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Centurion athlete wins bronze at continental climbing qualifier

Caitlin Bouwer (16) went up against 12 other women at the Continental Qualifier of this year’s International Federation of Sport Climbing event held at Loftus Versfeld Stadium.

Centurion’s Caitlin Bouwer (16) took home a bronze medal from the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) season 2023, becoming the youngest competitor to finish on a podium in the final climbing qualifiers.

The fifth and conclusive continental qualifier took place at Loftus Versfeld Stadium from December 7 to 9.

The sixteen-year-old home-schooled athlete competed in the combined boulder and lead event, going up against 12 other women as the youngest competitor.

Forty-four athletes from four countries – Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda – battled it out for the four Olympic places at the event.

“I think everyone had different results in mind, so it was quite exciting to see the plot twist at the end. I didn’t expect to end up on podium, so that was super nice,” Bouwer told Rekord.

She started climbing with her parents as a 10-year-old at various gyms before they opened their own, Rock Valley Climbing, in Hennops Park.

Bouwer has enjoyed the sport since.

The qualifiers comprised two events – combined and speed.

Combined follows the Olympic format, combining boulder and lead, said Bouwer.

Speed sees climbers trying to get to the top in the quickest time on the same route.

Boulder requires climbers to get to the top in the fewest attempts within five minutes in the semi-finals, or four in the finals.

In lead, climbers have a total of six minutes to get the highest up the wall in one attempt.

Despite weather delays that saw the event extend to Saturday, Bouwer said she was pleased with her performance.

“We started around 12:30 on Friday with bouldering. We finished competing there, we had a bit of a break while the speed athletes competed before we did the lead semi-finals.”

The top eight were then set to compete on Friday evening, but because of the rain, the finals had to be pushed to Saturday morning.

“I was nervous on Saturday morning, and quite tired at that point. It had been a long couple of days being psyched, and then not,” she said.

“I was really ready to compete, to show what I have.”

For the finals, climbers had four minutes to climb a boulder each.

“On the first, none of the ladies really scored. The second boulder was coordination style. There was only one top on it. Some of the ladies got a bit further, I just couldn’t figure out the balance on it.”

Bouwer enjoyed the third boulder.

“It’s on a slab, so instead of being vertical, it leans forwards so you can sort of keep your balance on it. I think I got the farthest on that one.”

The fourth boulder posed the biggest challenge for Bouwer.

“On my first attempt, I fell off because my hand popped.

“I looked at my skin and I remember thinking, my fingertips are going to bleed, and then on my last attempt, I looked down and realised my fingers were bleeding,” she said.

“I was actually quite psyched that my skin held for so long.”

Climbers had a 20-minute gap between boulder and lead, when Bouwer could get quick medical attention.

“On the third boulder I did one of the moves, and my left trap pulled really tight. It went into a complete spasm.

“The physio team had to come and help me out, so between my boulder and lead, I actually had three dry needles in my trap to help release it.”

Lauren Mukheibir was placed first in the boulder and lead event on 109 points, followed by Rauen Krohn on 108.8 and then Bouwer on 49.8.

All three top positions were taken by South Africans.

“I am hoping to compete again to try and go to the LA Games in 2028, and obviously keep involved in the comps until then to keep it going.

She said she loved the sport for its mix of mentally and physically challenging aspects.

“It’s never the same, there’s always a new route, or a new problem, or a new move or a new style. It’s constantly changing and evolving, I love it.”

Watch Caitlin Bouwer in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlzqTqUFAQs

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