Reaching new heights: High Point gym hosts Paraclimbing competition
Published 9:19 am Friday, April 15, 2022
By EMILY SPARACINO | Staff Writer
NORTH SHELBY – A local climbing gym had the opportunity to host the 2022 USA Paraclimbing Nationals on March 25-27.
During the three-day span, nearly 100 athletes from across the country competed in different Paraclimbing categories at High Point Climbing and Fitness on U.S. 280.
Paraclimbing is Sport Climbing for athletes with disabilities, according to the International Federation of Sport Climbing’s website.
The IFSC has been hosting Paraclimbing competitions since 2006.
Ben Lowe, director of marketing and communications for USA Climbing, said more interest and involvement in Sport Climbing and Paraclimbing have surfaced in the U.S. in recent years, due in part to Sport Climbing being officially confirmed as an additional sport in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“This is mixed with the fact that we’re seeing a lot more para-athlete organizations in different cities starting their own programs at climbing gyms to get people introduced to climbing,” Lowe said. “Groups around the country are showing people that rock climbing is for everybody. We’re trying to reduce as many barriers as possible to get more people climbing in general and involved in these competitions.”
Paraclimbing competitions are structured differently than typical climbing competitions. Athletes are placed into a sport class based on their disability, allowing those with a disability of a similar nature to compete in the same category.
“We want to make sure the competition is as fair as possible,” Lowe said. “We have a number of different categories and parameters that individuals compete within in order to keep the field level.”
According to Senderoneclimbing.com, Paraclimbing is broken down into 20 categories based on the climber’s type and level of impairment and gender. Each category has unique qualifications, rules and ways the climber will make his or her way up the wall.
The main categories, which each have several subcategories, include:
• B: Visually Impaired/Blind
• AU: Arm/Forearm Amputee
• AL: Leg Amputee & Paraplegic
• RP: Limited Range, Power and Stability
Lowe said filling so many categories has been difficult, but Paraclimbing has seen much growth over the last couple of years.
“Last year, we had a little over 50 competitors at Paraclimbing nationals, and this year, we had around 100,” he said.
High Point was still open to the public during the competition, meaning anyone who wanted to watch the athletes compete in their categories was welcome to do so.
“Hopefully, we had a lot of people who came to climb and got the chance to see these athletes perform, learn more about Paraclimbing and spread the word,” Lowe said. “Hopefully, that drives more involvement.”
The competition helped to determine who will go on to represent the U.S. on the national Paraclimbing team at the IFSC Paraclimbing World Cup later this year.
“The drive that you see with these athletes is exactly the same drive you see from other high-end athletes trying to make a national team,” Lowe said. “It’s the same kind of motivation, the same kind of spirit, and the same determination to push themselves. You have to have a lot of respect for these athletes who put in the work to improve every single day.”
Visit Usacresults.org/scores/?eid=610 to view the live scoring module and results for the Paraclimbing Nationals.
Information about the category breakdown is available at Senderoneclimbing.com/guide-to-the-paraclimbing-world-cup/.
“We had a tremendous amount of support in planning and hosting this competition from the Lakeshore Foundation there in Birmingham,” Lowe said. “They are doing amazing work to provide more opportunities for everyone, and we couldn’t have asked for a better partner to help support this event.”