Pakistani Speed Climber Zaheer Ahmad Misses Possible 2020 Olympics Invitation

Zaheer Ahmad is a climber from Pakistan who specializes in Speed Climbing. He has been national champion in 2017, was 2nd in 2018, and is hoping to regain 1st again in 2019. Pakistan only has one speed climbing facility and no Bouldering or Lead wall available to athletes. The Speed wall doesn’t have an auto belay or touch timer so Ahmad and team-mates train with two people manually belaying and another with a stopwatch.

He competed just two weeks ago in the Combined World Championships but only took part in the Bouldering and Speed competitions – not the Combined, though it seems like he could have done. It seems like if Ahmad had just entered and competed (without needing to place, just take part) in the Combined event, he may have been invited to the 2020 Olympics by the Tripartite committee.

Unfortunately, though the IFSC invited him to this event, also knew he was entering Bouldering and Speed, and partly paid for him to attend – thus would have known his eligibility – they don’t seem to have told him about it.

What is a Tripartite Invite?

In each sport in the Olympics a certain amount of places are reserved for “Tripartite” invites. These are countries who generally haven’t competed in that sport in the Olympics before, or who have had only a few people qualify in this or previous years. It brings athletes to compete in the Olympics when they may have had not qualified due to their countries ability to train or compete, and is done is the spirit of universality of the games.

The Tripartite committee (three Olympic organizations – hence the tri) put out a list of what countries are eligible, as well as what they needed in this document. Of the 104 places available Sport Climbing got two – one Male, one Female. For each sport the governing body says what the qualifying events are and IFSC have their document on qualifying for places here.

If an athlete completes the eligibility criteria, then the Tripartite committee start the process in Jan of 2020 by sending an invite the national committee – the Alpine Club of Pakistan in this case – to apply for a place, the national committee sends back an application, then the Tripartite committee decides who gets in.

For Sport Climbing competitors to be eligible for the Tripartite invitation the athlete had to have competed in the IFSC Combined World Championships 2019 in Hachioji. This was the only event available for tripartite invitation, though there are other events competitors can win or place highly in to be invited outside of the Tripartite system.

The athlete should generally also have received “Olympic Solidarity” funding, which is given to athletes for travel and accommodation for training and attending events. Zaheer Ahmad did receive this funding which covered some of his flights and accommodation for the Hachioji Games. This was just for him to attend alone without a coach.

Based on these conditions Pakistan was actually the only country that would have been eligible for a Tripartite invitation. Most other countries have had a lot of participants in previous games, aren’t in the list of countries eligible, or had too many climbers get through.

What Happened?

Zaheer Ahmad would only have had to compete in the Combined event. Ahmad had a pretty tough start as he “reached Japan at 1am and the isolation zone window was 8-9am”. Unfortunately as he has only ever had the chance to practice on a Speed climbing wall – he didn’t have the power or endurance he felt necessary so didn’t start the event.

In the Speed event Ahmad false started as he had never used the pressure pad system before – caming joint last. In Bouldering also he didn’t manage to start any of the problems as he had only bouldered for two weeks a year previous.

Zaheer Ahmad on the Pakistan climbing facility speed wall
Zaheer Ahmad on the Pakistan climbing facility speed wall

“Bouldering was difficult for me because we don’t have any bouldering wall or gym in Pakistan. I only practiced bouldering for 15 days when we were sent to China for training. And that was from 21st December 2017 to 5th January 2018. So I didn’t secure a single zone, didn’t even get close”

Zaheer Ahmad talks about his Hachioji experience

That training trip in China was mutually sponsored by Alpine Club of Pakistan(NF) and Chinese Mountaineering Association(NF). Though it was just him, Ahmad seems to have really enjoyed competing and attending.

Well it was an awesome experience. I met new people and made some friends. Yes it was great – I competed with Jackob Schubert in a speed practice round. In bouldering my beep number was after Marcin Dzienski so yeah I really enjoyed the competition.

Zaheer Ahmad talks about his Hachioji experience

Can Ahmad Appeal?

This only seems to have been noticed by Jens Larssen – founder of 8a.nu. All of this was worked out in Jens’ thread on 8a.nu, and was first brought up in the article he posted on the front page of 8a.nu. Many thanks to Jens and others for taking the time to figure this out and contacting Ahmad, who many now have a chance to appeal to be given a place in the Tripartite thanks to the article.

After the IFSC Climbing World Championships 2019 were held in Hachioji – some questions were raised about Olympic placings and invitations. It doesn’t seem like the IFSC – the governing body who are running the qualification events and confirmations – have clarified some of the rules well enough in public.

It is possible that Ahmad could appeal to the IFSC or to the Olympic and Tripartite committee for a place. Ahmad is speaking to the National Federation for Pakistan and they will decide how to go forward. We hope that Jens’ article and this one could be a catalyst for a successful appeal to get Ahmad through to the 2020 Olympics. We have also contacted the IFSC for comment.

France 2024 Training

Ahmad is training and hoping to compete in France in 2024 where Speed Climbing will be held as a separate event from Bouldering and Lead climbing.

Zaheer Ahmad climbing at the Pakistan National facility

In normal routine we do some lower body exercises and then climbing total training time 4-5hrs a day and 5 days a week. And when we have National camp then we train twice a day, in the morning session we do 1hr lower body exercises, 30 minutes climbing, and then 1.5 hrs muscle building in the gym. In second session warmup and lower body exercises for almost 40 minutes and then climbing around 3 hrs.

Zaheer Ahmad on Paris 2024 training
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