The European Student Championships are a big event organized every 2 years for pretty much all sports, combining topsport with parties through deep in the night. In multiple cities are different sports, and in July I headed to Split (Croatia) for the student championships Sport Climbing. It became a bit of a long read, but it was also quite an extraordinary competition. Read below why :-)
Together with old good training partner Pieter, we represented Wageningen University (although Pieter is actually studying in Eindhoven. Long story short: you could only participate in a team of the same university, not as individuals of two universities). At the same event also the sports basketball and volleybal where taking place, giving a total number of 400 participants. I felt like a small puppy, not just because all those basketballers and volleyballers are so tall that I felt small, but even more because all the experiences kept on surprising and amazing me. This was maybe the best but definitely the weirdest competition I've ever had so far. I had a great time.
Hungry I arrived in the late evening in Split, where Pieter already waited for me. All day I had been looking forward to a good dinner, so we made our way to the canteen. For vegetarians, they didn't had a lot, but I was very pleased with the vegetables even though they looked more like pig-food. Breakfast, lunch and dinner was all included in the competition and served by this canteen, so we hoped the food would get better as soon when the competition starts.
After dinner we had to wait for quite some time for our accreditation, nothing more than just checking our passport and student card but they really needed some special person for this. It was already late when we could finally go to bed. The next morning I had to wake up early, as the bouldering qualifications started in the early morning. Happy not to have to climb in the biggest heat of the day and excited to start I went to breakfast. They had white bread, some cornflakes, milk and cheese. It just felt completely in line with everything else: the big boring concrete buildings, the endless phone calls when you asked a volunteer a question (after waiting several minutes and at least 5 phone calls later the conclusion often was that they didn't knew and it would become clear later on), the lack of airconditioning, ... . From the outside the whole event looked perfect and gave it the feeling of the Olympics with a lot of glitter and glamour, from the inside it sometimes felt a bit amateuristic. Somehow it gave me a bit a Eurovisie Songfestival idea, I still couldn't really explain why.
There were 8 boulders, for which you had two hours time to climb them. For each boulder you had a maximum of 5 attempts. You could choose yourself when you wanted to try which boulder, and this freedom made it a very relaxed and fun start of the competition. I was happy to top 3 boulders and managed to get 5 bonuses, putting me in a 13th place. Not enough for finals, but that was also not what I expected to reach.
I supported Pieter a bit, who had his qualifications right after. Then I went back to the canteen at the campus and I was surprised to see a big warm lunch, that was definitely better than dinner the day before. If they keep this improvement-line up, we'll end this week with haute-cuisine! In the afternoon we went back to the boulder gym to watch the finals and then we had to hurry to be in time for the opening ceremony, maybe the best example of the glitter and glamour outside of the event.
We were brought to the middle of the city centre, and dumped between thousands of tourists (it is high season now). each country got a flag, and then we had to wait. We waited for a while, then we started to joke around when things were taking long before starting and just when we got some beer in our hands they told us that the ceremony would start. In a hurry we all had to make a big line of countries and then we marched via a small street into a big square. There was a podium we had to pass and while passing they said the name of the countries and the universities. The complete square was filled with curious tourists.
The next day were the lead qualifications and we took the bus to get at the gym. Unfortunately the busdriver didn't knew where to go to, so we ended up somewhere else. "No stress people, we have google maps and will figure something out" was the reaction of the organization. Just in time for Pieters first route we arrived at the gym. Fortunately he was not so affected by this and climbed both his quali's very well. Also my routes went pretty good, and with a surprising 4th place I placed myself for the finals the next day!
In the evening the speed competition took place, and I was curious how slow I'd be. It turned out to be very slow, the fastest girls took about 7 seconds, I needed 18 seconds. Surprisingly enough I still made it to the final, which is a kick-off system: the winner goes to the next round. I lost without any chance, and headed back to the campus to prepare myself for the official dinner. This took place in a romantic villa located in a forest just next to the sea. Instead of pig-food we got luxurous tapas and it all felt like we were movie stars. I feel more at my place like a dirtbag climber, but experiencing this was definately super funny.
There was one big thing I was really missing in Split, and that was climbing outside or at least swimming in the sea a bit. Fortunately a plan was made to do some deep water soloing the next day in the morning before finals. I couldn't imagine a better warming-up and it was great to do some deep water soloing! Relaxed and full with psyche I was well-prepared for the finals. The climbing went good, and I managed to fight my way up until the crimps got really small just before the top, and I fell off. Happy with my performance I watched the other girls, and saw them falling of before me. Only Jessica from the UK managed to get as far, and due to countback she took the first place. Super surprised I received the silver medal.