Angers are flaring over news coming out of the IFSC’s 2019 Plenary Assembly: There is a tentative plan to decouple the Paraclimbing World Championships from the other IFSC World Championship competitions in Hachioji, Japan in 2019. The Paraclimbing World Championships would be moved to a different date and location. It is worth noting that not a single disabled climber was present at the Plenary Assembly meeting during which this proposal was voted upon.
The decision to stage a separate Paraclimbing World Championships is being heralded by those in favor as a solution—an alternative to canceling the Paraclimbing World Championships outright.
According to a Change.org petition started by American climber Maureen Beck, “It’s come to the paraclimber’s attention that due to what is being described as a ‘scheduling conflict’ has led the Japanese Mountaineering & Sport Climbing Association (the host organization) and the International Federation of Sport Climbing (the governing body for competitive climbing) to consider cancelling the Paraclimbing part of the world championships … Cancelling paraclimbing in Tokyo [the World Championships are being held, more specifically, in Hachioji, a city in the Tokyo metro area] is the easy, convenient thing to do, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing – our athletes are more than an inconvenience, and they deserve better.”
The tentative plan is to hold the Paraclimbing World Championships in France instead, but this decision has rankled climbers of all stripes. The criticisms include how such a move would stifle the voice of paraclimbers and deprive them of the experience and exposure of the massive, grand event that is the World Championships.
The Change.org petition continues, “We believe the IFSC’s proposed solution to move the Paraclimbing Championship to a different month, venue, country and continent is unacceptable. There are other options that can be explored to keep Paraclimbing in Tokyo with the abled bodied climbers. If it were to move, we question how the IFSC could recreate the full WCH experience just for the paraclimbers.”
As of this morning, Monday, March 25, the petition has garnered over 5,000 signatures. Beck, who was the the 2014 and 2016 AU-2 (Forearm Amputee) Paraclimbing World Champion, posted an update at the bottom, explaining that no final decision has been made as of yet. “We are getting our information from national federations representatives who attended the annual Plenary Assembly of the IFSC where the matter was discussed and voted on,” Beck writes. “As far as we know, the vote was binary – either cancel Paraclimbing altogether, or move it to another time and location. We want to be sure that all possible avenues to keep Paraclimbing in Tokyo have been explored.”
In the second issue of Gym Climber magazine, in gyms now, Editor Francis Sanzaro recalls the incredible experience of watching the Paraclimbing events at the 2018 IFSC World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria. After finding himself at the visually impaired category final, Sanzaro writes, “I was glued to my seat. It was the poetry of movement … chaotic, orderly, honest. … Blind climbing is full trust by the climber. It is the real deal—climbing’s dance: requiring full confidence, but needing to rethink, recalibrate, adapt. Hesitation mixed with gotta go and pure team work.”
One of Sanzaro’s co-spectators concurred, noting that it was ‘the most emotional climbing event” he could imagine.
As Sanzaro’s piece speaks to, Paraclimbing is as much a part of the World Championships as the able-bodied sport climbing and bouldering events. Should the Paraclimbing World Championships be separated from the rest of the World Championships, athletes and spectators alike would all be worse off.