From groundbreaking sends, to changes in crag access, to international climbing competitions, we do our best to keep up with the latest climbing news and events. However, while covering climbing news over the past few months, I’ve come across one competition series that completely baffles me: the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) World Cup series. For example, why does it seem like there’s a World Cup every weekend? And how can there be more than one World Cup in the first place? Who gets to compete? Why aren’t we seeing more American women in the mix? And what the heck do the ‘t’s’ and ‘b’s’ mean?
So here goes my attempt at deciphering the 97 page handbook…
Competition Structure: There are 3 disciplines – Lead, Boulder, and Speed. According to me, people seem to really care about the first two and the last is just for boulderers and lead climbers to make a little extra cash. For each discipline there’s a maximum of 8 World Cup competitions per year. That means 24 competitions a year, and while sometimes they’ll hold two disciplines at the same event, it still means that there are A LOT of World Cup events each year. (“So you won the World Cup?” “Oh ya, me too. Nbd.”) Hence, the “another World Cup comp?” sensation you might be feeling. For Lead and Boulder competitions, there are 3 rounds of competition – Qualification, Semi-Final, and Final, while Speed competitions just have Qualification and Final rounds. Competitors must be at least 16 years old and members of a national climbing federation (USA Climbing, for example).
Scoring: Getting to the bottom of those dang ‘t’s’ and ‘b’s’…
Lead: Competitors have 6 minutes to complete a single route. Any competitor who successfully completes the route receives the scoring designation of TOP, while scores for competitors who do not reach the top within 6 minutes or fall are determined by the furthest hold held by the climber. In the event of a tie, the ranking from previous rounds of competition is used to break the tie. If still tied, the climbing time for each competitor breaks the tie (lower times are better). These tie breaker rules certainly affect the climbers strategy and approach to the competition.
Boulder: Get ready, this one’s a doozy. In the Final round, competitors attempt a course of 4 boulder problems and have 4 minutes on each problem. There are 4 values that matter in scoring:
- Tops: number of boulder problems (out of 4) that the climber completes successfully.
- Top-Attempts: total number of attempts taken to achieve those “Tops”.
- Bonus Points: each boulder problem has a “bonus hold” within the problem, which should be clearly marked. If the competitor reaches and controls the bonus hold they receive a “Bouns Point”.
- Bonus Attempts: total number of attempts the climber takes to reach the bonus hold.
If a climber takes 7 attempts to achieve 4 tops, it’s denoted as “4t7”. Likewise, if a climber takes 10 attempts to achieve 3 bonus points, it’s denoted as “3b10”. If there’s a crazy good climber who flashes all the problems, their score would be “4t4, 4b4”. Hopefully I haven’t confused you yet… because we’re just getting warmed up! Climbers are ranked by their scores in the following order: 1. Tops 2. Top-Attempts 3. Bonus Points 4. Bonus-Attempts. Let’s say Cate, Missy, and I compete at the World Cup (look for us on April 1st, 2014!) and we earn the following scores:
Cate: 3t7, 4b8
Missy: 4t6, 4b6
Mary (that’s me): 3t7, 3b9
Of the 3 of us, Missy places 1st because she has the most Tops. Cate and I have the same number of Tops and Top-Attempts but she earned more Bonus Points than me so she places 2nd and I come in 3rd.
Speed: Ahhh, finally an easy one. Shortest time to the top wins. If only they could all be that simple.
Ranking: Since t’s and b’s don’t easily translate to rank, at the end of each World Cup competition the top 30 competitors are awarded “Ranking Points”. They go like this:
At the end of the series for a given discipline each competitors “Ranking Points” are summed to have an overall ranking for the series. But of course the IFSC threw in some stipulations:
1. When five (5) or less competitions are organized, all results shall count.
2. When six (6) or more competitions are organized, the number of counting results will be the number of competitions less one (1). If a competitor has competed in more competitions than the number of counting results, the competitors’ ‘worst’ result shall be discarded in calculating their World Cup Ranking.
Thus, it is in the competitors best interest to compete in as many World Cup comps as possible if their goal is to have the best overall ranking. This is a huge yearly travel commitment and expense for the climbers. Perhaps this is why we aren’t seeing more Americans in the mix?
Keeping up With the Comp(dashians): If all of this is still too confusing, or you just want to watch Alex Puccio CRUSH at the next World Cup, you can find competition schedules, current rankings, recap videos, and live-streams of the competitions at the IFSC website. And here’s a recap video from the World Cup comp in Innsbruck, Austria from 2013:
The more I read the IFSC handbook, the more I wanted to run for cover and just assume the rules for King of the Hill applied. Let us know what else you might want to know about the mysterious world of the IFSC World Cup series and if I’m feeling extra bored, I’ll translate their 97 page handbook for you!
(Info and photo credits: www.ifsc-climbing.org, IFSC Handbook, www.boulderingcanada.com)