From 1st to 3rd July, the European Tree Climbing Championships took place in Brussels. For three days, there was plenty of action to watch at the capital of the Kingdom of Belgium. More than 60 participants, including five starters from the United Kingdom/Ireland, wanted to win the title of European champion.
In the end, Johan Pihl and Josephine Hedger were once again crowned European champions. James Kilpatrick, competing under the German flag for the first time, secured second place behind the Swede Johan Pihl.
Compact schedule without many problems
On Friday there was a bit of hectic in the Parc de Woluwe. The reason? The gear-check! As always, the parts that were not allowed by the ISA had to be replaced.
On Saturday, the preliminaries and the qualification for the Masters starting positions followed. Despite a strict schedule and a slight shift in the schedule for the Throwline event, all the competitions could still be completed during daylight. Sunday also went like clockwork. All eight participants (five men, three women) completed their tasks with ease, so the “1 vs. 1-Ascent” event could start at 3 pm.
The preliminary competitions and their winners
In the Parc de Woluwe, on the outskirts of the European capital, the participants faced the five stations of the individual disciplines. The sponsors’ stands were located between the Throwline discipline and the Rescue, Workclimb and Ascent disciplines. A bit far away was the station for speed climbing. What the stations in Belgium did not miss out on? The spectators. At each of the five stations there were always at least 50 spectators, cheering loudly and supporting the tree climbers.
For Great Britain/ireland competed in the mens category: Michael Curwen, Tadhg Leahy and Callum Braithwaite. The women were: European Champion Josephine Hedger and Katie Curwen.
The winners of the individual disciplines on Saturday were:
But the women’s title holders Josephine Hedger from Great Britain, Boel Hammarstrand from Sweden and Luise Soerensen from Denmark qualified for the Masters. In the men’s event, Germany’s James Kilpatrick, Sweden’s Johan Pihl, Great Britain’s Michael Curwen, Czech Republic’s Jiri Voda and France’s Benoit Bouton prevailed over their colleagues on Saturday.
Defending champion Frits van der Wurff (Belgium) only reached 13th place in the preliminaries. So the stage was set up, that there will be a new title holder at least in the men’s event. The other British/Irish climbers reached following places: Katie Curwen (10th place), Tadgh Leahy (26th place) and Callum Braithwaite (32nd place).
The Masters Tree
The Masters of the European Tree Climbing Championship 2022 took place on a sycamore tree, just like the German championship. Once again, it should be mentioned that the choice of tree species is not without problems due to the plant dusts emitted by the leaves and fruit.
The women’s event started with the defending champion Josephine Hedger. As expected, the Brit mastered the tasks without any major problems, which increased the pressure on her opponents. In the end, she scored 141.33 points. Neither Denmark’s Louise Soerensen (107.67 points) nor Sweden’s Boel Hammarstrand (67.00 points) could hold a candle to her on Sunday.
Across all disciplines, Louise Soerensen was still ahead on Saturday. As is well known, however, the Masters decides on the title of European Champion. Thus, on Sunday afternoon, the British Josephine Hedger celebrated her title defence and was once again crowned Europe’s tree-climbing queen.
Benoit Bouton started the men’s Masters Sunday to rapturous applause. The Frenchman, however, did not manage to keep up with the performance of the previous day and was the only men’s Masters participant to fall just short of the 100-point mark (99 points). On Saturday, Jiri Voda came in second, but in the Masters his 176.67 points were only enough for fourth place. However, he set the bar a little higher than Bouton for the next three competitors.
Britain’s Michael Curwen, showed that Saturday was not an isolated case. With 191.33 points he increased the pressure on the former World Champion James Kilpatrick and the double European Champion from Sweden, Johan Pihl.
First up was James Kilpatrick. Smoothly, but with two small mistakes, James Kilpatrick literally glided from branch to branch and from bell to bell. The small mistakes, however, put the spectators in a state of shock and a murmur went through the 100-150 seated spectators. In the end, 250.33 points were on the paper. Enough to win the title in the end?
A question that only the fifth-placed competitor of the previous day could answer. The Swede Johan Pihl. The pressure on the one-time European champion was great, but he still delivered a similar good performance as Kilpatrick. In the end, he put 3.67 points (254) more on the so called „scoresheet“ than the German and secured his second European title.
Curiosity: Almost into the Masters by a wildcard
Special mention should be made of the results of the guests. The wildcard participants: Alana Murray (Australia) and Sam Smith (New Zealand). The small Australian not only secured first place in speed climbing, but even reached 4th place in the overall women’s ranking. If the Australian had not been disqualified at the rescue, a starting place in the Masters would certainly have been possible. New Zealander Sam Smith also proved his skills and took first place in the Ascent on Saturday. However, it was not enough for the Masters (17th place).
Was there anything else?
Of course there is a little to report from Brussels besides the tree climbing. The organisation of the ISA event was absolutely successful. The Belgian hosts welcomed us all not only with open arms, but also with first-class catering and great weather. A big thank you always belongs to the many helpers, volunteers and of course the participants. Last named ensure with a lot of passion and perseverance that a tree climbing championship can become such a great event.
But one head judge also stood out with a particularly cute idea. Kai-Uwe Christ worked at the Throwline station. Here he gave away a small wooden tree to each participant as a souvenir of the „European Tree Climbing Championships 2022“.
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