The 2009 Mammut Bouldering Championships are in the books and what an interesting event it was.
The women’s event started in the blazing 95 degree Salt Lake City heat and action was slow to develop. The bottom 10 qualifiers tried their best to mount a challenge against the seemingly unbeatable duo of Alex Puccio and Alex Johnson, but only Austrian comp powerhouse Anna Stohr was able to finish even 2 of the problems.
Puccio and Johnson quickly flashed the first 3 problems setting the stage for a showdown on the 4th and final problem to decide a winner. Climbing around and over the insane “Prometheus” eye, Alex Johnson eked out the victory over an exhausted Alex Puccio. One astute commenter on the live blog compared their rivalry to that of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in tennis which I thought was appropriate. I’d have to check to be sure, but I can’t remember the last time one of the two of them didn’t win a comp they entered (in the U.S.).
Much like the women, the slow to develop men’s final came down to a 2 man race after pre-comp favorite Paul Robinson faltered out of the gate on problem 1 and never got any momentum. That left the young upstart Julian Bautista as the only competitor poised to challenge Daniel Woods. Bautista fought his way to the top of all 4 problems to be the leader in the clubhouse so to speak, and he settled in to watch Woods who was a couple of problems behind him in the running order.
Not fazed by the pressure, Woods calmly flashed problems 1 and 2 before sending problem 3 on his second go. If he was feeling any pressure as he set off on problem 4, Woods failed to show it as he executed one of the more impressive physical feats I’ve seen. Reaching left over his head with his right hand to crimp a hold on the “Prometheus” eye, Woods half campused the move only to find his left hand a foot short of the next hold and his momentum completely stopped. Showing supreme confidence and freakish strength, he gently kicked his legs and one-armed his way to the next hold on the way to a comp winning flash.
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For a more thorough recap, be sure to check out the Live Blog archives.
Perhaps more interesting than the comp itself was how it was covered. For the first time climbing fans from around the world were able to watch live on the internet as the action unfolded in Salt Lake.
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There were a few hiccups along the way with a few frustrating moments for viewers, but overall the live feed was a big success in my opinion.
There were several highpoints to the coverage:
- The fact that we were even able to see the comp, something normally reserved for a small number of people outweighs just about any critique one could have of the footage.
- The live feed technology worked really well with no noticeable lag experienced on my end at any point.
- It was FREE!
- The incredible wall design, the cool lighting and close battles for 1st place made for a (mostly) exciting event to watch.
- The fact that we were even able to see the comp!
That said, here a few complaints or ideas for improvement that came across during the Live Blog:
- The biggest complaint I saw was who the camera was focused on compared with who MC Jason Danforth was talking about. Oftentimes the camera was showing something completely different than was being spoken about.
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This made it confusing and hard to follow what was happening, especially when Danforth was yelling about something exciting that went unseen which happened on a number of occasions.
- Early in the comp especially, the camera would switch away from watching someone who was just about to send a problem to watch another competitor standing on the mat preparing to climb. As one commenter said, “its almost pointless to watch with all the missed sends”. Thankfully, this seemed to get better as the night went along.
- A lot of commenters on the Live Blog found the plugs for sponsors annoying, especially the plugs for the food and drink being served at the event. Without sponsors there is no event though so I’m not sure how much can be done about this.
- Adding a time clock and an updated leaderboard to the live video would be a big plus.
- The crowd was one of the more lifeless sporting event crowds I’ve seen. I’m guessing this was a combination of the heat and the open outdoor venue although the video might not have conveyed their energy very well either.
Feel free to add any additional thoughts (good or bad) in the comments
Overall, I think the live feed worked out really well and hopefully any critiques people have can be used to make the next event that much better. Being able to watch a climbing comp without having to travel across the country to see it is a big plus for everyone involved as it brings more eyeballs to the sport, so I hope that this is the first of many to be broadcast (and live blogged of course) in this manner.
Update: thanks to the commented who passed along the video of Woods on problem #4
Ya – I totally agree with your good and bad list. The good’s are respectfully well noted but I did have a rare chance to hear some feedback from someone who was actually in the audience. He came into the gym I go to last night and also had similar complaints to mine with regards to the MC shouting in the microphone – he literally wanted him to st*u and felt the rest of the audience had the same feelings which may be why things were so dull. But, we all understood it was done with the intent to excite the audience. I think this is yet another example of why climbing is an activity and not a sport. This was a very positive event for the sponsors and I look very fondly upon the fact that this was entirely free for those of us watching online – so thats a huge plus. ClimbingNarcs live blog made the event way more interesting. I didn’t tune into the liveblog until the mens event and I have to say it made things a lot more interesting. So thanks!
Is there any way we can get another glimpse of Woods of problem #4? That was so sick…
How did Alex do at the World Championships?
Touche. I was thinking strictly of comps here in the U.S. but technically you have a point.
No seriously, I had Alex down as a cert for the final. Do you know if she was well (Sean & others reckoned around a quarter of the competitors in China had stomach problems).
I don’t see anyone arguing that the Alexes are most likely the two strongest girls on the circuit, US or otherwise…
I don’t want to be all negative about the coverage of the event, but it was very dissapointing, boring and annoying.
1. The camera work was horrible, who in their right mind would switch to another camera when a competitor is about to send? Did the director have no switch board in front of him/her?, or did they not think that people would want to watch a competitor finish a boulder problem.
2. The problem setting did not look “expectacular”, deffinately not exciting to watch on tv. I understand that the problems have to be difficult during the finals, but nobody enjoys watching people fall 1 or 2 moves into the climb for every single climb. If we want more events like this to be broadcast, I have a feeling the vendors and manufactures do, then the setting needs to be more dynamic and interesting to watch. Here is an article and video from Routesetter.com.
3. Why was the comp scheduled at the hottest part of the day? I haven’t met a climber who enjoys climbing in the middle of a summer day. It should have been scheduled during the evening, the temperature would have been nicer and the lights would have look really dramatic on t.v.
Sorry if all I can remember from the coverage was not possitive.
Thanks for the thoughts.
#1 I would have to agree with you for the most part.
#2 This is actually a problem with all comps, we just aren’t used to seeing it all. It’s incredibly difficult to course set for such a wide range of abilities and divide the field up to have a clear result. You saw in both divisions how much stronger the top few climbers were than the majority of the field. What is exciting to watch one person climb could be very boring to watch someone else who is not as strong. That said, I honestly did not see enough of each problem to comment on how the routesetting was for this comp in specific, these are just general thoughts.
As for #3, the comp didn’t start until almost 7PM local time and ended around 11:30 PM eastern time so I’m not sure they could have done it any later. The heat is just a problem with having to have the comp during OR in the middle of summer in SLC. I’m guessing a live broadcast of an indoor event might come off better.
I also think reducing the field size for finals to maybe top 6 could help produce a tighter product where you aren’t having the first several competitors climb with no real chance at winning.
I agree with just about all of your assessment and I think it’s important to note that while the broadcast was terrible compared to major sporting events, it was free and this hasn’t really been done before. The technical side of things went off great, they just (really) need to work on the camera switching, mike switching and possibly commentary.
One more thing, if Obe Carrion is going to be a commentator for events like this, he really needs to come up with a better catch phrase than “Holy shit!”
Agreed dmlipinski – His misplaced “Holy Shit” before the camera even switched to him was quite funny, and then the yet again oddly misplaced “holy shit” when the camera finally cut to him was even more hilarious. I can’t stand how climbing is lumped in with the extreme sports crowd which is why sponsors feel they have to broadcast climbing in the same manner. Maybe skateboarding and motorcycle jumping are interesting to watch like that but I think we can come up with a more spohisticated way to convey the ability of these amazing climbers to the general public.
Not to sound like a prude, but I was visiting the parents at home and decided to share a little bit of what I like to do so much, and watched some of it with them, but had to continuously put it on mute because they didn’t appreciate the language. I get that people can swear if they want to, and theres a place for that (like if you rip your hand to shreds not making that final deadpoint to a jug). However if you’re going to bring climbing to the masses, maybe if the MC doesn’t say “Holy Shit” just because he thinks it sounds cool and he can’t think of anything good to say, that’d be a step in the right direction to bring a climbing competition to a family audience through broadcast. I will admit to having a few “inappropriate” words from time to time climbing, and, if it was the climbers, you wouldn’t hear it on the broadcast, but this was the MC. Just a few thoughts.
I agree with Mark. I am 31 years old and I didn’t appreciate the bad language, specially because they had no reason for it, they just thought it would sound cool.
Can you imagine how many kids were watching this event with their parents?
Not acceptable if you are going to be broadcasting live.
I think one of the great things about the NE2C comps is Top Score. Its really easy to understand and it would have added to the excitement to know who is winning at any given point. So I agree that they really should have a Live leader board and timer.
Did DW have to flash the last problem… How far from the end was Alex Johnson when she fell etc.
Despite the simplicity of the scoring I was actually a bit confused about what Woods needed to do on that last problem.
If they are able to up the production value in any way, some sort of instant replay would be awesome as well. It would have helped fill the downtime that occurred near the end of each rotation. Maybe we are just getting greedy though? 🙂
The Idea of top score is to have topouts be #1. Since Julian had done all four problems Daniel had to send. I thought Julian had flashed 1&2 making him equal with DW (I was wrong) so I thought Daniel had to do #4 in less tries than Julian to win since neither had flashed #3.
Since Daniel had flashed 1&2 he actually could have fallen any number of times on the last problem and still won as long as he sent.
Daniel Woods is the king of lock-off campus moves!
Looking forward to see that move!
Was anyone able to capture that campus move by Woods for a YouTube posting? I unfortunately missed that one move and I want to see it noooww 😉
I also would love to see instant replays.
Another thing that may make it more interesting for the viewers at home, is a close look at each route with commentary (by the route setters?) whilst the climbers are still in isolation, showing where the hard/technical moves are placed, etc. It would be nice to know just how minuscule a particular crimp is or how big of a dyno is required, and help us appreciate how bad ass the climbers are.
In response to the lifeless crowd. – Having been to one of these before (2007)the crowd is primarily made up of OR industry types. Half the crowd watches while the other half stands in the back ignoring the comp and sipping 3.2 beer. But a big crowd always looks good for the photos and video.
Just to comment about the heat, I’ve been to two of these comps and do not understand why they don’t face the walls north. The past three years it’s faced west and the sun just bakes the walls. It’s hot just standing there and I can only imagine how hot it is for the competitors on the wall.
there are several reasons to face the walls west, least of which is that it looks better in photos and video. Besides, the competitors are pros, and dealing with unpleasant conditions is part of being a professional. turns pout baseball players play in the sun all the time.
My favorite part of the coverage was Obe’s blatant eye-grope of the waitress when he didn’t realize he had been switched on. Priceless.
The routesetting.. it was alright. Seemed like Women’s #4 was just excessive. Men’s #4 did have an interesting move in it, although I was surprised to see no one attempted static beta. And even more surprised at Woods’ total denial of physics.
With a lot of hope and a bit of scouting… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l10B8csLWzg
The camera angle is different from the streaming one, but the one-armed move is still visible and absolutely mental!!
Great find, thanks!
i think the main thing that everyone fails to realize here is that for people who don’t climb, this is like watching paint dry. i tried watching while i was sitting in my cube and i was bored stupid and i had friends competing. it’s not the coverage as much as bouldering doesn’t lend itself to viewership unless you’re right there in the vibe (or filmed in high def, professionally with jim lampley and steve berman commentating).
I completely disagree with the comments about the routesetting. Although I wasn’t there, just watching the event unfold and looking at the score makes it clear to me that it was a very well set comp. The top 8 men and women were all very clearly separated. Additionally, there were many exciting moves (such as the last move of women’s 1 and the campus on men’s 4). I don’t really know what more people are expecting, but I guarantee the routesetters worked really hard to make this a great comp. I should also mention that winning the comp in both men’s and women’s came down to the last competitor needing to do well on the final problem. How is that not exciting/ideal?
i’d agree about the mention above re: commentary on the nature of the moves…
even bmx or mogul skiing and surfing comps can be hella repetative and boring… ball games, etc… it’s all the same.. i think what can make the difference is when the nuances are explained by the commentators.
in skiing comps, for instance, they regularly explain how the snow conditions, developing ruts, steepness of the run, etc, make a particular performance even more impressive.
i understand how constantly trying to affirm to an audience is tedious and self-indulgent: “omg climbing is so rad! believe me! climbing is hard and rad!”… but it goes on in literally every other broadcast.
folks loved john madden because instead of “holy shit!” commentary, he would explain the missed aspects of how an offensive line has adjusted to neutralize a fierce defensive linebacker… replay how a receiver ditches coverage at the line of scrimage in order to enable that wide open sprint hail mary game winning action.
i agree that most of the background footage could be shot ahead of time and kept on deck when the comp is going down…
an explanation by obe of how the campus move in problem four can destroy your shoulder and how difficult it really is… maybe some close ups of him touching the holds via scissor lift or ladder so the audience can see the size of the holds and explanations about how flow and momentum are necessary to pull it off…
i didn’t get the opportunity to watch the coverage so my comments are just responses to what’s posted above, but it seems that these elements were lacking and could certainly help communicate with a larger audience ignorant of the complexity of our “sport”
however, i think anyone who thinks climbing is more boring to watch than any other major sport in the world is insane. it’s just that you have huge production crews armed with history, soundbites, clips and interviews to weave into the action. you know what players have history with eachother and what each needs to do to best the foe. you learn about how hard they trained to get to where they are and you paint the picture that these are truly world-class atheletes doing things that YOU CANNOT REPLICATE, STUPID AUDIENCE!
still, this was the first time this was attempted and it seems to have been ultra fantastically rad for a first go effort when the resources above are not available and/or techniques mastered.
seems like it was a top notch job and yet another step in the progression.
wow – that was very well said sock hands, even though you did not see the comp, you obviously get what was going on. I’d agree entirely. Although I’m not a fantastic boulderer I understand the complexity of the moves, because I’ve failed miserably at them. I’d certainly appreciate a level headed commentator who really explained the movement, the holds, the names of the moves and things like that and even a bit more focus on the better climbers. It’s great the they tried to show the broad spectrum of climbers because they are all superhuman – we can all agree on that. But, it was obvious that there were only two guys in the mens comp, and two gals in the womens comp. I think the earlier suggestion was good, cut down the field and focus on the absolute spectacular climbers of the day. Give us some slow-mo’s and some replays and let us really watch guys like Woods or Bautista & Robinson work out these unbelievable problems and explain what may be going on. It’s all a friggin pipe dream on our part of course, but maybe one of these days some one will figure it out.
Excellent points everyone. I’m sorry socky, but I just, I didn’t expect that from you. That was great.
DW a true mammut/beast!
these bouldering comps are basically just strength contests, like watching an olympic weightlifting comp. just have them come out, see who can do the most one arm pullups, and declare the winner. done.
Here is a video of a bouldering comp. as you can see it is not just like a “boring” strenght contest.
There are gymnastic moves, technical moves, dynamic moves and many more variables.
In this video you can see a good example of dynamic problem setting, which makes it more exciting and interesting for the spectators.
it still boils down to who’s the strongest. there needs to be a way to incorporate actual climbing skill, instead of just campus power, to keep it from being just a one arm pullup/contact strength contest, sorry but no one really cares about strength tricks on plastic holds on 12 foot high walls, by your own admission most of the crowd wasn’t even paying attention
maybe try having an actual climbing contest next time
So contact strength and overall strength does nothing for climbing? Well then I don’t know what you’ve been training that left hand to do. Well… I could take a wild guess.
Route setting for these comps is always done to cover not only overall strength and contact strength, but technical ability, footwork, balance, gymnastic ability, problem solving. Its kind of like, possibly, things you would actually have to encounter climbing. But additionally, climbing competitions are partially about letting climbers do cool things they wouldn’t normally do outdoors and show off. Why not let them?
yeah, it’s crazy how dw and pr go climbing outdoors and get shut down by all those testpieces… i can’t believe that weakmos like that could win one of these rigged comps that have nothing to do with ‘real’ climbing! it’s insane!
i remember that last time when that sick oldschool slabmaster showed up to piss on dw’s project and…. oh, wait.
Remember the last MelloBloc comp? What happened there? How well did DW do in that one? How well did the boulderers (as in, someone who primarily boulders) actually do in the world’s biggest bouldering comp? Who actually won?
Just sayin’…you guys need to figure out a way to showcase bouldering that doesn’t bore the pants off of everyone but…boulderers, and figure out a comp format that doesn’t allow anorexic teenage sport climbers to dominate, like the kid who won MelloBloc.
My suggestion: Measure everyone for one-arm and contact strength with a grip-o-meter and some kind of pull-power-to-weight measurement thingy. Then, make everyone wear weight belts so everyone basically has the same strength-to-weight ratio as the average anorexic weakling that somehow won the MelloBloc comp. In other words, level the playing field to see not just who’s the strongest, which let’s face it no one really cares about, but who’s actually the best CLIMBER.
Think about it…surfing comps, does it matter how strong you are? Snowboarding? Nope…all about SKILL. And DARING.
From what I’ve heard from Daniel and Nalle, Melloblocco 2009 was a complete load of crap. The routes were eliminates, climbs with holds taped off so you couldn’t use them, sika and constructed holds, and as one person put it:
“A number of the comp problems were artificially hard, made so by a bit of gaffa tape delineating what you could and what you couldn’t use. Some start positions were also made artificially hard, with a single move having to be done into an obvious starting position… Outside of the comp the strong boys did a few other good looking things, but nothing super hard (as far as I know). If you wanted to do well in the comp then your days were spent walking around between only the comp problems, and in some ways this was missing the point of the event.”
In a competition like that, I remember Daniel and Nalle pointing out that there were a lot of good things to be climbed and the majority of them weren’t a part of the competition. Why would you want to COMPLETELY miss fun stuff and REAL climbing to climb on stuff thats constructed and basically no better than a competition on plastic anyway.
Why don’t you go back to your corner and cry about it while you watch this video of your hero in all its creepy glory:
I on the other hand will watch what the other strong climbers did with their free time during your precious comp-to-end-all-comps (instead of climbing boulders taped up like they were getting ready to paint your family room):
(FYI, they didn’t film that AT Melloblocco, but, I think if they would have, it still would have been a more worthwhile time than the comp)
thanks for that…they should have used you at the “comp” instead of Obe, it for sure would have been more entertaining
Pretty much everything is better with me. Get me a ticket out to the next one and I’ll put my experience and knowledge to good use!
I think a lot of the things said about describing the problems before hand/or between if there was more of a break to show, along with like a bigscreen so you can show people zoomed in hold sizes and explain things like, problem number one will test their balance and footwork over anything else, you could get people involved and they would know what to look for out of the climbers.
Most of what is legitimate and worthwhile to read has already been said so I’ll leave it at that.
Oh, and a lot of complete crap has been said too, but we kinda just hope those guys turn into big wall aid climbers so we can go without seeing them for days at a time.
“describing the problems before hand/or between if there was more of a break to show, along with like a bigscreen so you can show people zoomed in hold sizes and explain things like, problem number one will test their balance and footwork over anything else…”
and the strongest guy/gal would still win, and people would still be bored as fuck. and half the time the boulderers would still lose their own comps to people who primarily sport climb. like I said – figure out a way to structure it so it’s more about climbing skill and less about strength tricks, and you might have something. how much revenue is there in the US rock gym industry? and no viable professional comp circuit? Pro BOWLERS make millions.
Sharma’s eating your lunch hmm I wonder why…
…uh, I’m done…I just wanted to use that header…
I’m glad you struggled through to read a portion of what I’ve said, but if you want to look at how I’ve mentioned that route setting IS done to showcase various skills and abilities, maybe you can join the conversation when you read up. Heres a little example of what comps do for route setting: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1166151437747
Sharma is flying around, just bought a house, sponsored by multiple companies, but yeah, okay, he’s scrounging for food. I talk to pro climbers daily, and most of them are on the move day to day climbing in new places, renting for a short amount of time, paying their bills, living like a mobile business man or woman but their work is climbing.
I think you really truly don’t understand professional climbing at all. When Dean Potter Free Soloed Delicate Arch, he and his wife (at the time, not currently) Steph Davis both lost sponsorships, and Dean’s was reported at $50,000. Yeah, its not what professional bowler makes, but its good money for doing something you love. I don’t know why we need to quantify a sport’s legitimacy by the amount of money you make. Why don’t you just stick to bowling anyway? Or pop into a couple bars and pick some fights. You sure are good at making inflammatory statements. As for me, I’m done, nothing legitimate has been brought up yet through this, and all this educating is getting me tired. Feel free to chip away at the comp though. Thats your right.
“Sharma is flying around, just bought a house, sponsored by multiple companies, but yeah, okay, he’s scrounging for food.”
sorry, I’ll do a flyover-country translation…
“eating your lunch” means taking income/revenue away from you, like a schoolyard bully stealing your lunch. meaning he the legit climber gets all the sponsorship cash (deservedly so) leaving you the pebble wrestlers with nada (also deservedly so).
I think paul has some of the strongest fingers out there. He messed up the sequence on problem 1 (didn’t get his foot up for the move out right) and fell. Repeatedly. DW got his foot up and, voila, sent the problem. Paul messed up the sequence again on problem 3 (tried to muscle / smear his way through that upper crux). He couldn’t do it, and, I admit, Daniel did manage to do it in the exact same way so, in that case, it was a matter of brute strength. But Julian (if I remember correctly) found a nice heel hook sequence which eliminated a throw to a shitty pinch. If that pinch had been a bit worse we might be sitting with a different winner. Problem 2 was pure balance.
Either way, if you want to watch people stemming up glassy 5.10’s (aka real climbing) I’d suggest going back to Devil’s lake, not watching a professional bouldering competition.
word for that info, peter… which precisely explained how dw’s skill and perhaps more importantly –execution– got him to the top.
like any comp, there will always be huge favorites, but like any comp, it will all come down to who can deliver on gameday.
i think that supports the format of the comp.
now, if an announcer explained those differences, the crowd would be more in touch.
Wow. The video is insane, that kid can crank. However, for me personally the strobe lights, shitty music, and screaming “Hell Yeah Daniel Woods!!! Oh yeah!!!” is the antithesis of climbing. Ugh. Whatever. As long as everyone’s having fun. Speaking of that you guys up there need to go climb! ce
antithesis of climbing? What is “climbing?” to you it might be a day in the mountains, birds chirping and wind blowing. to daniel it might be thuggin’ in a limo in a nationals hat. to jason danforth, it is blinking lights, hip hop and lots of energy. for me, it’s about to be sessioning in my garage.
glad the info was useful, sockhands. check out videos of all the problems on youtube. you’ll see what i mean.
Soooo, why was Sharma a no show?
My theory – Woods and Robinson laced his stash with PCP, and he was madly stumbling through SLC humping fire hydrants.
Lollerskates at the fantastic flame war. Nice work, y’all!
ps. Pro bowlers are prolly not raking it in. The Professional Bowlers Association nearly went bankrupt in the 90s, and most guys on tour live in their cars and many have second/day jobs.
pps. It’s all “real” climbing.
ppps. Diffrent strokes for diffrent folks.
pppps. Good commentators can make or break any televised sporting event. Give climbing some time, eh?
Nice of you guys to wait for me to go on vacation before having a quality anonymous flamewar…
I thought it was pretty nice of them.
Sorry you missed out on it. I was curious if there would have been any repercussions for the anonymous flamers.