Indian sport climbing: Going against the grain

When the IFSC Climbing World Championships gets underway in Hachioji, Japan on Sunday it would be an incredible achievement if India makes it among the top performers.

Usually a biennial event, this year’s World Championships are being held 11 months after the last edition and will also act as a qualifying meet for Tokyo 2020, where the discipline will make its Olympic debut.

Although there are a number of Indians in the fray, it’s nevertheless difficult to see them going deep into the competition but their participation alone should lead to some encouraging steps.

Nothing mainstream

Sport climbing is far from being a mainstream sport in India.

Despite its 28-year-old competitive history, the discipline is still at a nascent stage in India. And with just two places, New Delhi and Odisha, boasting of infrastructure that can match the standards desired by the international body, it’s no surprise that the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) — yes, foundation and not a federation — finds it a steep hill to climb to develop the sport.

It is in this backdrop that the likes of Gaurav Kumar, Maibam Chingkheinganba, Prateeksha Arun, Siddhi Manerikar and others are trying to make a name for themselves.

Ones to watch

Maibam is just 16-years-old, but his stature in the Indian sport climbing fraternity precedes him.

He is the national record holder in speed, having climbed the 15-metre high wall in 7.10 seconds in 2018 and was part of the Indian team that participated in the 2018 Asian Games.

Undoubtedly he is one to look out for at the Worlds.

Acompanying him will be Gaurav Kumar, a boulderer based out of New Delhi. The 24-year-old prefers natural rocks than artifical walls and can be often spotted training in Badami climbing the red sandstone cliffs in the heritage town.

He will be India's main hope in bouldering.

Against all odds

But despite a team that also includes the likes of Maibam, Gaurav, and the Mumbai-based Siddhi Manerikar, it's unsure how far the Indians can go in this competition. But if they are to create a ripple, it will undoubtedly be a historic first.

Moreover, with the likes of Japan's Kai Harada (defending world champion in bouldering) and current speed world number one Bassa Mawem of France set to take centre stage in Hachioji, it will be interesting to see how the Indians measure up against the best in the business.

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