White Spider-sponsored and Team GB climber Nathan Phillips gives his account of the CWIF comp and his preparations for 2019
Thinking back to last year’s Comp season, I feel I really took a step up and mentally matured. With more confidence in my abilities and a higher level of focus it led me to some great results. It’s always hard at the end of a season to get back into training with the next big comps being so far away. You have to keep reminding yourself why you’re doing it and that it clearly pays off like it did for me last year. I had a few niggles lingering from the season over the winter and with help from my new physio ‘Sam Radcliffe’ I am in a much better situation than I was at the end of last year.
The international comp season kicks off every year with the Climbing Works International Festival AKA the C.W.I.F. A comp that attracts a large proportion of seasoned World Cup climbers. The GB Team had a selection event one week before the CWIF which didn’t go too well for me. After that disappointment I went into CWIF with something to prove, knowing that my performance at the selection event didn’t show my true ability. I had participated for 6 years or so and never made finals in the CWIF. Most people in that situation might aim to make the finals and be happy with it. Not me. Right from the start I was in it to win.
The usual techy qualifying round went smoothly and I finished in joint first with fellow Brit Will Bosi. This was a good start but I knew if I was to win I couldn’t expect the same again in the next rounds without working for it. The semi-final started; the round I had never made it though. “This time it’s happening” I told myself. A silly mistake on the first boulder saw me back on the mat. “Sort yourself out”… I then topped 2nd try. Next boulder, a jump. I sent it after a couple of tries. Third, a steep burly wrestling boulder. My favourite! Flash. I looked at the score board just before pulling on to the last bloc. All I needed to make finals was the zone. 1st try, slip… 2nd try, I focused and got the zone securing my first ever CWIF finals. I still wanted to top the boulder and after a few more tries I grabbed the finish hold to secure first place once again. I found myself laughing as I climbed up the last section of the boulder. A surreal moment.
I had to stay focused on my goal. It was great to make finals but I knew I could do more and there was no reason to stop here. Finals started under the lights with a large crowd waiting for the action to get underway. It came to my turn to get on the first boulder. An error with the clock left me stood facing the crowd for what felt like 20 minutes, a long time to maintain the psych levels.
Finally, the clock was fixed. Flash. “Woah, I really could win this”…
The second boulder was a tricky slab with a start that confused all the climbers in the final. No one before me had topped. Here, I could think “no one has done it, it’s impossible”, “no one has done it, it doesn’t matter if I don’t either” or “no one has done it, it’s going to be really hard”. I didn’t think any of those things and instead thought “no one has done it, this is my chance to get a clear lead. This could be what wins the comp”. I picked a method and quickly found myself at the top. Yes!
After getting the zone on the 3rd boulder I hadn’t realised that by that point I had sealed the victory. Aleksei Rubstov (fellow finalist) came up and told me and I didn’t quite believe it. Amazing! The last boulder didn’t even matter, I still tried hard regardless but to no avail. Who cares, I won! 4 World Cup winners were in that final and to take the top spot proved to myself that I can do it on the world stage. Let’s see what happens next…
The best start to the season I could have asked for. Next up is Studio Bloc Masters in Germany shortly followed by the first World Cup of the year in Meiringen, Switzerland.
All photos used with permission