Not so long ago you were still competing in the WC series and other international climbing events. We were able to see you for example in Brno, 2009 and in 2011 World Championship in Arco. What made you quit competitions?
After 19 years of competing it was high time I’d made such decision ;-) During these last years, in Belgium, it became more and more difficult to train at the “top level”. The level went higher and higher every season and the climbing gyms became better everywhere but Belgium. At the national comps my shape was good enough but outside the country it was getting difficult ;-). Since 2008, I had to travel a lot to find some good climbing gyms like the ones in Austria. I had to sleep in my van and it all was very tiring… And when it comes to the mental aspect, I sometimes just missed being home ;-) Also competitions as such changed a lot during these last years: six minutes to climb a route in qualifications and in the semi-final and 8 minutes in the final. As the consequence, the style of the routes also underwent some major changes, now there are some big and athletic movements, less easy for short people like me and it’s not really my style of climbing ;-). In place of one qualification route that is climbed onsight, they set two routes that are to be flashed. Moreover, the women’s qualifications start very early, usually you have to be ready to climb already at 8 am. So in order to prepare myself I had to arrive at the competition arena between 7 am – 7.30 am. All this made me lose my motivation. At the beginning of the 2010 season (it was July), I was totally tired already before the first comp. In August, the death of Chloé Graftiaux, who was my friend, shocked me to such an extent that I realized that I was bored of competing and that we should not wait to do what we really want to do. And I always wanted to spend more time rockclimbing.
Muriel while training (photo: Piotr Dro¿d¿)
For many years you were the unquestionable queen of the climbing arena. Having everything in the perspective, what has significantly changed in sport climbing in your opinion?
When I started climbing I was 16 years old. It was a very late age to take up a new sport but now the actual training begins much much earlier. Already at the age of 4 or 5, children are physically stronger climbers because it’s normal that they take part in regular training sessions with personal trainers like it happens in any other sport. There are more and more new good climbing walls everywhere with new holds and impressive features…
Looking back at all these years, are you able to define the factor that motivated you the most?
I liked pushing myself during competitions very much. My principal goal, physically but also mentally, was to find a better way to send the route and succeed. And when it works it’s like an addiction worse than chocolate ;-). But, obviously my passion for climbing was the most important factor.
Muriel on Qoussaï les maux de la fin 8c, Déversé sector, Gorges du Loup
(photo: arch. Muriel Sarkany/murielsarkany.com)
And how is it now? Looking at your last achievements in rock climbing, one can say that you are motivated more than ever!
Yes, I’m really enjoying climbing without any pressure. I feel that once again I am able to find that sort of motivation that I had during my first years of competing. For me it’s great if I can decide where and at what time I want to climb ;-) I choose the routes I feel that I want to climb and if after all I don’t like them, I just try another one ;-). I can fall off and it doesn’t matter because I can retry the moves if I want to ;-) It’s just fun.