Talking about competitions - what are the trends now? It seems that there is a tendency to exchange ice for 'plastic' walls… Am I right?
I think the idea is that the ice part should constitute about 30 - 40% of the route. There are some reasons for this. First of all, it isn't easy to keep an ice wall in good condition - there is always danger of temperatures above 0oC for example. Besides, it is hard to have considerable difficulties only on ice - this explains all these coloured boundary lines that you may notice in photos from competitions. The holes for tools that are drilled in the ice with an electric drill get bigger and bigger with each ascent, which forces successive competitors to use other places for tool placements, and that changes the level of difficulty of these moves. Because of that a route is not the same for all competitors and, in consequence, the result is not objective any more. Such problems don't exist on an artificial wall, which is why organizers start to create routes using mostly rock or its immitation.
Zhenya, you have been a succesful climber for at least 15 years. What is your secret? What do you do that magazines write about your new successes almost every year?
Hmmm… [embarrassment]. It is very difficult to keep a top position now, but I am still doing my best. I train, I practice yoga, I work on my physical condition all the time, and, what's most important, I still have fun doing what I do. I still have motivation to reach my goal, and I still feel like doing this. Even though now it's different comparing to the past; for instance I've put on weight recently… Because I take part in so many ice climbing competitions, I don't have time for training typical rock climbing.
I guess you are an idol for a lot of young people, which is why I would like you to tell me what your motto is (of course, if you have something like this).
Well, yes. I have "my own world record". What I mean is that when I took up ice climbing, I reached a level at which I could win time, difficulty and boulder competitions. There was a similar situation with sport climbing.
So versatility and the highest possible level in all kinds of competition climbing is your ideal?
Yes, you may say so. Although it is starting to be very difficult to be one of the best in all these disciplines, cause most of the competitors specialize usually in one or two disciplines.
So what would your motto sound like? What, according to you, helps you keep your position among the best?
It's difficult to include it in one sentence. A very important, quite basic thing is motiavtion. I sometimes watch young climbers who are very motivated, but this lasts for 2, maybe 3 seasons and then it is gone. In the long run you really need strong motivation, like Tomek Oleksy, who thanks to his stubborness and determination has taken part in various competitions for many years, and has been very succesful. And another thing you need is retaining faith in yourself. People give up easily, and this is wrong. You should believe in your abilities and be persistent.
Thank you very much and I wish you all best - both in climbing and competing!
Interview by Piotr Michalski