After the success of hosting its first IFSC Climbing World Cup Navi Mumbai 2016, India is looking poised to take sport climbing to new heights

Suspended halfway up a wall, dangling by a fingertip, a toned body contorts itself to reach a black 'rock'. With a graceful swing, the body uses its forward momentum to grab onto a tiny yellow 'rock' and then immediately hurdle high to reach the yellow 'rock' marked 'TOP'. The body grabs the top, hangs onto it with a smile and then jackknives into the air and to the ground in a flourish of chalk dust and applause! Welcome to the realm of sport climbing, one of the fastest growing sports in the world, with 3,000 new climbers being added every day. A space where polychromatic hued 'rocks' stand out against monochromatic walls, as a silent testament to human agility, speed, control, and psyche


As a recreational activity, climbing is growing by leaps and bounds, but as a sport, it still sometimes fights to be taken seriously. Especially in India, points out Nitin Khanna, member of the World Cup Committee: "Here, we face the same problems as any sport, other than cricket, faces in our country.

The biggest problem and harsh truth being we are not inherently a sporting nation. The priority given to sports by Indian families is low to say the least. Apart from this, the lack of infrastructure, awareness, and even funds, all act as hindrances. I feel this is all set to change. In fact, the last couple of years have seen a positive movement on almost all fronts"


The hybrid landscape of climbing plays a discerning factor in its all-encompassing appeal. So it should come as no surprise that India has its own sport climbing community and one that has just paved the route for history to be written, having just hosted the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) Climbing World Cup Navi Mumbai 2016.

But, having said that, this tale is such an audacious one that it can be compared to Alice falling down the rabbit hole and discovering Oz in technicolor! A group of dedicated, determined, broke - but by no way broken in spirit – climbers, in a moment of insanity,the indefatigable 'Bong Dada', and the much respected Vaibhav Mehta, who have been holding annual climbing competitions for the past 11 years, decided that the only way forward was not an incremental improvement every year but a massive leap straight to the pinnacle of climbing. They took the idea of India hosting the IFSC Climbing World Cup to the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, which is the apex body for climbing in India.

Despite initial hesitation, the IMF was moved by the determination in their faces and decided to support them and gave them the green light." They were in effect reaching for the moon, when at that time all they had was a propeller plane. No one realised it then but history had begun to be written


Weeks of preparation, hard work, and roller coaster moments culminated in the IFSC Climbing World Cup Navi Mumbai 2016 held between the 13th and 16th of May at CIDCO Exhibition Centre, Vashi. Thousands of fans thronged the centre to cheer the 88 climbers from around the world, including India. And the reactions from all - climbers, organisers, and the crowd, have been beyond expectation.

To quote an article from the British mountaineering council website; Leah Crane, GB Climbing member, commented: "The home nation created an electric atmosphere for the semis and the competition ran smoothly, probably the best we've had this season so far.

They cheered and clapped and supported every climber. Shauna and I both agree this is the friendliest climbing community we've come across." Shauna Coxsey ranks number one this year, so far, and Leah Crane is her training partner and member of the British climbing team. "The IFSC delegates were also full of praise," describes Nitin.

"By hosting this we proved not only to the climbing community, but to sportsmen across all disciplines that India can hold competitions at the highest levels, at standards equal to, if not better than, the rest of the world. It has managed to infuse a sense of confidence and conviction that anything is possible"


So what impact does the hosting of the World Cup have on climbing in India, what needs to be done to educate people on climbing, and will it truly move climbing from the 'trend' box to the 'sport' space? The biggest impact will be the exposure that it has given the sport, elucidates Nitin. "Most of the people were not even aware that climbing is a sport recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Young kids who saw the event might want to, at the very least, give it a try. We need to basically build on the success of the World Cup, train our athletes better, and aim for a medal in the Asian Games in 2018. A medal in the Games will give a huge fillip to the sport. We need to have Indian athletes in the finals if not on the podium in the next three to five years,because only then can real popularity for climbing as a sport be achieved in India"


Once relegated to the abstruse stronghold of an extreme sport, 'climbing' has even made it to the shortlist of events to be considered for the 2020 Olympic Games by the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee. The final decision will be out in August, and many are hoping for a positive response.

This decision should and will have an unprecedented impact on the sport aspect of rock climbing. While in India, there is a need for more infrastructure, instructors, trainers, gyms, etc. dedicated specifically to climbing. If the crowds who packed CIDCO Exhibition Centre for the IFSC Climbing World Cup Navi Mumbai 2016 are any indication of interest and/or support for the sport, the country definitely has a better and exciting road ahead in attracting more and more people to the climbing wall


While many await the higher 'sport' status for climbing in India, as a trend and recreational activity it has definitely caught on.

There is this primitive component to climbing that entices people of all ages. Climbing that wall transforms the world around. It's a space where you let go of your inhibitions, forego your fear of falling, plunge headlong into whatever adventure the wall takes you on, and enjoy the view from the top. It can be your Grand Canyon, your Everest, or Matterhorn. It's 'yours' to climb


As shared with IFIN Panorama Editorial Team

About the Author
Ayesha Dominica, is a fiercely independent writer, published since age 13. When she's not intimidating strangers with her love for polysyllabic words, she works as an artist manager for DJ Russel. She is prone to withdrawal symptoms if distanced from her books and is easily distracted by the colour yellow


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