Destination Red Point – this newsletter title has a unique meaning this year. For me and my sport, the premiere of climbing as a discipline at the Olympic Games marks the beginning of a new and exciting era. With my starting place in the pocket, I would like to record my progress in the coming months via this newsletter and share interesting and personal moments. And, of course, there is no better way to do that than to travel to Tokyo, six months before the Games.
Jessica Pilz and I traveled to the land of the rising sun by plane, so our Olympic outfit could be tailored to our bodies via digital body measurement by the climbing association's clothing supplier. This is the reason why I am allowed to stay in Tokyo exactly half a year before the Olympic climbing premiere – and to make the trip really pay off, we combined it with a training camp.
The atmosphere in our small team consisting of Heiko Wilhelm, our long-time team coach, physiotherapist Markus Schauer, Nikolai Uznik, a younger athlete who is in Japan for the first time, Jessica and Sandra Lettner is very good and familiar.
All of us are already very excited about the Olympics. We visited the Odaiba Aomi area, where the climbing competitions will take place. We couldn't go directly to the site, but saw the scaffolding for the lead wall already in place.
The alignment of the wall is good. When we were in the area at 4 pm, the sun was already behind the wall. The competitions start at 5 pm, so we don't have to climb in bright sunlight, which is good news. I am looking forward to climbing there! Definitely a cool place, right at Tokyo Bay.
Apart from that, it’s generally a joy to be here. Japan is always worth a trip. Very friendly people, great food, and a multi-facetted training. There are so many climbing enthusiasts in such a small space – this is really unique. Throughout the city, there are many billboards drawing attention to the games already.
On our first evening, we had sushi for dinner. We were recognized by some guests and the restaurant’s staff as Olympic starters and we were allowed to take pictures with everyone. When the cooks took notice of us as well, they were especially keen to prepare a culinary highlight for us.
I myself am still quite calm for the time being. There’s still plenty of time, and I'm glad about that, because there is still a lot to do and I don't feel ready yet, but I am making good progress. I'm very satisfied with my training.
Speaking of training: The Japanese climbing walls don't quite suit my style. B-Pump Ogikubo is the biggest and best gym in Japan with a very competition specific alignment – a lot of open holds, a lot of volumes and big slopers. Completely different from home. Here, you can't achieve much with finger strength as the holds are very slippery. The Japanese also like to rely on agility, because this is very beneficial to them. It also seems like the walls are made for rather small people as there are many high kicks and lots of pushing and lifting required. To me, this is difficult. But in the end, these unusual training conditions contribute to my personal development.
These situations remind me over and over again that I shouldn’t take it too much to heart when I am not as good at these walls as I am at home or especially when compared to the Japanese, who always train here. Conversely, the Japanese feel the same at my home in Innsbruck. You always feel most comfortable where you train the most.
At the World Championships last year and now for the Olympics, I have learned not to compare myself too much when competitions are up on the agenda and that you need a lot of confidence in your own skills. But there will be no home advantage for the Japanese at the Games either, because the wall will be built especially for the Games, and the route setters are not Japanese. This ensures equal chances for everyone.
We are also testing the apartment we have in mind for the time of the games. Of course we thought about about how to approach and plan the week before the Olympics. Do you want to eat similarly? Do you want to live similarly, arrange your daily routines similarly? That is currently on our mind. Do everything as perfectly as possible, be optimally prepared – both physically and mentally.
The apartment is not necessarily the most luxurious, but that's what I expected. Living in Tokyo is incredibly expensive and space is very limited. That's the first advantage of an apartment – more space than in a hotel room, and it's also very comfortable. Right now, we are in a men's apartment with Nikolai, Heiko and Markus.
That's cool because this way, we can share more impressions and thoughts compared to living in single hotel rooms by ourselves.
Breakfast is pretty flexible, and we can even cook lunch if we want to – we haven't done that yet, but in view of the Olympics that’s a good thing to keep in mind. The location is also important, so we can quickly get to the most important climbing gyms. The competition area is about 45 minutes away by subway.
Even though the foreign media keeps talking about a surveillance mania for the Games, I do not feel this way at all. In Japan, everything is always very organized and there is a lot of personnel for everything, yet you don't feel monitored.
All in all, it was a great trip. We had a really good training and towards the end, it got better and better. I had great training sessions! Now I am looking forward to home! Tokyo gets exhausting with time, but the length of the stay was just right. I will definitely take all that motivation home with me!
Photos by H. Wilhelm