Udo Neumann: Moscow Analysis

Have you read the interview with Aleksei Rubtsov? If not, read it now and the following article will be more interesting.

Kung Fu

Aleksei has achieved every success in his career on his own. He doesn't owe anything to a coach or a particularly smart training plan that he got from a sports scientist. He has recognised what should be his priorities and continuously worked on his weaknesses. That way, he has ended up with an incomparable body control (within the field). If Aleksei is stuck in an uncomfortable position and wants to move his hip two millimeters to the right, in order to unweigh the big toe of his left foot with the aim of delicately changing his feet, he can do that. With his physical abilities, he can take the win in any final round at a Bouldering competition. In addition, Aleksei has fabulous mental capicities when it comes to analysing boulder problems and problem-solving. These skills and his physical education, e.g. via Kung Fu, make unique ascents like the one in Munich, to which he referred in the interview, possible. 

Individualist vs sports system (collevtive)

Looking at climbers who have been successful for a very long period of time, similar biographies appear. Whether it is Akiyo Noguchi, Jakob Schubert or Sean McColl: these athletes are to a large degree the product of their own hard work and commitment, supported by more or less efficient structures around them. They are not the result of a "sports system". 

"Sports system" might be a bit of a strong term in this context, but with the 2020 Olympics coming up, a lot of climbing federations are working towards just that. One advantage would be that knowledge and experience are collected and made available to the athlete. Additionally, the athlete is surrounded by people with which he or she can have a respectful exchange on an equal footing.

At the moment, this is only the case in Japan and in Slovenia. Given that these two countries have taken all the medals in Moscow, let's take the opportunity to analyse the men's final, using the example of Aleksei from the point of view of "individualist vs collective". On the one side, we ave the individualists, Chon Jongwon, Gabri Moroni and Aleksei Rubtsov, who boulder and train mostly alone, on the other side, we have Jernej Kruder, Gregor Vezonik and Tomoa Narasaki, who do more group training and who also receive some form of coaching.

First act: Low difficulties, high risk

Finals couldn't have started worse for Aleksei! 

Aleksei is wired for situations which require high intensity, strong will and control, but what was in front of him required a "let it happen" mindset. His fantastic body control did n't really help him out on the easy "slide-over" move, which increases the contradiction between the task at hand and his approach, which in turn made him make numerous unnecessary attempts. When he finally does the move, the time runs out. It went similarly for Gabri Moroni, who is more at home on rock. Only Chon, the youngest and most modern individualist, reaches the top within the time limit. The "collective" climbers spend more time with playful bouldering, they know these limbo-like moments. All three top the problem. 

Advantage: collective

Second Act: Old school (with a twist)

Ha, this problem is a lot more to Aleksei's liking! However, the routesetters have inserted a little new school twist, which costs him a try. The twist keeps Gabri Moroni from reaching the top. Chon is fully in his element and dispatches the problem without flinching, doing the same heinous-looking finger-swap than Aleksei. Here, it gets interesting, because of all climbers, it is the great climber and Meiringen-winner Kruder, who thinks he has to do it the fancy way, avoiding the heinous finger-swap. His efforts to find an elegant way cost him the top - this would never happen to Aleksei!

Advantage: tied!

Third act: More low difficulties and even higher risk

You gotta love bouldering comps for situations like these! Tomoa! The embodiment of modern acrobatic bouldering, manages to make the relatively easy starting jump look hard! It is fascinating to see how what someone perceives as their strength can turn against them when the skills are not applied as the situation requires! In the end, everyone tops the problem.

Advantage: tied!

Last act: Lost in Newschoolness

So, in the meantime our individualists have understood that they are in bouldering finals in the year 2018. And that is supposed to mean: lots of swinging, lots of jumping, lots of everything all at one, very crazy, right? Welll, or... you try the obvious and swing to the next hold first, getting a better idea and some rest in turn, like Jernej and Gregor! Even if Tomoa Narasaki chooses the spectacular fly-by version (of course!), it becomes obvious that the "collective" climbers are competent and able to act than the individualists in this situation. 

Advantage: collective!

One thing is certain: these finals, like all finals, could have finished with completely different result, too, had things played out a little bit differently. However, given how fast Bouldering competitions evolve when it comes to the required movement interconnections and positions, it becomes harder and harder for lone wolves to stay up-to-date in that regard and to continue to learn.

In this context, the selection of holds and the routesetting are crucial. At the moment, it is standard procedure that the routesetters bring some of the holds to the competition. There have been World Cups that were saved by this type of dedication of the routesetters, because the organisers didn't provide a sufficient hold selection. In Meiringen, this service was apparently taken for granted, as well. Of course, the routesetters use holds that they know well and with which they can work efficiently. That is legit and definitely in the best interest of the competition. My criticism in my last article did not aim at the setters or at the holds in Meiringen, it aimed at the diffuse guidelines of the IFSC when it comes to these matters. If these guidelines are not transparently made more concrete, e.g. when it comes to the minimum number of different hold manufacturers that must be included in the holds selection, we won't always be as lucky as in Meiringen, where the hold selection was worthy of World Cup and the routesetters created fair problems.

In Moscow, the hold selection was not an issue. The routesetters put every hold that they could find on the wall. There were a lot exotic holds to marvel at, holds which most certainly no athlete had touched beforehand.

In general, everyone at the competition reported incredibly hardworking organisers, with a commitment and creativity that other organisers sometimes lack. And once again, after these finals, I find: bouldering is more interesting than ever!



2000 Griffe





Climb. Come together. Celebrate!