After some winless years at Varsity, DSU’s climbing team are hoping that a strong year of progress and improvement will see them reign victorious at this year’s event.
Giorgio Girgenti, chair of the climbing squad, says that the strength of this year’s team makes for an exciting contest as they look to avenge the disappointing losses of recent times.
“I’m really excited about it. We’ve got a really strong team this year,” he said.
“Unfortunately we haven’t won Varsity in the last few years, so I’m really hoping this year it will be ours to win back, and get us some good points.
“I think we’ve got a really good chance.”
Team members have certainly been working hard throughout the year to prepare for Varsity, with training and competitions geared towards giving people an insight into what to expect there.
“We try and do training sessions two or three times a week,” Giorgio said.
“The last few weeks, as our competitions are bouldering rather than rope climbing, we’ve been going to Loughborough, at a place called the Station, which is one of the largest bouldering centres in the area.
“We’ve also set up women’s specific training on Wednesdays with the instructor there, and every Friday we do additional training sessions with a GB climber, who’s been giving us lessons on specific techniques, stamina, that sort of thing.”
Some of the climbing team with Vice-Chancellor Dominic Shellard at the Varsity launch.
Phew. But that’s not all. Giorgio continued: “We’ve also been running a few friendly competitions, so that people get used to the mindset of how the competition is run, what to expect from it, and hopefully to give them a bit more confidence and feel more comfortable when they do it on the day.”
Based on what he has seen throughout the year, Giorgio believes his team are in great shape coming up to Varsity, whether they are previous club members or part of this year’s intake.
“Based on the points of people who were part of the club last year, how their scores improved, and also how the new members’ scores have improved throughout the competitions we’ve been doing throughout the year, they’ve definitely gone up a lot harder,” he explains.
“I’m also the one who sets the routes, so I’ve made sure to choose harder routes at the end of the year rather than the beginning of the year, and despite that, the scores are still going up, so I’m really impressed with how everyone’s skills have improved.”
Last year the team came agonisingly close to a memorable victory, but were edged out in a tight contest.
If they emerge as victors this March, it would represent a landmark moment for the club.
“It would feel really good, because last year we were convinced we won it based on how the day went,” he says.
“We missed out by around 100 points which in our competition terms is not much, and so we were a bit disappointed. It’s something that this year I really want to bring for my legacy as chairman.
“I definitely want to win.”
With many of the club’s new intake of students having never climbed before Giorgio feels that all those involved should be proud of their efforts at Varsity and throughout the year.
“Before university I’d never climbed before and now I’m chairman. Out of 30 people, maybe five had climbed before and only two of them had done it regularly so it’s really good considering how much they’d advanced.”
Although climbing also embraces the competitive nature of Varsity, there is a notable difference with other sports as the rival teams often find themselves supporting and helping each other, as Giorgio explained.
“I’d say that what stands out with climbing is that it’s a very personal sport. We can’t compete as a team because only one person can go up a wall at a time.
“One person might be climbing a route and there might be several people waiting to climb so even though you’re the one person going, there’ll be a group of people around you trying to give you technique, trying to give you advice, like, ‘Try this hand hole, try that hole, try and shift your body weight’, etcetera.
“Even though it is a personal sport you do have the whole team backing you, talking you through, cheering you on, and I think where climbing’s different from other sports is we’ll have UoL helping us out and we’d help them. It’s got that whole culture behind it.
“The only competitor is gravity.”
Despite the friendly rivalry between the two competing teams, Giorgio is still desperate for a #TeamDMU win. And with a bit of hard work and good support, he is confident this is possible.
“To those competing, keep up the good work and the good performances you’ve put in this year, and we’ll win it for certain.
“To those who aren’t, wish us luck and we’ll do you proud.”
Climbing (or mountaineering) is one of the final Varsity fixtures and takes places on Wednesday 16 March at midday at Loughborough Climbing Wall. Click here for the full list of Varsity fixtures and get behind #TeamDMU.