Stories of Ambitions

Resetting, rebuilding and refocussing

12 months on from the JLL training camp, we caught up with Emmanuel Ryan Paul to see how he’s adapting to the challenges imposed by covid-19 and the postponed Olympics.

May 19, 2020
It’s been a year since our training camp in Japan. What things have stayed with you? 

I think I really benefitted from the advice and guidance of the coaches and other climbers. I learnt a lot, especially in speed climbing and how to manage the climbs, not to rush through, to take my time. That’s the biggest thing I took away. And that’s not just climbing, I’ve been thinking about it in my studies too and just my whole outlook really.

After the camp I would watch competition footage back and it was crazy, I could see that I was rushing in the lead climbing and trying to power my way through, but losing focus on the way and not climbing the best I could.

I needed to slow down and think, but obviously I don’t want to lose all of the speed and intensity, because I believe that’s what makes me unique. I still want to be able to flick the switch and really go for it.  

You came away from the camp with the Olympics in your sights. Tell us about the journey so far.

It wasn’t an easy one. In the initial round of qualifiers, I didn’t perform as well as I wanted to. It knocked my confidence a little and I had to reset and rebuild ready for the National Team selections that were coming in July.

I had decided to compete in combined, and that was tough for me. I’d always specialised in speed and made good progress here, but trying to push myself in the others was super difficult. I was falling a lot in lead climbing and really struggling at times.

How did it come together for the competition itself?

I was happy to turn all that hard work into some good results. I won the speed event and achieved 5th in the bouldering discipline. This meant I would be training with, and competing for, the National team later in the year.

The Asian Championships came next, how did you get on there?

This was my worst competition of the year. It was around 35C each day, the heat really took it out of me. By the final day I was tired physically, mentally and emotionally and it showed. Even in speed climbing I couldn’t put the runs together. I was going well, and then slipped right at the top of what would have been an ideal run. This cost me a spot in the finals. I’d never performed like that before and it really hit me, I was so disappointed.

Must have been tough. How did you move on from that?

I started by taking some time off from climbing. I just switched off for a while. I focused on school work, I’d climb maybe once a week but I was trying to keep the pressure off and just enjoy what I could. 

I just wasn’t there as a person, my head was not in it and everyone around me could see it.

That’s when my friends and family were important too, because even though I’d maybe tried to keep it from them, not wanting them to worry about me, they still just came forward and looked out for me. It was as simple as a friend saying ‘bro, relax it’s going to be ok’ just that can take a weight off.

How did you get your training back on track?

Once my studies had quietened down I was able to snap out of it and refocus. That’s when I started to turn things around. I got back into training. I was playing around with the ‘Tomoa Skip’, a speed climbing start method from Japan that’s supposed to help you cut time from your start. It took a while to get my head around, but when it clicked it was amazing. I started hitting 6 and 5.9 second runs consistently. 

The auto belay JLL funded has also been really helpful when it comes to training alone. And the rest times between runs is helpful, you don’t have to wear yourself out belaying someone else.

So were you able to get back into competition form? 

I took part in a local bouldering competition at the start of year. I went into it with a lot of pressure on myself. I thought if I couldn’t do this then i don’t deserve to be in the national team.

It started really well, I qualified for the semi-finals in 5th place. Then the semis were the same day in the evening. I was relaxing after the good result and chilling and laughing, trying to stay calm. But when semis started, i started to feel the nerves again and did not manage to top the first route.

In the next routes I targeted hitting ‘zones’, knowing I might not always get the ‘top’ scores, and it worked. 

Postponing the Olympics and cancelling the last Asian qualifiers is disappointing, but it’s for the best for everybody.

In the finals it worked again and I got third place. I was pleased to have gone for tactical approach and it came together, this meant I was right up there with the best boulder climbers in the country and region.

The COVID-19 situation has obviously put competitions and training on hold, how has this affected you?

It changed how we could train, bringing in social distancing measures and gym time was limited. Now of course the situation is very different with everything closed.

Postponing the Olympics and cancelling the last Asian qualifiers is disappointing, but it’s for the best for everybody. I was frustrated I didn’t even get a chance to see where I’m at and what the standard would be like. But deep down part of me knows that I probably wouldn’t have made it in this time. It’s difficult, but I think it would have been good to carry the momentum from the last competition.

How will the continued support from JLL help you work towards your ambitions?

More training overseas, when I’m able to obviously. And I want to work with a physio to help with the issues I’ve been having with my shoulder. It’s not injured, but there are times where it just doesn’t have the full motion or locks out.

It would be cool to get back in the suit and see how my movement has changed with this tech. I don’t pull so much with the arms anymore, I’ve learnt to balance more into the hips and legs to power me up the wall. It would be interesting to see this come to life in the data from the JLL suit.

Looking to the future, where do you see yourself heading?

I’m not looking to put my goals aside. Longer term I’m definitely looking forward to World Cups in 2021 and then the Asian Games in 2022 and of course Olympics 2024. I have a decision to make: do I go for combined, or just bouldering and speed? This is something I’ll be grappling with when I can get back into full training mode. But for now I just want to focus on staying safe and staying healthy.

See more of Emmanuel’s story of ambition in our short film here, and stay up to date with all of our climbers’ progress here as we follow their journey throughout the year. 

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See how we’re supporting the ambitions of six amazing climbers from around Asia Pacific.