Climber Molly Thompson-Smith on mixed season but still dreaming of Tokyo Olympics
By Mark Ashenden
Last Updated: 01/11/19 9:50pm
It's been a brutal season for climber Molly Thompson-Smith.
Crazy weather in Japan, emotional burn-out, bad luck, a load of sushi and agonisingly missing out on the last Olympic qualification event this year.
An emotional and candid season review from the 21-year-old Sky Sports Scholar...
"I was fairly pleased with the first half of the 2019 lead season. I made it back into the finals after a nightmare year of injury and encouragingly actually felt dissatisfied - there was an air of promise for the rest of the campaign.
Next came the World Championships in Hachioji, Japan which knocked me hard. I had all these ambitions and expectations and was confident in my training. With the hope, comes pressure and fear of not achieving what you'd dedicated yourself to.
I knew I was capable of an amazing result, and rather than it all coming together when I needed it to, it seemed to disintegrate and fall apart.
After a boulder season clouded in injury and minimal time to train for speed, I'd left myself exactly where I didn't want to be in terms of Olympic qualification.
This undesirable boulder/speed season had piled the pressure onto my lead events and I needed a podium in one of the last three competitions to qualify for the qualification event.
It was a big ask even back in my most successful season of 2017, so I was beyond stressed with the task in a season where I didn't feel my best.
I can only assume this was the reason for the devastating Kranj World Cup only one month after the still painful World Championships.
I felt an inability to dig deep on the wall and felt almost apathetic about the whole thing - maybe the first time I had ever experienced an emotional burn-out.
It was such an unpleasant experience, and despite making the semi-finals, I did not train as hard as I did or go to these events for performances like that.
With only two weeks between Kranj and leaving for the last two World Cup rounds in Asia (which also included the European Championships) I knew I had to sort myself out.
When events are so close together, it's almost impossible to really 'train' between them so I knew the most gains would be mental rather than physical.
After these two weeks of refocusing and connecting my mind and body on the wall I felt relaxed and in a better place to compete in China and Japan.
I'd practised my warm-up, prepped nutrition, timings and everything I possibly could to feel as in control as possible.
Sure enough, I was back to where I felt I belonged, comfortably qualifying for semis in fifth place in China and finding a cruise mode on the wall.
Unfortunately luck - or routesetting - was not on my side at this event. Routesetters are the people who create the climbs by putting holds on the wall and they split the competitors, making us all fall at different places on the routes so there are clean results each round with previous rounds not taken into account for ranking.
I felt the routesetters had a hard time and didn't do a good job at creating these splits, and I found myself watching finals even though I'd climbed to the height required for finals.
I had the same score as the girls qualifying in 8th (last spot in finals), but because they had been ranked joint-first after the qualification round the previous day I was bumped out.
This was incredibly frustrating and meant I lost out on another chance to improve my ranking in the hopes of qualifying for the Olympic qualification event.
Sometimes that's how it goes. I didn't have much time to be upset, as I was on a plane to Tokyo the following day for the last World Cup of the season.
After some relaxed climbing days and loads of sushi it was time to move to Inzai for the competition. We thought we'd been lucky missing the two typhoons in Japan while we were in China, but it turned out the string of disastrous weather events was back.
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Cancelled trains, submerged roads, blocked roads and crazy crowds of stranded travellers made for a stressful trip to Narita. A 1.5-hour journey turned into seven hours and cost a lot of emotional distress and energy.
I was so grateful to make it to Narita. I went to bed drained but relieved to have avoided anything worse.
Everyone was tired and I certainly didn't have my best performances but I was comfortably into the semis. The competition was hard - probably the hardest climb I've had all year - and I fought my way up to about halfway.
It wasn't my best but I was proud of my fight on a challenging route and the provisional first place it had put me in.
I then watched climber after climber come out and fall lower than me, still holding on to my first place by the skin of my teeth. After a while I let my guard down and allowed myself to think maybe it could be enough for finals.
It was enough for finals, but like the previous weekend in China, I was the unlucky one knocked out on countback.
I was so disappointed - I felt I deserved a finals spot. But I was out again and that was the end of my season. I hadn't got the podium I needed, and I wasn't going to the Olympic Qualification event in Toulouse.
That was rough but there's no point getting hung up on all the missed opportunities. The more constructive way to react would be to take a break, refresh and start thinking about the possibilities of the last chance to qualify for the Olympics and how I can have the lead season I want next year.
That's the next plan. But first… the break part!