely people who cheered me on during the season.

Imst 2014 (Heiner Schmidl) 2