"Revolutionary". This is how Lluís Giner, technical director of the federation, defines the competition format chosen by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the premiere of the climb, which will be Olympic for the first time in Tokyo 2020. "They have put together three different modalities that is as if in athletics the winner was chosen making the average result of throwing javelin, 100 meters and marathon ", Giner analyzes during the concentration that the selection made in Madrid last weekend.
The three modalities are speed – the wall, of 15 meters, is as if it were an athletics track and wins the one that runfaster, about seven seconds or so; block – without strings, it is measured if a climber is able to reach up in several short distances and how many attempts he has needed-; and difficulty – it is about climbing a wall as high as possible and assessing the highest point that has been reached. The three modalities had always competed separately.
When the IOC announced that the climb would be Olympic, in August 2016, in Spain there was only one wall to practice speed (in Barcelona) and it was not even approved: it measured 10 meters instead of 15 legal The municipal pavilion did not have enough height. In order to practice speed, the national climbing group had (and still has) to go abroad. Two and a half years after the announcement of the IOC, Spain only has two speed walls to prepare and get one of the 40 Olympic places (20 for women and 20 for men). They have been built on the fly. One is in Madrid, in the municipal sports center of La Elipa. Owned by the city council, it was built with a participatory budget and was launched last September. There is a waiting list for courses and private classes. The other, private, was inaugurated in Pamplona in October.
"It's as if we were the swimming federation and we did not have Olympic swimming pools of 50 meters, but of 25, or that we were training in a lake or in the open sea," explains Giner. In addition, the technical team that had been leading the federation and the group of climbers for more than 10 years received a good economic offer from China and left in December. Right at the gates of 2019, when the majority of Olympic places are distributed. "It has happened to us like Lopetegui's team at the beginning of the World Cup … We have now started a new cycle and there is still no work pattern," says Eric Lopez, the oldest climber (28 years) of the group.
David Macià took over the ship less than two months ago. The rally that he organized last weekend was a kind of casting "We are working with athletes who are likely to be selected to represent Spain in international competitions. If there is someone who fights for the square in Tokyo, it is here inside. In these days we will see what people we have more in shape to be able to take them to compete. Spain has always had more tradition in rope [dificultad], we have had world champions and we have been doing the international circuit at a youthful and absolute level for some time. In block we had in the year 2000 a world champion [Pedro Pons], but since then it has been our second option, "says the coach, who has been climbing for more than 30 years.
Before each competition simulation – Saturday in La Elipa for the difficulty and speed modalities and Sunday in the Indoorwall of Leganés for block -, he asks each boy and girl for their license. Some are reading the report of the physio that treated them the previous day. The pavilion is not entirely reserved for them; Amateur climbers arrive at mid-morning. None of the boys and girls of the national team lives by climbing. "It's impossible in Spain, unless you're number one … I give climbing classes to children and adults and with that I'm pulling. It is what we do most, "says Eric Lopez, who had to move from Madrid to Bilbao -with more facilities- to continue training.
"We are working against the clock with a group of very talented athletes and with the resources we have, but knowing that it is very difficult," Giner emphasizes with some resignation. Several of the guys who have moved to the concentration in Madrid have paid for the trip, and the taxis from the hostel to the facilities, from your pocket. "Paris 2024 would be another scenario, we would work with more time and surely more facilities. The athletes who are talents today will have a competitive growth in six years. For Tokyo 2020 we are closer to not getting the place ", Giner assumes.
The format is novel for everyone. In fact, there were no official international competitions with an Olympic format until 2018. "To be in front you have to be skilled in all three modalities. In Spain the speed is not rooted at all, we have hardly practiced it. France, Italy, Austria and Germany, the leading countries, have hundreds of high-level infrastructures, large climbing walls that allow training the three modalities together. Here it is very difficult right now to have a Spanish among the 20 best in the world, "concludes Giner.