Muriel Sarkany - Portrait
Interview by Monika M³odecka
Let’s start with a short summary of your climbing career: on your account there are 17 winners in the WC editions, you won overall WC classification 5 times, you are a 3-time winner of prestigious Arco Rock Master, in 2003 you held the title of World Champion and obviously you are a multiple national Champion. You are a living legend of female sport climbing. How does it feel?
I do not feel like a legend at all! But it’s nice of you to say that ;-) I’m always astonished when people in Belgium who have hardly anything in common with climbing recognize me or my name. And I’m so happy anytime I realize that I’ve been a source of inspiration and motivation. It’s true that I won a lot of competitions and had the opportunity to realize all my goals. I think that even today it’s very important for me to remember what I’ve already achieved because anytime I won something it was an incredible experience but it was also like that anytime I failed… I learned a lot because of that.
Muriel during the bouldering World Cup in Paris and...
(photo: arch. Muriel Sarkany/murielsarkany.com)
We should go back to the beginnings. You were born in Belgium, the country that is famous for its delicious chocolate but not really for spectacular climbing spots. And yet you, as the nation, tend to generate some strong and universal climbers. Apart from you, there is for example so called Belville Trio, meaning Favresse brothers and Sean Villanueva. How did it all start in your case?
Yes, the Belgian chocolate is excellent ;-). We have some cliffs, not very easy to climb for short people like me. But Belgium is one of the first countries that started to build climbing gyms. I began to climb very late, at the age of 16 and it took place in a small climbing gym near my house. I felt like this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life! After that everything went very quickly, I did my first comp five months later and to my big surprise I won ;-) Ten months later I became Junior World Champion.
...while competing in her crown event - lead. Here: WC Brno.
(photo: arch. Muriel Sarkany/www.murielsarkany.com)
As you’ve just said, you started climbing at the age of 16 and, according to the IFSC website, already in 1992 (so after only 3 years of climbing) you became the Junior World Champion. Could you explain this fact to all these people who train hard to get into their top shape before a comp and still they tend to fall from the very last move to the top hold?:-)
It’s not an easy question ;-). In fact, I began to climb in 1990 and in 1992 I won the first Junior World Championships that took place in Switzerland. It was really a surprise for me that I came first straight away at my very first international competition. I don’t have any idea why it worked so well in my case… I think that everything went very naturally and the most important thing was that I felt in love with climbing! At the beginning, I started climbing in a small climbing gym near my house and I was just doing some traverses wearing some simple shoes and then gymnastic shoes for a couple of months. I did not participate in any courses, except belaying training. I was just enjoying climbing. Then I made some friends there who convinced me to buy real climbing shoes ;-) They also took me to my first “comp”, just for fun and I was shocked when it became clear that I won… After that, I took part in some training sessions and progressed quite quickly. I was enjoying climbing a lot and after some other victories in national competitions, my federation proposed me to go to the Youth World Championships. I went there without having any idea of how to compare my climbing skills to the international level. I expected my performance to be either good or really bad. Apart from simple curiosity what really pushed me to do that was a will to get confronted with the international climbing community. I enjoy the atmosphere of the competitions and the energy that makes you raise the bar higher and higher. It’s like a drug. During that Junior World Championships I won and I suppose that it gave me a boost for the future… ;-)