We have all been waiting for this – Ice Climbing athletes

The men and women winners of the opening Ice Climbing World Cup event of 2011, held in Cheongsong, Korea, talk about winning, Korean hospitality and the challenge presented by the climbing structure.

Can you describe what it is to win an event that is held for the first time in Asia?

“I am happy. I could not complete the route, and that makes me sad. But still, I am always happy when I win.” Markus Bendler, men’s Lead winner

“The event was perfectly well organized. People from the organizing committee were very kind and nice. I was impressed. As for the competition, judging was good.” Maria Tolokonina, women’s Lead winner

“I never expected I would win. It makes me happy.” Maxim Tomilov, men’s Speed winner

“We have all been waiting for this. I liked everything regarding the organization. Everything was kept in order. I am very grateful. We were picked up at the airport and had great meals. I hope this level of organization will be the same at the next competitions, since this is a model for other event organizers.” Irina Bagaeva, women’s Speed winner

What do you think of the climbing structure built by the Korean organisers? How does it compare with other World Cup events?

“For me, the route was perfect. For route setters, it is difficult to make a route which only one athlete can complete. If it is too easy, everyone would complete it, if it is too hard, nobody would. In that sense, the structure was good.” Markus Bendler, men’s Lead winner

“The structure was a bit difficult. And the holds were unexpected and surprising. I thought it was fun (to climb).” Maria Tolokonina, women’s Lead winner

“It was not really different with other competition structures. But there was too much snow on the speed structure. I hoped that the ice on the structure would have been thicker.” Maxim Tomilov, men’s Speed winner

“For Lead, the structure was just good. But for Speed, I thought a stopwatch would have made it better. Some athletes had to re-climb because of the timer problem. Except that, I liked everything else. Also, on the lead wall, there was a bit too much snow and the ice was too thin. Sometimes you had to penetrate the net behind the ice with the axe. Then it was difficult to pull out the axe which took more time. Irina Bagaeva, women’s Speed winner

Why are you attracted to the sport?

“You can compete outdoors. But at the same time you have the fun and thrill of competition. You need to compete against other climbers. So you have both aspects of mountaineering and competition.” Markus Bendler, men’s Lead winner

“I like its extreme- sport aspect. It is very difficult to climb the competition structure and thus it gives you great feeling of victory when you succeed. And you always have to deal with the coldness and wind.” Maria Tolokonina, women Lead winner

“It is an interesting sport with many strengths. You travel to different walls of ice in different regions. You get to meet many new people and become friends during the event. It’s always exciting and a lot of fun.” Maxim Tomilov, men’s Speed winner

“I don’t know. It’s not easy to say. But I like this sport because it gives me confidence and I feel that I improve myself with ice climbing.” Irina Bagaeva, women’s Speed winner