San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Tico Climbers Head to World Championship

THREE of Costa Rica’sbest young climbers are venturinginto the western cradle ofmountaineering to competeagainst mountain men andwomen from more than 50countries. The climbing championshipof the World Games2005 in Duisburg, Germany,begins today, pitting nearly 500climbers against each other forfive days until July 6.Representing Costa Rica is ateam of three young climbers,but veteran competitors, whoare pioneering the country’spresence in the worldwide competition.The climbing is divided intothree categories: speed, where the fastestclimbers win; difficulty, a straight shot upin which the climbers who make it highestwin; and bouldering, a problem-solvingcontest where climbers grope, lunge andglide mostly sideways, staying close to theground without a rope.DAVID Ulloa, 21, is the grandfather ofthe trio who has placed in internationalclimbing championships since he was 15.In his third year of study for a civil engineeringdegree at the University of CostaRica (UCR), he is president of the upstartMountaineering and Climbing Associationand secretary of the newly conceived CostaRican Federation of Mountain Sports.He finished strongly in four Pan-American championships, then won theCentral American competition in ElSalvador last year, and organized a CentralAmerican bouldering tournament held atSan José’s Mundo Aventura indoor climbingwall last March.He will compete in all three categories.Hedging his bets in the land of mountaintopyodelers, Ulloa is shooting forsomething he thinks the group can attain.“The goal is to place in the middle,” hesaid.“The level of climbing in Europe ismuch higher than in Latin Americabecause of the culture, the tradition, theinfrastructure… It will be a kind of educationfor us.”GERARDO Huertas, 19, a recenthigh-school graduate applying to communicationsschools in Scotland and Britain,has been climbing since he was 12. Hetook his prowess public with a strongshowing in Mexico in 2003 and Venezuelalast year, and won the bouldering competitionlast March.“Bouldering is my specialty; it’s the oneI hope to do best in,” he said. “Here in CostaRica, we don’t have such high walls to trainon, so I’ve been doing a lot of bouldering.”He will compete in all three categoriesat the world championship as well.“I won’t settle for anything less thangetting to the quarterfinals in all three,” hesaid. “That’s my goal; if I do more thanthat, that’s super great.”Worried? He’s not worried aboutclimbing against the people who inventedthe sport.“I’m really excited to climb with thepeople I’ve heard about and I think we cando really well,” he said.JULIO Arce, 18, began competinginternationally at the Mexico 2003 Pan-American championship, finished stronglyin Venezuela and El Salvador, and took secondat the Central American boulderingcompetition last March.He is in his first year of studying administrationat UCR, and finished his exams theday before he boarded the plane forGermany. This is this world traveler’s thirdvisit to Europe – the first as a competitor.“There are so many emotions beforecompetition,” he said. “I want to climb asstrongly as possible, and I really tried toimprove my stamina in the month beforewe left.”He will compete in the difficulty andbouldering categories, and said his goal isto pass the first elimination round.THE climbers are footing all their ownbills – no commercial sponsorship wasavailable to help defray airfare and otherexpenses. If there is a sponsor, it is MundoAventura, which has lent the use of itsfacilities free of charge.The International Council forCompetition Climbing (ICC) offered competingcountries one free airfare toGermany to encourage enrollment in thecompetition. Ulloa said this championship,with its heightened worldwide representationthis year, is a step toward makingclimbing an Olympic sport.Meanwhile, it is one of 40 sports in theWorld Games 2005, where Costa Rica iscompeting among 3,500 athletes from 100countries.

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