The Big Flash: Sunday

The story so far...

There was a climbing competition in Norwich.  I didn't qualify for the next round.

The Big Flash: Sunday Morning

After the struggles of the previous day, it is down to business.  The high scorers are readying themselves for the  semi-finals.  But all this takes an unbelievable amount of admin.  Chairs do not shift themselves, bottles of water do not walk around offering themselves to thirsty people, and without helpful signs no one knows where to go.

I have agreed to run isolation for the semis and the finals.  This basically means I walk around with a clipboard, which is about my level.  I hope there will be some kind of Health and Safety infringement so I can issue a stop notice.  God help the world should I ever be entrusted with real power.  There would be some changes....

Isolation itself is unbelievably boring, its official function is make sure no one cheats by skilfully reading the routes in advance.  Its real function is to force introverted athletic types to make friends, among the most introverted and intelligent it provokes a depth of thought that has pushed philosophy and theoretical astrophysics ahead by years.

It also builds tension.   Because there are eighteen women in the semis and only fifteen men, the idea is for three of the women to go out on their own at first.  This is a shit idea.  As everyone goes out in reverse order i.e. the lowest scorers first and the highest scorers last, this means that the three least experienced-and presumably more nervous- women would go out first, into the glare of the spotlight.  Diane Merrick points this out, so we rejig it.  Now the last three women go out on their own - they can handle it, as they've all done finals before.

It is a good job.  The first female competitor is noticeably very nervous and the wait hasn't helped.  I point out that as five men and two women haven't turned up at all she has already beaten them.

'Seven people haven't turned up?  It should have been eight,' she says.

Luckily, Richard Hipkin is going out at the same time as her, and he does a great job of talking away to her - then its time and they're off.  Out they go, and it is a real moment of bravery to go out first, on your first competition, in front of a crowd of sixty or seventy people.  However supportive the crowd is it must be intimidating.

Two by two the competitors go out.  No one wants to make a fool of themselves by performing badly i.e. not getting off the ground on any problem.  Everyone does really well, the problems are well set to give everyone a chance of at least standing up and making a move, and the crowd appreciate it.  The Norwich climbing scene can be proud of their growing reputation of being 'friendly and supportive' - according to Diane Merrick, who should know..

Our local talent is well supported; although the commentator still can't pronounce Sharlene Czykieta's surname (he has known her for years).  There are roars of approval when Hannah Cowles flashes her first problem, groans and oooohs when people just miss a hold, especially when it is near the top.  

I have a chat with all the competitors as they head out.  About half have travelled: the Bournemouth contingent  drove for six and a half hours with an overnight stop to get here.  Luckily they all qualified.  Other are up from London, like Lexi Basch and Matt Varela-Christie (who has set some cracking routes and problems at Highball), Matt Cousins and Storme Biggs have come up from Canterbury. All in all, the Big Flash is drawing some serious and committed boulderers from across the south east, and the crowd love it.

Then the results are in.  The finalists also include two of our strongest local climbers, Sam Lawson and Rachel Hipkin, amongst the UK boulder team members and regular competition climbers.  

I realise I haven't eaten anything other than an oat-based power bar in about three hours: frankly the Bear Grylls Lean Muscle Protein Shakes haven't tempted me, and I am starving.  Roll on the Hog Roast, and then the Finals...