Sasha DiGiulian takes 1st overall at the 2011 IFSC World Championships

A storied locale set in a green valley and surrounded by rocky outcroppings, Arco, Italy, this year hosted thousands of climbers and fans from around the world for the International Federation of Sport Climbing’s crowning competition, the Climbing World Championships. The 18-year-old climber from Virginia Sasha DiGiulian took first place overall.


Sasha DiGiulian, 1st place overall at the 2011 IFSC Climbing World Championships. Arco, Italy.
Sasha DiGiulian took first place overall at the 2011 IFSC Climbing World Championships in Arco, Italy.

Sasha competed in the 2011 World Championships in four categories: Bouldering, Lead, Speed, and Duel. She placed second in the Bouldering event, though she did not train specifically for bouldering prior to the event, third in the Duel (a head-to-head, timed lead-climbing competition), and eighth in lead. Her performance was enough to net her a first-place finish overall – an unusual accomplishment for an American in this very international event with a very strong field of competitors.

 Q&A with Sasha about the 2011 World Championships:

Can you give a few thoughts on each event?
Bouldering – my first IFSC- sanctioned boulder event! The bouldering here in Europe is much more technically and gymnastically oriented than in the US (problems in the US can sometimes can just be big moves between holds). I think that the European style of setting for bouldering suits me better, because I’m short and often get shut down by long, dynamic moves.
Lead – I wish that our finals route yielded more separation.
Duel – the top 16 lead competitors “dueled” it out on a sport climb. In the Duel Competition, we were presented with two identical routes running parallel to each other, graded approximately 7c or 7c+ (5.13a). We had to lead the route as quickly as possible, trying to beat out the opposing competitor. It was a process of elimination, and the fastest one up the wall advanced to the next round. I came in third! This was a very fun and new style of competition to experience. It was especially exciting to watch the final round of the men, as Adam Ondra and Thomas Tauporn rapidly dueled it out, leading to Ondra’s victory.

Is it true you didn’t train specifically for bouldering?
This is true, but in my opinion any form of climbing is training. I was training lead for Chamonix and for the lead element of Arco specifically. I’ve always both bouldered and done routes. I typically have more fun sport climbing, but I enjoy bouldering as well… I just have never competed internationally in a boulder event before.

Sasha DiGiulian bouldering at the IFSC Climbing World Cup in Arco. Photo © Lukasz Warzecha
Sasha DiGiulian bouldering at the 2011 IFSC Climbing World Cup in Arco. Photo: © Lukasz Warzecha

Sasha DiGiulian bouldering in the Climbing World Championships in Arco. Photo © Lukasz Warzecha
You placed 8th in the Lead competition, but really you were one of seven women who tied for second place. Can you explain how that happened?
In finals, unfortunately, the route setting was not so great and I was stuck in the seven-way tie for second place, behind Angela Eiter, who put forth an impressive performance and earned a deserving victory. Finals were upsetting and frustrating to me because the tie was broken by count-backs to semifinals, and in my opinion, finals should be the decisive placement factor, not earlier rounds. When seven people tie at the exact same place on a route, clearly the route setting needed some adjustment. The problem was that up until a double-dyno a little above mid-way up the wall, the route was not very hard. Everyone arrived at the double-dyno, but only Angela Eiter managed to stick the move by creatively climbing feet-first and figuring out a static way to maneuver the long move.

Was competing in Arco differently psychologically than any other events you’ve competed in?
Psychologically, I prepare for every competition generally the same way – I try to go into the event with the mindset of enjoying the moment and putting forth my personal best effort. The main difference with Arco was that the competition lasted for 10 days. By the end of it, I was (am) ready to relax and just hang out for a little. I’m on my way now, though, to Imst, Austria, for another competition at the Adidas Rockstars Event. It should be a fun show and I’m excited to represent my new sponsor at the event!

Have you spent much time in Europe?
Yes, I spent almost 3 months climbing in Europe last summer. The adult international competitions are quite new to me though – I have competed in the youth worlds since I was of eligible age (youth B category), but other than that, prior to this summer, my time spent in Europe was primarily spent climbing outside.

What did you think about Italian culture in general, and Arco in particular?
Italian culture is quite relaxed and laid back. In Italy, the food is amazing and, for the most part, I found the people very friendly. Arco was a really fun town to host the World Championships because it has so much climbing history.

Did anyone from your family make it out to Arco?
My mom.

What do you think you’ll remember for the longest about this competition in Arco?
Hanging out with my friends and walking around the town full of climbers and pictures in relation to the event. It was cool to see climbing on such a mainstream stage.

Were you competing against anyone in particular at the World Championships, or were you mostly competing with yourself?
Competing against myself. That is the way you have to approach every competition in my opinion, because you can only control your own performance – not anyone else’s. Going into a competition I always just aim to be happy with my performance.

What were you most proud of in this competition. Was there anything you feel you could have done better?
There’s always going to be little things that you wish you did better in a competition, at least for me, even if I win. There’s always a sequence, a clip, or a move that could have been perfected. I think that I am most proud of trying my best in each event and enjoying the competition as a whole. There was no point where I felt like I let my frustrations get me down or affect my climbing.

Anything else you’d like to say or comment on about this event?
Thank you to the organizers of the event, the crowd for the support, and the fellow athletes who were competing. It was a truly enjoyable experience that I will cherish for a long time.


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