Critical Mass: its time to confront the numbers issue.
So, why is this a problem, surely the burgeoning popularity of the sport means fields will get bigger and bigger. That’s a good thing isn’t it?
The short answer is no. With bigger fields comes bigger groups and longer stays in isolation. It brings a bigger deterioration in the condition of the holds, fatigued officials and coaches, and it’s grim for the athletes who have been having to wait so many hours to see if they’ve made the cut potentially.
There is no easy fix but there are a couple of feasible options to resolve this issue.
The first is to impose a hard cap on the number of competitors entering. Fix solid limits per country with no exemptions. This will reduce the size of some of the bigger teams and speed things up. I would say a limit of four climbers per country would go a long way to capping numbers, possibly extended to six with exemptions through rankings or byes, no more than that. It could be seen as harsh but it will make the internal competition for World Cup start positions more intense and keep the level high.
You could argue that the bigger rosters allow athletes to gain experience at World Cup level but the reply is, a World Cup isn’t where you should be going to learn, it is where you go to represent your country at the highest level.
The trouble though that this might only be a band-aid solution. As the popularity of the sport increases there will be a greater number of nations entering teams and the numbers will creep back up pretty quickly.
Which leads to the second option. This one would be logistically difficult, but I think it’s the better option. It’s time to introduce quarter finals.
Realistically, it’ll add a day to the competitions but the venues are already ready days in advance, and the athletes are normally there a day or two early so no big problem there.
The pressure it’ll add, will be to the setters making yet another set of problems in the lead up to the competition. But I think it’d only add 5 more problems for men and women.
Coming to the competition, if the field exceeds 80 athletes in men or women then a quarter finals will be added. There will still be two groups but instead of only the top 10 in each group progressing the top 20 will, cutting the field to 40 for quarter finals.
On what would be the first day currently, those 40 climbers would have a quarter finals, bringing the field back to 20 for semi’s.
This will give the climbers a better opportunity to progress in the competition by allowing more into the second round.
Issues like conditions and hold deterioration will still play a part but I feel that is a separate area to be focused on with different solutions available.
Official (Judges, brushers etc) will still have long day’s, indeed they will have another one, but again solutions could be looked into with rotating them out for breaks through the rounds or something similar.
So, what do you think? Is it time to confront the numbers issue? Are the solutions proposed any good? Do you have any of your own you’d like to put forward? Let us know on The Circuit Facebook!