UPDATE: I ended fourth in my category. That’s less than I had hoped for, but a lot more than I had expected (I was the only Dutch finalist). The next worldchampionship (Innsbruck, 2018) I’ll do better!
Five days to go and then… showtime! On Tuesday I will leave the Netherlands for almost a week and try not to think too much about science, philosophy, PhD’s and all that. I need to focus, because I’m going to compete in the 2016 world championship paraclimbing in Paris.
A month ago I had to sign up for this event. I had to promise that I wasn’t going to use doping of any kind and that I won’t be doing any betting concerning my own matches. I also had to fill in which disability-category I’ll be competing in. That was a tough choice. There are three overarching categories: one for people with visual impairments, one for people with (or without?) amputated limbs and one category for paraclimbers with limited power, range or stability (RP). Sounds pretty straightforward, right?
None of my limbs are amputated. Nor am I blind; I do have double-vision (diplopia), colour-blindness (dichromacy) and nearsightedness (myopia) but I still have more than 20% of my visual field, so I don’t belong in the category of visually impaired climbers. I decided to sign up for the RP category. The RP category is itself subdivided into four smaller categories, each of which is again divided in yet smaller categories – now I know what Zeno’s Achilles must have felt like. In the end I couldn’t decide between RP2 and RP3 (most of the deficiencies listed apply to me) so I just picked one at random.
When I’m in Paris on Wednesday (the 14th) there’ll be an examination by a bunch of French doctors to determine whether my own idea of the category I’m in is right. At the end of the examination they will not only determine the category I’m in, but they will also give me a ‘correction factor’. Such a correction factor works like a ‘handicap’ in golfing: the score one attains is multiplied by the correction factor to even out an unwanted advantage. For example, suppose that me and mr X are in the same category but he has a correction factor of 2 and I have one of 1.5. Say we climb to the same height (say, we both reach the 5th grip) then his final score will be higher than mine because his score is multiplied with a larger factor (and ).
I have to admit I was somewhat worried when I first learned about these categories. Even if they make many categories, I thought, there is always quite a lot of room within the categories so that I would have to compete against people that, while they have the same disability, are less disabled (for example, someone who is spastic but has perfect balance). While I was thus convinced that these categories would never give me a fair chance, the correction factor made me hopeful again. Imagine, for a moment, that the doctors on Wednesday put me in a procrustean category. And then they give me a very high correction factor, because I don’t really fit into the category. My disadvantage will get me onto the podium!
Follow me and my paraclimbing on twitter! [@fbenedictus]