Three athletes from Mongolia competed in the Youth Ice Climbing World Championship held in Oulu, Finland in February. One of them is J.Amina, an athlete from the “Ulaanbaatar Traveler” club. She is studying in the ninth grade at the Mongolian-Japanese joint school "Nomt Naran". I talked to her about her experience of participating in the competition and her first attempt in the technical category.
Athletes practice certain types of sport because of their interests. It is not easy to become successful in ice climbing in a short time. To that extent, I am sure it required sensitivity, skill, and speed?
I have been practicing sport climbing and rock climbing since 2014. But it has been a year since I learned ice climbing. Mountaineers say that when they climb a high peak, they feel refreshed and feel incomparably good. Although both are risky and require courage and patience, the more you climb, the more refreshing and challenging it becomes. I am the eldest in my family and have three younger siblings. At the moment, I am the one who is actively involved in sports. My siblings are interested in sport climbing. My six-year-old sibling asked my mother shortly after I participated in the World Championship, “Why did sister Amina get a medal from the World Championship? It is interesting to me” and made us laugh. My mother helped build an ice climbing wall near the Friendship Center. Mongolian athletes trained there for a week and went to participate in the World Championship competition. No one had trained on that wall since the athletes left. Before the snow melts, mom plans a weekend trip to show her club members what the ice climbing wall looks like. One day, she took me to climb the wall, and I reached the highest point. When I got off, I said, “This is a great sport, I like it.” When she asked, “Would you like to practice?” I willingly agreed.
You were seen winning a silver medal in ice climbing when you took part in the National Championship held last January.
The strongest competitors of this year’s National Championship were local athletes. I trained three times before the competition, so I was very excited about how I would perform. At that time, I decided to climb on my own rather than compare my skills with others. After winning a silver medal in ice climbing, I was inspired and thought, “If I practice persistently, I can achieve even more success.” In addition, I won bronze medals in sports climbing technique, speed, and bouldering.
Was the Youth World Championship the first high-level competition to test your skills?
Yes, the athletes who competed in the speed category of the World Championship, managed to climb in 60 seconds, remained in the finals and took the first three places. I climbed in 58 seconds and was one of two athletes to qualify for the bronze medal. The athlete from the host country has not yet won a medal because she was one millisecond behind me. The competition wall was different from that of Mongolia. We need a base where we can organize international competitions. Especially the technical climbing wall is very important. Finland’s climate is similar to Mongolia’s. There is a lot of snow, but the climate is humid and smoke-free, and the environment is clean and quiet. I thought it was nice that the people were smiling and friendly with anyone.
Our team wore “Khadlan” deels made according to national tradition. When foreign athletes saw us, they warmly greeted us asking, “Are you Mongolian athletes?”. Finland is one of the most expensive countries in the world. Therefore, later on, I realized that it is right to carry suitable food when participating in competitions. We are located 88-km away from the venue. However, the road was free of traffic jams, so we were able to arrive before the start of the competition. Mongolia was the only country from Asia that participated in the Youth World Championship. I was the youngest in the women’s category, and Landers Gaydosh of the United States was the youngest in the men’s category.
What was in your mind when going to Oulu?
At that time, I thought “My brothers, sisters, father, mother, and friends raised money for me to participate in the World Championship. Many people believed and hoped that I would succeed. That’s why I decided to participate, trying not to upset their feelings.” My family said, “Don’t think too much. That will be psychological pressure during the competition” and most of the money came from them. When an athlete goes abroad, they think of their country first, not their name. Since the professional coach was not there, B.Munkhbaatar, an athlete on our team, advised me during the competition. He is good at analysis. Helmets and appropriate protective clothing must be worn when entering the athletes’ zone. Two of the five people from Mongolia have helmets, so when the athlete climbs, one goes in. When I climbed up, “Come on, let’s go” B.Munkhbaatar shouted, and felt like a coach encouraging their athletes. Spectators were encouraging, “Let’s go Mongolian athletes!” At that time, I thought I had done it in 40 seconds. When I came down, I looked at my climbing time and it was 58 seconds. I wondered, “Did I climb that long?” The organizers of the competition said, “No problem, you managed to climb in 60 seconds.” Achievements of sports and ice-climbing athletes are measured in minutes, seconds, and milliseconds. The shorter the climbing time, the more likely you are to win a medal.
When you participated in the World Championship, your mother went as a team manager with S.Davaabayar, the head of the Sport Climbing Committee. Did they help you a lot during the competition?
I am very happy with my mother and S.Davaabayar, who helped and advised me in every way. They said that they have seen how the World Championship is organized and studied a lot. My mother’s name is M.Tsolmon. She is a member of the Mongolian National Climbing Federation and the head of the Ice Climbing Association. Many athletes were scheduled to compete in this World Championship, but they did not participate due to cost issues. At that time, many people did not expect to be successful. When they saw us coming with medals, the athletes who practice with us were talking about participating in the next competition. When I set foot in Finland and observed many things nearby, I realized that I should plan everything and study the country’s culture, development, and economy carefully. In general, I think that I learned a lot and it was a great experience.
B.Munkhbaatar said that the structure of the ice was different from that of Mongolia, and it was very difficult to climb. Was that true?
I agree with him. The ice was soft and it was not easy to climb when climbing fast. At that time, I saw that athletes from other countries use equipment and materials suitable for the environment of that country. They ordered special blades for their shoes and noticed that they sharpened like knives. We stepped on the wall because we didn’t have the right shoes. When participating in the finals, I took advice from a Japanese athlete and wore her shoes. The blade of her shoe was sharp. Mongolian athletes usually compete in the speed category. We don’t have a dedicated wall for climbing, there is a lack of equipment and the fees are high. In 2023, I participated in training under the leadership of Ch.Mandakhbayar, who won a bronze medal in the Ice Climbing World Championship series held in France.
How happy were your teachers when athlete with a bronze medal came back to school?
I study in the ninth grade. At first, my school colleagues, classmates, and close people did not know that I would participate in the World Championship. I didn’t say it because I was competing for the first time to gain experience. When I arrived with the medal, I was greeted happily by the school janitor, principal, teachers, and students.
What is your favorite type of ice climbing?
I like the speed genre. I will train hard. In Mongolia, if you have a technical climbing wall, you can practice twice. Some countries don’t even experience winter. Winters are long in our country. It seems that we are having a boring season. I think that if ice climbing and technical climbing walls are built in the National Park, it will be possible to promote the country and organize the continental and World Championships. Foreign athletes know Mongolians well because of Chinggis Khaan, including our history, culture, and nomadic life. They asked, “Does Mongolia have a winter season? I heard that there are many horses there.” If we have a unified training camp for winter sports athletes in Mongolia, this sport will develop at a fast speed. In our country, only sport climbing speed walls are built by people who are passionate about this sport with their resources. In addition, there should be technical and bouldering walls. Currently, there are no technical and bouldering climbing walls in our country that meet international standards. If the Mongolian government pays attention, we are close to success.