Rotorua's Henry Booker is scaling new heights in his international rock climbing career. The 15-year-old attended the Australian Rock Climbing Youth Championship in Sydney with low expectations. He simply wanted to give his all, soak up the experience and have a good time. So, to come away with a win in one discipline and second place overall was a bonus and one he was extremely pleased with. He spoke to sports reporter David Beck about the experience.
With every rock climbing competition Rotorua's Henry Booker competes in, he is gaining valuable experience.
That experience and a focus on keeping a cool head helped him finish second overall in the under-16 division at the Australian Rock Climbing Youth Championship in Sydney last month.
Rock climbing competitions comprise three disciplines, bouldering, lead and speed climbing. Speed climbing pits two climbers against each other, both climbing a fixed route on a 15m wall. In bouldering, climbers scale a number of fixed routes on a 4m wall in a specified time. In lead climbing, athletes attempt to climb as high as possible on a wall measuring over 15m in height within a fixed time.
Henry came eighth in bouldering, first in lead and third in speed to finish second overall.
"I was pretty stoked. I went there with no expectations and it was a surprise to actually win the lead part.
"I was surprised how well I did in the speed part because you have this one wall that needs to fit the regulations and we don't actually have one of those in New Zealand to train on.
"The atmosphere, I felt was a lot more serious than New Zealand nationals. New Zealand nationals are really chilled and friendly, people seem to try a lot harder over in Australia."
Henry has been competing at rock climbing since 2012 and said he was growing in confidence every time.
"I was super focused, clear-headed and just, for me, when I go in with those low expectations and perform well, it's almost like I'm treating myself. I just don't really think about it or pressure myself, it's just if you do well, you do well, if you do crap, you know what you need to work on.
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"It's definitely something I've gotten better at. At previous competitions I've made so many mistakes, it's just trial and error - finding what works best. I've still got a lot to work on by watching other world-class climbers but I know my mental game is strong.
"You have to have a good balance of physical strength and mental ability. A lot of climbers are worried about falling or worried about what other people think of them. With the experience that I have, I just learn not to worry about it."
You have to have a good balance of physical strength and mental ability.
His next goal is to do well at the New Zealand Rock Climbing Championship in Wellington later this year.
"The goal is to get first or second. I have one competitor who's super, super strong and really good at bouldering. I'm going to do my best to try to rival him. It's really good in the climbing community, you can have all the rivals you want but in the end you're always mates.
"I find climbing is the best training for climbing but one thing I need to work is just my physical strength now. I felt that was really lacking in bouldering [in Australia]. Bouldering isn't my strong point so that's what I need to work on most."