La Sportiva Legends Only 2012 – My 2 cents

The last competition of the year was an interesting event to watch (if you didn’t have the chance to watch it live you can catch up here). 5 really hard problems for 5 really good boulderers.

Overall I liked the competition but I can’t help but thinking that had it been an on-sight competition I would have been way better.

One of the aspects of bouldering competitions that I enjoy the most is watching the athletes struggle to figure out how to solve the problems. I’m talking not only about physical struggle (we had plenty of that in La Sportiva Legends Only) but about mental, puzzle-solving struggle.

Pictures taken from the live stream (http://www.svtplay.se/video/793904/legends-only)

Take for instance problem #2. It started with a double (and a half) dyno to triangular volumes. The head route setter says that in the practice period “the climbers were slamming into the ground all over the place”. But on the comp everyone flashed it. Everyone solved it with almost identical movements (there were minor differences due mainly to their different heights).

In a Bouldering World Cup is easy to find similar problems. Low-percentage moves, compression on volumes, not much to really grab. Those problems are great to watch because you get to see great climbers failing. They spend time and attempts to get to know the right sequence and to execute it properly. Sometimes it feels like the route setters screwed-up and the problem is simply impossible. Others it seems the climber is just incapable of doing certain moves (or even to figure out which moves need to be performed). Suddenly everything clicks and the guy stucks the dyno. Or crosses instead of matching. Or finds a toe-hook. Suddenly what seemed impossible looks doable or even easy.

You cheer, applaud and nod.

Then Herr Fischhuber comes out and flashes the thing.

And it blows your mind.

That struggle, that surprise factor, that unknown difficulty was missing. They knew all the secrets, they just had to execute. Obviously the execution part wasn’t easy. They fell many times. But it was pure mechanical failure. It ins’t surprising that it all came down to McColl vs. Sharafutdinov. Those two were the fittest, the strongest. That shouldn’t be what decides a bouldering comp.

I’m aware that other factors come into play. Psychological pressure mainly. I’m also aware that the last Bouldering World Cup (Munich) also came down to McColl vs. Sharafutdinov (and in Paris they were close too). And I surely know that Sharafutdinov has been World Champion 3 times (he must now a thing or two about figuring out sequences).

All I’m saying is that with the “rehearsed problems” format the audience misses the “figuring-out” process and that the ability to figure out solutions quickly and efficiently is one of the most important ones in a competition boulderer. In the case of Adam Ondra that’s one of his best skills. In a rehearsed comp that is taken away from him…

…but Ondra won last year… with this very same format… maybe he simply wasn’t in bouldering mode (he’s been busy flashing 9a and establishing 9b+…). Or maybe those 5 guys were so good that anyone could have won.

Anyway, I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I didn’t like the comp. I was really good. But I think it could have been even better.

Congratulations to Shauna Coxsey. She and her team cooked up some really nice problems (different styles, all of them quite spectacular and certainly hard…).

More info:

And you’ve probably seen this already but just in case…

La Sportiva Legends Only – Backstage from Sandstones Media on Vimeo.

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