The venue was packed for the final event everyone had been waiting for – Youth Bouldering World Championship Finals. The top six climbers in each division from all over the world face off against each other in an epic showdown to see who truly is the best in the world. As the sun set, the lights to the venue kicked on and the show began.
The audience was made up of climbers from all over the world who competed for their chance to make it to finals. But now they watched in support of those that did reach their dreams, eager to cheer each climber to the top. Many different languages were heard throughout the crowd, shouting in support for not just their own country, but for every climber. Each time an athlete climbed a little higher, stuck another move, the crowd erupted with excitement.
Amongst the crowd, something interesting was happening – something I was extremely curious to observe throughout my entire week in China. The unique tradition of jersey trading.
When the climbers were resting, trades were underway. Each country has their own team jersey; an article of clothing they wear with pride during the competition. But now that the competition was mostly over, youth competitors from all over the world were swapping jerseys. Some jerseys were harder to come by because of the strict rules enforced by their teams – Russia, Korea, Japan. The athletes are so into trading jerseys that they’ll show up with laundry bags full of team clothes from previous years.
The whole trading process impressed me and I gained a much deeper love for the sport and the community it builds. Climbing and representing your country at Worlds is something most competitive climbing athletes only dream of – and when they finally get a chance to be on that team, your jersey is truly special – a recognition of a lifetime achievement. Trading a jersey away for another from a different country, is an immense show of international partnership.
I contributed some of my USA climbing gear to support some of the trades Megan made, and I wish I had brought more. The entire international experience was truly special; community and partnerships being built across borders. Watching this tradition inspired me to consider the possibilities back home – partnerships amongst different gyms, different countries, different climbers.
Written by: Justin Wyse, Shift Supervisor & Coach, Timonium Earth Treks Photo by: Jacob Catama