Written by Kopal Goyal
A story from the 21st National Sports Climbing Championship, a personal illustration of my experience with the sport.
It was my first time witnessing a climbing competition, at a national level that I didn't even know existed. A friend invited me to come watch him compete, I couldn’t hold back the curiosity. During the entire time I spent in the audience, I didn't regret my participation; little did I guess it was soon going to become my identity as well.
''My friend participated in the Speed Climbing category. Well yes! ‘speed’ is exactly what it was. I watched my friend sprint up a 15-metre wall in a matter of 9 secs. Did I even get a chance to blink? And if I did, what did I miss? I was in absolute awe, wondering how is this even humanly possible. It was almost like he defied gravity.''
What left an impressive dent in my memory was watching another girl competing in the Lead Climbing category. The memory is still fresh, watching her nail the overhangs in the swiftest and graceful movements. No doubt, I was spellbound. Her strength and flexibility could have inspired anyone watching her that day. She certainly placed on the podium. I was sold to her confidence. She was someone I wanted to become. I found my love there that day. Not in a single individual, but in an entire climbing community. It felt like time had slowed down for me for all the right reasons. I have vivid memories of the athletes, laughing, crying, hugging, encouraging, discussing climb tactics, watching stroked fingers, flaunting scraped knees and embracing victories. The place was high in spirit and buzzing with cheers. It was the sound of joy I wanted to become a part of.
Without further ado, within 8 days from the end of the competition, I started my training in climbing with Abhishek Mehta, a professional speed climber who coached me into the sport. Since the start of my training, I have bonded and become familiar with many competing athletes in the community who helped me get even better with my form. So far I have participated in other indoor events and two national championships. And well this has only been the beginning…
PART - II
A hearty conversation with women participants and their coaches, reaching heights in an offbeat sport.
24th National Sports Climbing Championship has just wrapped up. Up to 100 participants, both men and women, joined in from all five zones; North, South, East, West and North-East to compete in junior and sub-junior categories.
I seized the opportunity to know what’s loping in their minds now that the sport in which they have dedicated their lives has made it in the 2020 Olympic Games. Acknowledgement from the Indian Government and society? Still awaited…
Khushboo Kumari, the rising star of the East (Jamshedpur). A third year student and ventured into climbing in 2015. Sharing her two bits she says, “Five fingers are not the same, and so are we humans. I feel no shame to mention I’m a late bloomer with studies and find it hard to keep up with the rest of my batch. But does that mean I’m weak? Absolutely not! My elder brother helped me channel my energy and potential in the right direction. That’s how I began with mountaineering and climbing. Nothing has given me more confidence than this sport.”
North Zone’s Laxmi Singh shared how she entered into the sport, “I was struggling to find a place where I could fit in. Making friends didn’t come to me easy either. I barely had two friends and my identity was limited till them. When I was in the 9th standard, during one of our walking sessions my dad mentioned about the Indian Mountaineering Foundation and I should give it a shot. Well I did, and that was the start of my new identity. I have almost 7 years of climbing experience now and my inspiring friend circle has been growing since.”
The all rounder champion, Prateeksha Arun, reigns out of the South Zone. “I think the first word I must’ve said as a child is ‘Climb’”, she breaks into giggles as she starts telling me her climbing story. “My dad used to climb back in the day, that’s why I guess it came naturally to me. He took me and Mom to Turahalli (Bangalore’s bouldering backyard) for some climb-fun when I was just about two or three years old. But the sport only caught my attention when I participated in my first competition at the age of 10. That really brought out the competitive spirit in me and I wanted to be the best. Finding a good training institute was a bigger challenge. Luck had it, and I met Shivalinga, who is a national gold medallist. He's been coaching me ever since”.
She has participated in two international competitions in 2017 & 2018. And this year at the 24th National Climbing Championship she won the Lead and Boulder Climb championships with a silver in Speed. Her 10 years of sheer dedication in the sport gets the credit.
“Like they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, states North Zone’s Shivpreet Pannu while sharing her painful wrist-breaking story. “It happened during my participation at the 2014 Nationals held in Kolkata. I had to be off of training for 8 months, that’s almost a year! That phase was a nightmare, but i did not dare to quit and trained even harder to make up for those months. I have 8 years of climb experience now.”
The young and cheerful Thazza Thoibi represents the seven-sisters of the North-East zone. Still pursuing her graduation in Imphal. Thazza always wanted to be involved with sports and a friend of hers suggested to try climbing. She started in 2012 and had very little knowledge of the sport at the time, and this year she placed 2nd in the Bouldering category at the Nationals.
Siddhi Manerikar represents West Zone Pune says that I was quite lucky to study in a school where they had a climbing wall in the premises itself. I clearly remember that day when my PT Instructor walked into the class and asked if anyone has ever been curious enough and climbed tress for fun? There was a climbing wall that could be put to good use. I think I was the most excited kid in my class, and in my first try out I topped the route with ease. My climb Instructor saw my potential and asked me to go practise everyday. Thus began my climbing journey at the age of 14. That year I participated in my first ever climbing competition. It was Girivihar Competition. I placed 2nd in artificial bouldering and 1st on natural rock bouldering.
Today I have 9 years of competing experience.
Chea Amelia who has got medals in Lead climbing and Bouldering says that when I was a kid I loved climbing trees, compound walls, buildings and I loved jumping from heights, although that’s kind of changed now. In 2005 or 2006 my school had organised a carnival and they had put up a temporary climbing wall. Back then I didn’t know what it was but since I loved climbing things I thought I’ll give it a try and I happened to top it. The people in charge of that wall were impressed and gave me a phone number that I could contact if I wanted to climb more. And that number was somehow linked to my current coach of 14 years, Mr. Keerthi Pais.
24th National Climbing Championship has set yet another bar for it’s participants, leaving them with a desire to train harder for next year.
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