Sarah’s experience: IFSC World Cup Navi Mumbai 2016


As I am lying in my bed, attempting to wake up, it hits me. I’m leaving for India in a matter of hours. I still can’t believe it! A rush of adrenaline shoots through me as I climb out of bed to finish my last-minute packing. Major euphoria hits when we arrive at LAX. OH MY GOSH! We’re going to India! As I am standing in line waiting to go through security, I look over at my Mom and we just smile at each other. I give her a hug and say, “Can you believe it?” She just shakes her head and grins. I’ve always gone on climbing trips with my Mom, ever since my first youth Nationals, almost 10 years ago. We are definitely a team, and I couldn’t ask for anyone better to be going with me. She has been with me my entire competitive life, and this trip is as much as hers as it is mine.

I start to remember that our journey to India is going to be hard. 30 hours of travel with two layovers. I have never taken such a long trip in my life. I’ll admit, I’m a little intimidated but there’s a first time for everything, right? I’m able to get creative and use my time wisely. I balance getting schoolwork done, making solid use of the extensive movie selection on the airplane, and sleeping a lot. With the competition on my mind, I make sure to consciously hydrate, do my best to try to adjust to India time (by sleeping at specific intervals during each leg of the journey), and get up periodically to walk around the plane to stretch the legs. If I am not doing one of these things, then I am going through my mental prep and visualization. This stuff is essential for me personally, and I always take the time to go over this before any major event.

As we land in India, my first initial thoughts are “Wow, it’s HOT!” and then I notice the humidity. Even though we are inside and walking through the airport, we can just feel the outside temperature slipping through the cracks of the doors and windows. Our first challenge is now to get to the hotel from the Airport. We decide taking a taxi will be our easiest option, but it is quite an interesting experience because we have to rely on complete strangers from the airport staff to get us to our destination. Some speak English, but many do not or are limited. Even though they are all very helpful, we are essentially at the mercy of these people and relying solely on them – which is frightening for my mother and I. Note to self, next time I travel internationally I’m learning some basic vocabulary and maybe bringing a dictionary!


I begin to wonder if the crux of the trip will be adjusting to a new lifestyle and culture, rather than the actual comp itself. India is unique in the fact that it is loud, noisy, and there is a high concentration of people in Navi Mumbai who all seem to live an intense hustle and bustle sort of way of life. Being tired from the long flights and travel, I feel kind of lonely and homesick. Still excited for the comp and seeing a new part of the world, I begin to get overwhelmed from such a major culture shock, excitement and just want to get to the hotel and sleep. We pass the competition venue and I see a huge billboard displaying the 2016 IFSC Navi Mumbai Bouldering World Cup sign. I couldn’t believe it! A jolt of energy shoots through me and I sit up straighter and I am reminded of why we’re here. I give myself a little pep talk to put things into perspective, “Wow, we’re in India. I’m going to have a great trip, no matter the heat or any other challenges. Get a little food in me at the hotel, take a power nap and I’ll be good and ready to go.”


It’s Media Day and all of the athletes who are competing must have profile shots taken. In the morning I meet Eddie Fowke, IFSC photographer, and he shoots some pictures of me. I am very psyched for the comp, and I don’t really have any negative anxiety just yet. Just pure excitement and the good nerves athletes get before an event. I expect the energy to be intense and competitive but I am pleasantly surprised when I take a look around and everyone is happy to be here, simple as that. The passion and pure stoke to be climbing fills the room and I feel right at home. I get a chance to connect with my fellow USA athletes Peter Erard and Lisa Chulich and feel proud to be sitting next to them, representing our country together in a room full of international athletes. I go to bed still carrying the high energy from the day and reflect on all of the amazing people I was able to meet and relate with.


The big day has finally arrived! To say I’m psyched would be an understatement. I purposefully sleep in, eat a late breakfast, and relax in the morning. My Mom and I walk over to ISO after lunch and the first thing I notice is the outside warm-up wall. All the athletes were informed yesterday of the warm-up area being outside, but reality doesn’t sink in until I see it myself. Being 34th out of 38 women in the running order means I have some time to kill. There is a separate room indoors that is air conditioned for the athletes to hang out in between their warm-ups, so I bounce between the two areas. I loved watching the other seasoned competitors warm-up. I studied their routines. When I finally start to loosen up and get warmed up there are only a handful of athletes left in ISO. I make up climbs with some other athletes and enjoy testing/comparing our strengths and weaknesses. The light vibe is the same as Media day and I don’t feel too stressed.


Time flies by, and it’s my turn. The atmosphere and venue are everything I’ve ever dreamed about for a World Cup. I look at the wall and each climb has multi-coordination moves, loads of volumes, and many holds I am unfamiliar with. I can see the problems are technical and will require a bit of patience and focus. I quickly learn that there is absolutely no relaxing on any of the climbs. Each problem starts when your feet leave the ground – you better be fully committed and focused on each move or you will hit the mats. Before I know it I am on the last problem, a funky dihedral slab with a big off-set dynamic transfer move off to another wall angle, and I’m stuck in the corner (for whole 3 minutes).. Once I commit to getting out of the corner, I latch a hold and make the transition. I fall on the last move – a dyno. I place 27th, with two bonus holds and no tops. Although I didn’t make semis I am proud of my performance and grateful for this experience. What an amazing day!


Finals on Saturday night are loud and very exciting! I am able to learn so much from watching the other athletes live. First hand experience is key to full understanding. I especially enjoy seeing Mad Rock pro Jan Hojer compete. So many people packed into the venue, and it soon became standing room only. The city of Navi Mumbai seems psyched to be hosting their first World Cup, and the entire crowd has non-stop energy from start to finish. This is truly the best Finals show and crowd I have ever seen! From this comp I learn that confidence is key while going for holds that are near limit or out of your reach. No hesitation or fear can be around. I see that the climbers who have the most success are the ones who are committing to the movements and not overthinking things. Instinct and trusting your abilities as a climber seems to be key at this level. I also learn that it is really important to take that extra time to read through the sequences thoroughly. Lastly, I see a pattern in the types of movements that World Cup setting is currently using. One move in particular that reoccurs over and over throughout the comp is lock-off, high-step offset balance moves. I will definitely be practicing those in future workouts!


I’m home now, but the rest of my trip didn’t disappoint. Navi Mumbai is a beautiful city and exploring it was such an experience. I enjoyed every second of my time there, even the heat and humidity. Although it was a lot to take in, India’s food (still in awe from the complex flavor combos and spices), fashion, lifestyle, and culture pleasantly surprised me. Such a unique nation! If I had the choice to do it over again I totally would. It was an absolute life-changing trip and such a dream come true! I am now more motivated and inspired to train than ever before, and I can’t wait to put all the things I’ve learned into practice. All in all, it was surreal, what an amazing week. Thanks to everyone for all their help and support in getting me here, with a very special shout out to Mad Rock. I couldn’t have done it without you guys! On to the next adventure!