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Getting candid with women climbers from 24th National Sports Climbing Championship

Written by Kopal Goyal


Perspective, and more...

A winning moment with Prateeksha Arun, Thazza Thoibi and Chea Amelia

Where does India Stand in Climbing as a Sport?

Prateeksha Arun (South Zone) - “The south zone, including myself has won 5 medals all together in the Nationals. The sub junior girls and junior girls have also brought in a couple. There are more people venturing into this sport every day, but it still hasn’t reached the masses. The viewership in comparison to cricket or badminton and other sports is still very low.

'' Only when a certain sport gets recognition do the sportsmen of that sport get sponsors. Without sponsors it’s pretty hard for athletes to compete on bigger stages and train harder. The more people watch, the more they are interested in the sport and the more people start trying the sport. ''

So this not only helps existing athletes but also brings in new ones to keep the sport going. On an international level we have brought about 2 medals so far. The style of climbing has changed over the past 5 years internationally and we're catching up slowly but steadily. We have strong climbers, plenty of them in fact. We only need better training facility.”

Chea Amelia (South Zone) - “All Indian climbers put together, are still behind compared to other countries. The reasons vary from state to state; lack of exposure, training, infrastructure are some of the common ones. Sports organisations don’t foresee any returns on investing in this sport. No funds, no climbing walls, no challenging training, resulting to lack of popularity and interest to learn. This brings down the count of athletes in this discipline but raises the chances of yielding no returns which the sport departments already believe. One big vicious cycle. Both men and women climbers battle at home with their families to continue to work and build a career in this form.”

'' For instance, a radio station had made an announcement about the 24th Nationals Championship on air which I think is the first time that’s ever been done. Newspaper articles are published only when a climber achieves something in an International competition or is going to participate in one. If the press or media could cover even small competitions or events related to Sport Climbing, I think it would help with the growth of the sport.''

Siddhi (West Zone)- “We all found new hope when India hosted the IFSC World Cup for the first time in 2016. Things seem to be changing ever since. We used to practice and play with classical holds but after world cup the competition benchmarks are rising and so are the standards of the practice arenas. India has just started installing volumes, not so close but of international level holds and good routes. This year I participated in 24th National Sports Climbing Championship with more confidence and double the pride.”

What about women participation? Has the count increased? Are they levelling up? And how it can be improved.

Prateeksha (South Zone) - “Most of the medallist women belong to Metro cities like Bangalore, Delhi, Pune or Mumbai. We rarely see an increase in participation from other cities or states. Even the count amongst the metro city participants hasn’t varied much unlike the men’s category. One of the reasons could be the best climbing infrastructures of India are centred in these cities. Bigger and better walls can help us conduct intense training. The style of climbing in international comps is ever-changing and we need to adapt to it as fast as it changes.

'' Pertaining to women specifically I'd say we need dedicated physios. And more importantly we need female coaches. Of all the top climbers in India, not one has a female coach. I think a female coach could help to perform better.” It’s only been three years for me participating in the women’s category.''

I can't tell much about the change in level of competition, however, it definitely has been getting tougher every year.”

Chitasen Ningombam (International Coach) says, “It’s like a good coach can make you diamond out of nothing.”

Laxmi (North Zone) - “No, this sport is yet to see a day where women come from all corners of the country to participate. Few who do make it, they give up soon because they can’t see any future in this sport.”

Siddhi (West Zone) - “I have noticed an increase in sub junior and junior categories. What I absolutely admire in these events is when I see parents who come along with the participants to support them in the best possible way. And the girls compete shoulder to shoulder with the boys.”

Watching other athletes climb is fun.

Chea (South Zone)- '' In India, everyone trains in different states with different coaches. But before a big event (international competition) everyone comes together for a couple of days and train under the same coach. In my opinion, if these training camps happen often (and are conducted for a good amount of time with qualified trainers) we could improve as a team by watching and helping each other improve on our weaknesses. The possibilities are endless.

Climbing during training is different than climbing during competition. Do you feel the pressure?

Laxmi (North Zone) - “It might have made a difference during my first few competitions, but not any longer.

Prateeksha (South Zone) - “For an athlete to perform well he or she needs to be able to deal with pressure, crowds, failure, success, the whole lot. Everyone is not cut out to be in the spotlight or cut out to be able to handle pressure and we need to train our minds to do so. In order to perform well we need our minds to focus and be determined. Dedication and self-motivation are by far the hardest things to inculcate as the mind tends to be lazy or soft. To get what we want, we have to train our minds to never give up.”

She continues, “I've been competing for 8 years now so I don’t really get affected much by crowds. I block out most of the noise, except the instructions coming from my coach to help me focus. However I love it when the crowd cheers. It gives me motivation to finish routes and lifts my spirits when I feel down. So in general I don’t prepare to deal with crowd, I've just learned to love going out on stage and climbing.”

Shivpreet (North Zone) - “It's true, one does feel the pressure. But the feeling vanishes when you realise that you play for yourself and not for others. I was not always mentally strong. It used to bother me of what others expected from me. It did affect my performance as well. My coach started creating the same atmosphere when I used to train, to help get over that fear. I have conquered it to a great extend, but still training my focusing skills.”

Shivpreet Panny from Amritsar trying to sync her movement in bouldering.

Chitrasen Ningombam, International Competition coach for India, has been climbing past 17 years. He says, “Mental training is as important as physical training. 70% of the game depends on mental power. Many of the climbers who are really strong can't perform in the competition due to mental pressure.”

What do you ensure to do when you are in isolation, just before the ‘go’?

Laxmi (North Zone) - “I definitely warm up. Close my eyes and meditate a little to fill myself with positive energy.”

Prateeksha (South Zone) “I try and stay calm. I have realised I climb better when I’m with a calm mind. Do my stretches to loosen up all my muscles and then warm up on a wall for a few minutes before going out to climb. Sometimes I even mess around and joke with the other competitors to keep myself in a light atmosphere during most of isolation and then the few minutes before I climb I sit down and focus on the route I have to climb. I've just learned to love going out on stage and climbing.''

Shivpreet (North Zone) - “I listen to music to relax myself down. Sometimes I do random things to keep myself distracted from the fearful thoughts creep in. Just before going out, take a deep breath and chant god's name and then go.”

Chea ( South Zone)- '' I don’t follow a particular mantra while I’m in isolation. I usually just warm up, stretch, try to visualise the route, “try” and focus. I talk to other people while I’m in isolation, it helps with the stress. And just before I climb I say a little prayer.

Diksha (West Zone)- '' I was confident all the time because I am the only person who knows my inner strength,flaws. Most of the time I didn’t get proper time to train, to prepare specifically for competition but I always believe and trust in my capabilities so I always had fun time in isolation with my co climbers.

Who is your competition?

Siddhi (West Zone) - “I consider myself as my biggest competitor. If I consider someone else my competition or opponent, my focus will shift on that person. I need to focus within. But yes! I observe things and accordingly I work on my strength and weaknesses.”

Siddhi after winning bronze medal in lead climbing competition.

Prateeksha (South Zone) - “Everyone is competition. I don’t underestimate anyone's potential as its always anybody's game. In terms of other strong women climbers in India however, Shivpreet Pannu, Chea Marak and Shivani Charak are some prominent names.”

Chea (South Zone)- ''I think everyone that competes alongside of you is your competition. But being your main competition and bettering yourself every year is much more important.''

How often you train?

Shivpreet (North Zone) - She trains 5 days in a week with proper planned diet.

Thazza (North East Zone) - I practice for 3 hrs a day both morning N afternoon for 1 MONTH before the competition.

Prateeksha (South Zone) - Over the past two to three years she has been training throughout the year to be in form and ready for any competition that turns up. She is currently in third year of B.Arch. She has also it difficult to manage both studies and climbing, but trying her best not to miss her training session. She says, my college is from 9-5 so I go to train directly from college every day and train for about 2 hours on weekdays. On weekends I get about 3-4 hours of training. I take a day off to rest every 3 to 4 days to let my body recover.

Laxmi Singh while bouldering at Indian Mountaineering Foundation.

Your inspiration?

Diksha Malviya ( West Zone)- '' My inspiration are always all Indian climbers specially my co climber Vicky Bhalerao. He always passes me the right sense of competing in the


Laxmi (North Zone) - “Praveen CM from South Zone.”

Shivpreet (North Zone) - “Adarsh Singh and Abhishek Mehta. They push me to break my limits, to get the best out of me.”

Siddhi (West Zone) - “Philippe Ribiere and Kim Jain. I met Phillipe in 2011, during my second Girivihar competition. He is physically challenged, his fingers are short and very rigid. And when I saw him climbing I realised I should have no reason to complain. Kim Jain on the other hand, for her dedication and constant podium wins. She is 28, and married And yet she is pursuing her dream which is not commonly seen in India.”

Prateeksha (South Zone) - “Akiyo Noguchi from Japan. Her climbing style and her composure during comps is something I strive to achieve. She is an incredibly strong climber and has won too many medals to count and yet is humble and down to earth. I definitely want to be like her one day.”

Thazza (North East)- Chitrasen sir and other coaches.

Khushboo (East Zone) admires Prateeksha and Chea Amelia. Thazza (North-East Zone) draws her inspiration for her coach Chitrasen Ningombam.

Chea (South Zone) - “There are so many strong women out there to whom I look up to. Many of them have their own style of climbing and are of different builds. It’s nice to watch them climb and learn different things from different women. But if I had to name a women climber, it would definitely be Jain Kim.

Prateeksha Arun resting on wall during lead climbing competition

PART - 4

The Impact of Climb Sports, an Empowering Mechanism.

Throughout my conversations with the athletes and their coaches, I was truthfully looking for answers to prove that the values climbing as a sport adds in an individual’s life is the same and even more as any other mainstream sports played in our country at a National or an International level.

Through 17 years of climbing, Chitrasen mentions the values he inherited from this sport has seen no shortcoming. He says, “My concentration improved, I learnt to show team-spirit. Cooperation was the key, and sacrifices were for bigger and meaningful gains. Teaching skills taught me patience, and I found my motivation through the successes of my students. Together we learnt to adapt to every situation for future nation.”

Khushboo feels empowered through the sport. Climbing has given her a platform that she was struggling to find through education. She shares, “I had days when people used to come and tell me that I wasn’t good enough for anything because I wasn’t good in studies, I had financial issues. My climbing skills has now changed their wrong perceptions about me. Now I speak more confidently and my thinking horizon has widened. I can strategically respond to problematic situations. Climbing has definitely brought many opportunities knocking at my door.” So far, Khushboo has participated in 4 Nationals, 6 Open nationals and Open international competitions.”

Khushboo kumari from Jamshedpur in Bangalore open International bouldering championship.

Dhanashri Trimbak Lekurwale from Pune says that I always saw climbing as an opportunity. I was a volleyball and badminton player and now I am full time climber. I remember I was on one of the toughest Shayadri trek and there I tried climbing and rappelling for the first time. That moment I realised this is what I was longing for. I played my first zonal competition in 2015 and won silver in bouldering which secured my place to participate in National competition which was a dream come true.

Dhana while lead climbing

Diksha Malviya from Bhopal says that I started climbing in Bhopal at university wall. There I was cheated and not treated properly by the authorities of that wall. Then I decided to move to Pune for my training and it's been 6 years I am getting support from Pune climbing community. Climbing helped to define me, make me who I am today, and for that, I'll always have a love for it.

Diksha from Bhopal trying to connect her next move.

Talent is not limited in India; not amongst its people, definitely not amongst its women. While these women are making opportunities for themselves by venturing into new-age and intense sports, the country’s support will make it a smoother journey for them to reach their goals. If equal recognition is given to sports or at least an opportunity to surface and be accepted, this country will run out of pages to note down their medallists.

Bangalore team having their moment after winning overall trophy for the 18th time in Indian climbing history.

'' In Karnataka, climbing is recognised by the state government and climbers are getting awards for national and international medals. This encourages the athletes to perform and give good results. And it also supports the climbers in many ways. Hopefully more states will recognise this sport and we’ll see the number of athletes increase in the years to come. Not just in this sport, other small budding sports as well. ''

24th National Climbing Championship has set yet another bar for it’s participants, leaving them with a desire to train harder for next year.

Stay tuned with @inspirecrew on Instagram for more updates!



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