At 37, and in relative terms, Nikolay Primerov is one of the younger volunteers supporting the UIAA, International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation. Over the past few years he has served as one of the Athlete Representatives on the Ice Climbing Commission. “My motivation for joining as an Athletes’ Representative was to improve communication as sometimes it felt like the Commission was just working by itself,” explains Nikolay. “Now I feel like this link has been strengthened and I know that athletes’ voices are heard. They are the most important pillar in the sport.”
Having taken up competitive rock climbing as a student in Russia, Nikolay began ice climbing following the recommendation of a friend. His evolution from rookie to UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour star was meteoric. Fittingly his first World Cup appearance was in Switzerland, a country which became his adopted home and one he chose to compete for. “It was 2007 in Saas-Fee and I ended up winning the speed competition at my first attempt. I was super happy and my motivation was through the roof. Ever since I have participated regularly in the World Tour but have often had to take a season off to take care of personal matters.” Winning a gold medal at your first World Cup is something very few athletes have achieved.
Nikolay has been part of the World Tour for the subsequent thirteen years. During some seasons he has been able to commit more of this time than others. The year 2015 proved to be the one World Tour where he completed all events. He claimed silver in the lead competition in Rabenstein, his second best performance, and one made more special by the surprise birthday celebration his wife Carolin and other athletes held in his honour. In 2019, he claimed a bronze medal in Saas-Fee and a credible fourth in most attended ice climbing competition ever when the UIAA World Tour headed to downtown Denver, USA. Despite the constraints on his availability and sometimes lack of training time compared to his opponents, he has always remained competitive both in lead and speed events.
Throughout his time climbing, Nikolay has furthered an impressive professional career. He graduated with a masters in Materials and Devices in Electronics from the Russian Federal University in Ekaterinburg before studying for not one but two PhDs. The first from the Technical University of Lausanne in the field of Photonics and the second from the Phrohorov General Physics Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in the field of Materials for optical devices. Today based in the Zurich area, he works as a laser engineer for the Swiss company EXALOS AG. There he helps develop new, compact visible superluminescent light emitting diode based modules for virtual, augmented and mixed reality applications.
Nikolay admits his the time he spends on UIAA work is increasing by the year (currently averaging three weeks), not only attending Commission meetings but in acting as a conduit between the Commission and the near 150 athletes from some 30 different countries engaged with the UIAA World Tour. He also works as a liaison between the Commission and the IOC. “Every year we organise an extensive questionnaire for athletes to collect their feedback, concerns, and ideas and present it to Commission members,” reveals Nikolay. “We also make sure that the issues and questions we receive from athletes are reviewed and answered by the Commission in good time.” In normal non-Covid times, Nikolay would liaise with athletes during competitions and then online in the off season. He also has a grand plan for when competition resumes and travel restrictions lifted. “My goal is also to organise an annual athlete meeting during the competition season where we can have open discussions and elect new members for the Athletes’ Commission.” The UIAA created the Athlete Representation body within the Ice Climbing Commission to help further the growth of the sport and ensure athlete’s ideas and voices were part of this process. Not only that but providing a platform for athletes from as many countries as possible to contribute. Thanks to his near 15-year experience on the World Tour, Nikolay has proved a perfect fit.
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Climbing image courtesy of Vladelzumr.com