Roberts - first Brit to medal in both WC Boulder and Lead
- Sunday 28th May 2023
Winning his first World Cup Boulder medal in Salt Lake City Toby Roberts became the first ever British climber to medal in both Boulder and Lead.
As we have reported previously, Toby Roberts was no stranger to success as youth competitor at both European and World Championships level. Toby’s Youth highlight came in September 2022 when he collected silver in the Youth World Championships in both Lead and Boulder in Dallas. Switching to the Senior’s was always going to be a massive challenge but Toby first taste of success at Senior level was in late September 2022 when he won his first WC Senior medal - a bronze - in the Lead event at Ratho.
Fast forward to 2023 and after a hard winter of training, Toby has now competed at three Senior WC Boulder events. Aged just 18 and in his first full year as a Senior, Toby finished 25th at Hachioji at the first of these event and then 8th at Seoul at the second. Toby was on an undeniably steep learning curve but he was maintaining a steep upwards trajectory.
In a cramped programme there were only three weeks between Seoul and the next event at Salt Lake City. After Seoul Climber talked to Toby about possible podium’s in the remaining boulder events this year. ‘I don’t really focus on podiums’ Toby told us, ‘I focus on having the best possible preparation and then climbing as well as I can when I get the opportunities.’ Then, he added, ‘I definitely feel like I’m capable of a WC Boulder podium – but will have to wait and see how things go.’
Toby had the dream qualification round at the Salt Lake City event and finished in an astonishing third place being one of five climbers with five tops! The semi-finals were equally successful for Toby and he finished in fourth place qualifying for his first ever WC Boulder finals. Competing against experienced WC boulderers like Tomoa Narasaki, Toby went on to finish Salt Lake in third place and collect his first ever WC Boulder medal. Toby finished on three tops and four zones whilst Tomoa Narasaki (JPN) and Sorato Anraku (JPN) finished in first and second place respectively with four tops each.
Alongside his bronze in Lead last September, Toby’s bronze medal in the SLC Boulder event makes him the first ever British climber to medal in both WC Boulder and Lead events. Climber have been able to catch up with Toby whilst he’s in Innsbruck preparing for the next bout of events.
In this exclusive interview with Climber, Toby shares his thoughts on his recent successes in SLC, how it feels competing against his childhood hero’s and how his training has prepared him for this year’s competitions.
Congrats on becoming first British climber to win both bouldering and lead world cup medals. You've worked incredibly hard for that - how does that feel to get that result?
To win a medal at my third Boulder World Cup feels unbelievable – it has been an amazing week.
I’ve been told about becoming the first Brit to win both Lead and Boulder World Cup medals and that it’s likely I now have enough points for the Olympic Qualifier Series (OQS). To qualify for the Olympics is definitely a huge goal of mine.
It’s all a lot to take in – but also this is just the start. I’ve worked really, really hard to make this happen and this just makes me want to work harder. Hopefully there is more to come.
Your CWIF performance earlier this year on Bloc#4 confirmed you were in amazing physical shape. Now that you're getting the results on the WC stage that must be very satisfying to know your training was on-point?
Yes – it’s good to know the training is working because at the beginning of this year I was suffering. At times there were 7A boulders that were feeling really hard, everything was hurting and I was severely struggling to manage my skin.
It was absolutely the hardest I’ve ever worked by a long way. Between me, my dad (who is one of my coaches), and Ollie Torr we committed to a plan of just building a really high base that would/will hopefully see me through the season. Honestly it was disgusting to the point I felt like I might of messed up.
Absolutely nothing about early January felt like things were on-point, but by March I was starting to feel good and CWIF and GB selections were definite highlights for me.
I’ll need to see how things work out through the year and we’ll review everything to see what worked and didn’t work – but right now I’m feeling good and thankful for the work I put in.
Turning to SLC - did you enjoy the blocs and did they suit you well?
Yes – I definitely enjoyed the blocs and I guess there was a physical element to some of them – but I think the styles are so different across the different blocs that you’ll get found out if you weak in a particular area.
You needed 4 tops and 5 zones to make it through qualifications and the 5 blocs are totally different.
I have previously preferred more powerful blocs and crimps, but I made it through qualifications because of a slab mantle, then made it through semi-finals because of a boulder with 2 dynamic moves and a slab to finish.
In finals my 3 tops were a dyno, a slab and a physical boulder to finish.
I think the consistent thing across all blocs was I executed each of them as well as I could. Basically trying to become experienced as quick as possible.
Was there a particular stand-out moment in SLC for you?
There were lots. I’ve said quite a few times before that the first time something happens is the best and there were a lot of firsts for me here. It was my first final and my first podium…
The weekend just kept building and getting better and better. If I had to have one standout moment it would be topping Bloc 4 in the final. The finalists all know the scores unlike in the semi-finals, so I knew that if I topped Bloc 4 I would be guaranteed a medal.
The crowd in SLC were amazing and cheering everyone on. The last move was purposefully set easy by the setters to allow for some celebrations at the top of the wall. Matching the finish hold and looking back to see the crowd cheering was a special moment for me.
It then felt really surreal to be signing autographs and have photos with people for about 15 minutes. It was a really nice finish to an unbelievable week.
How was it competing against the likes of Tomoa Naraski in the finals at SLC?
Tomoa Narasaki is someone I’ve followed for years – I remember watching him win a World Cup on TV at home when I was about 12. To stand next to him on the podium was surreal.
He was also really nice and so supportive – discussing beta and saying well done.
It was great to be in the finals with lots of people I’ve competed against at Youth World Championships – like Hannes Van Duysen and Sorato Anraku – but definitely I’m not used to looking at the person on the boulder behind me in semi-finals and seeing Tomoa. It was great for him to be there because he’s an insanely talented climber and now I know a really nice guy too.
You've said before you concentrate on the climbing rather than focusing on medals/podium positions. Does that approach help u stay calm under pressure?
I don’t really think about staying calm or the pressure.
The only thing that is going to help is trying to top climbs so I’m not really thinking about anything else.
Experience definitely helps – but I think that’s mainly so you’re not thinking about what comes next and can just focus on the climbing.
You've now got an incredible base going into the Olympic qualification year that must be a real confidence boost?
Yes, definitely. This is my first full senior season and the aim was to gain experience at this level – a medal is certainly a huge confidence boost.
I know the pathways to qualify for the Olympics, but it’s not just a case of getting to those events. You want to be at those events with the right experience and fitness; you want to be competing.
This is definitely a confidence boost – but there is a lot of climbing still to do 😊
Watch Toby climbing in the SLC Finals below.