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adidas ROCKSTARS Chief Route Setter Laurent Laporte - a climbing legend.

23.09.2016 14:20

It’s often been said (with good reason) that route setters have the toughest job in climbing. If they make the boulders too easy, all the competitors can do them but if they make the problems that tiny bit too hard, nobody climbs them and the show suffers. Even if they get the balance right, they still need each athlete to struggle on different boulders so that we get a spread of scores. The difference between perfection and disaster can be a hand hold rotated 10 degrees, or a foot hold moved 10 centimetres left or right. Every move, and every possible method of doing that move, needs to be hard but not too hard – technical but not too tricky that nobody figures it out in the time allowed.

This almost impossible balance is even tougher at adidas ROCKSTARS than at most competitions because in the final round we eliminate 3 climbers after the first 2 boulders, then a fourth climber goes after the third boulder and finally we have the all-important “superboulder” to finish the competition. This means that unlike most international competitions (which have 4 boulders that all the climbers attempt) the router setters have to achieve “separation” (ie. making sure there aren’t any tied scores) at almost every stage of the final round.

The route setting team for this year’s event is incredibly strong and is spearheaded by a legend of the business; Laurent Laporte. He’s been setting for over 20 years and is known for his creative, cerebral approach to the challenge of creating boulders which will test the World’s best athletes. He started setting in the early 1990’s and is still driven by the idea of finding something new; something that nobody has done before which will get the athletes thinking. Competing at this level without strength is impossible but Laurent pushes the athletes to do more than just pull hard; when asked what he wants to achieve when he sets, he replies, “...find new things, new methods, maybe new materials with new holds and volumes. Find a new process and new movements - propose something different every year.” Even after the long career he has had, it is telling that the word “new” appears no less than 6 times in this one sentence answer.

He and his team arrived in Stuttgart on Monday, just hours after the end of the IFSC World Championships in Paris. Laurent was part of the route setting team there which created a lead route that many observers felt was the greatest competition route ever set on a lead wall. He is clearly in top form, and most people think he is even better at setting boulders than lead routes, which should mean we are in for a treat at the final here in Stuttgart! In the last couple of weeks he’s had precious little sleep, an awful lot of coffee and plenty of stress, but his enthusiasm and excitement is, if anything, growing by the day. He bussles around the stage, cracking jokes and encouraging his team. His biggest smile however is reserved for when the other setters attempt the boulders he has personally set. If they struggle to figure out the moves on their first few attempts but then have a “eureka moment” and spot the key element that they’ve been missing, he knows he has done his job well. As the man himself says, “I think the biggest challenge is to make more emotional routes.” 

 

As athletes continue to get fitter, stronger and faster, we are lucky in Stuttgart to have a chief route setter whose goal is to let the best climber win rather than the strongest one. Sit back and enjoy the show!


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