I won’t be the first to say that competing in professional sports is hard.
A few years after I began to see encouraging results in Canada, my coach laid some wisdom on me that I still think back to. At the time, I had a lot of important boxes checked off in climbing. I was strong, I had experience, I could route read, and I was good under pressure. Once a young girl with a taste for competition, I eventually became an athlete that could rival the best in the country. It was a lot of ground to cover and it took a lot of work.
One day, my coach threw some numbers at me. We were in the weight room when he made a comment to me and my step-dad. He said I was about 85% of the way to being one of the best in the world, but that each percentage from here would be exponentially harder to get.
It was only in recent years that I put the pedal to the metal for that last 15%. I moved to Germany, pressed pause on school, got a coach, and traveled - a lot. I’m trying as hard as I can to close the gap, but there’s still so much ground to cover, and it feels like the ground is expanding beneath my feet.
It’s an incredible journey, though. I’m close. I’m so close. With every competition, I see progress. Season after season, I shoot higher. I keep moving the bar to levels I never dreamed would be on the table. Every year is the best season of my career.
But at this Prague World Cup, I teared up over 23rd place.
It wasn’t long ago that 23rd place would have been a dream. To even come close to semi-finals was something to celebrate. It’s not like I make semi-finals consistently. I’ve only actually done better than 23rd at two other events.
Here’s the thing: At the first World Cup of 2022, I posted the best result of my career - 9th place, just three spots out of finals. Days before the next World Cup, I sprained my ankle and my season was virtually over. Since that day, I’ve thought a lot about what could have been in 2022. I was sure I could have made every semi-final that year, and maybe even a final or two.
It sounds devastating, like the injury completely derailed my trajectory, but in reality, I don’t actually know what would have happened. All I know is that I did well at an event, and I had the potential to do well again. Maybe I would have missed semis at the next one, or maybe I would have made finals. I’ll never know.
The injury was a major setback, but it healed. At this point, I feel just one lingering symptom: I still hold myself to the standard of a monumental season that I never actually had. Compared to the idyllic story I told myself about 2022, missing semis in Prague with no concrete explanation or error was a heartbreaking reality check that told me I’m not as good as I thought I was, and World Cups are hard.
But it’s complicated. While I kick myself for missing semis, I see the position I’m in. This is the home stretch of professional climbing.
I’ve secured a spot on the National Team, I’ve taken beatings at World Cups down in 60th place and clawed my way up the rankings, I have a solid training program with a great coach, I’ve tasted semi-finals and knocked on the door to finals.
My skills are night and day compared to previous seasons, so it’s finally just about putting all the pieces together in the right orientation. This is good. While my standards remain exceedingly high, I never forget where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. 23rd place is good, it really is.
And still, at the same time, I’m just not satisfied here. I don’t train all year so I can travel to World Cups and almost make semis. Now is supposed to be execution time. Do I really have more waiting to do?
The hurdles that separate me and the top of the field are challenging ones. They’re the kind of problems that you don’t see coming until you get slapped in the face with them. You can’t prepare for them, you just have to encounter as many as you can now, so you can dodge them in the future.
From this season alone: