Rabenstein, the newest venue on the UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour provided plenty of drama and memories for athletes and spectators.
It was the setting for the final climb of Markus Bendler of Austria, a perennial crowd favourite and former Lead champion who gave it his all to reach the final hold, but fell.
It was where the normally cool and unflappable Angelika Rainer of Italy finally broke down in tears after winning the Lead in front of family and a home country crowd.
And it’s also where a great rivalry was cemented between Russian champion Maxim Tomilov, the dominant force today in the Men’s Lead and Hee Yong Park of Korea who delighted the spectators by climbing past the last hold to the top of the tower – and then jumping off it.
The highlight, however, was the retirement of Bendler, a veteran and fixture on the UIAA Ice Climbing circuit. After years of competition and winning, he’s decided to quit competitive climbing and focus on his mountaineering shop which he plans to open soon.
“It was a great emotional finish for me,” said Bendler who placed fourth behind Tomilov, Park and Alexey Tomilov. “I’m glad about my success in this sport during the past 12 years. Ice Climbing opened a lot of doors for me and changed my life totally.”
Rainer called Bendler a great athlete, someone who she’s known since she started competing in the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup in 2006.
“Bendler won a lot of competitions over the last years and demonstrated technique and mental power,” said Rainer. “He was an important part of the World Cup. Now I wish him all the best for his future projects and I’m sure he will do well as all that he does with great determination.”
Speaking about her own top place finish, Rainer said winning at home was special and especially beautiful in front of family, friends and fans.
“I felt great pressure as everybody wanted and expected that I would win and being able to concentrate and climb freely was not so easy,” said Rainer last year’s overall women’s Lead champion. “But now I am happy. I think this was my most beautiful and maybe also hardest win.”
Another highlight of the tour that has included stops in Cheongsong, Korea and Saas Fee had to be the win in the men’s Speed final by Dennis Van Hoek of the Netherlands.
Van Hoek, 25, who has been competing for seven years in the event said he has never given up and it felt especially good to beat out so many of the Russian climbers who have beaten him in previous years.
“It’s good for the sport if many nationalities compete and that’s why I’ve always kept competing,” said Van Hoek. “For me speed climbing has always been a gambling game. You have to commit 100 per cent each time and there’s always a big chance that you will fall.”
The 2013 UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour now heads to Busteni, Romania and finally Kirov, Russia.
For pictures from Cheongsong, Saas Fee and Rabenstein please visit www.facebook.com/theuiaa
You can follow the tour at old.theuiaa.org/ice_climbing_2013 where you can find the lastest overall rankings of athletes.