The Climbing Narc said it well" For the first time in the 4 years the TMG has hosted this World Cup no Americans stood atop the podium at the end of the comp with Alex Puccio (2nd) and Angie Payne (6th) being the only Americans to even make it to finals." While I do not believe that bouldering competitions are the only measure of climbing ability, it is striking particularly on the male side, how completely the US men were shut out of the finals.
No doubt the competitors will have their own thoughts on the subject and in particular I look forward to seeing what Carlo Traversi will have to say. But I would suggest that the time may have come for a second look at how climbers train and prepare for these events. A similar problem is also apparent in looking at the 8a.nu rankings for roped climbing. Not a single American male climber shows up in the top 20.
While I know this is a perennial topic for blogging and message boards, I think there is some cause for concern given the push for professionalization among climbers in recent years. Are climbers able to get the coaching, training and travel opportunities that are available to their European counterparts? And perhaps increasingly more important a question is, are they required to train at a world-class level to maintain sponsorships or team memberships?
An interesting counterpart to this question is an essay by a British climber and coach, Mark Pretty, on "The Forgotten Art of Training." In the piece which should be required reading for every serious climber, Pretty notes that in contrast to a previous generation that displayed a genuine "thoroughness of their training in whatever form it took and the dedication and energy they applied to it in the pursuit of their goal," today, "in my job as a coach, I see at many walls climbers frittering away their talent and energy in pointless training or idle posing-the ‘big fish in a small pond’ syndrome." He continues "There is a lot of talk but very little walk as most people seem to prefer to mess about on a bouldering wall and call it a training session rather than knuckle down and train."
Last year I climbed a bit with a Dutch climber who came to Colorado for the World Cup and was struck by the serious training regimen that he described for the Dutch team. Regular practices, required attendance at competitions and so on. My impression of the Austrian team and others, though only second-hand, is that the same principles apply. The American approach is much more casual and ad hoc and I wonder if the results of this attitude are now starting to show in earnest. Sure there are strong US outdoor climbers though not many on roped climbs and I have no doubt that in outdoor bouldering, US climbers can hold their own. But the results at Vail show some trends that do not look good for US climbers, especially males. What if anything will be done about it is anybody's guess.