Some time ago, we were watching the finals of a bouldering competition in Sofia when Petar Ivanov, the youngest among the finalists, started to flash all the boulders, making his leadership more than obvious. By that time I was already working on my “field control” concept, so I said to one of the route setters:
"Pepi controls the field today, don`t you think?"
"He doesn't control it, he is the field!" the guy answered laughing.
It was true, the dominance of this young man was undisputed.
Nine years after the nursery teacher called his parents, demanding they take care of the young tree hanging monkey`s needs, Petar Ivanov steps into the world of climbing. Today he is fifteen, a multiple European gold winner and overall champion from European Youth Bouldering Cup 2016.
Pepi, as everybody calls him, is a natural competitor; he loves to push limits and challenge himself in everything. After he became an expected sight atop of the local podiums and accomplished his first international victories in 2011, competition climbing became more than just a hobby for Petar… it turned to a whole new path!
A modest kid, and a real sportsman, Pepi gives quite earnest answers to my provocations, claiming he isn’t the most successful competitor in Bulgarian climbing history. But the actual facts show he already holds this very title! He knows the local milestones and deeply respects his strong and skilled predecessors, which level, in his belief, was measured in different circumstances.
The hero of the interview below loves the smell of success and believes the sense of gratification is deeply connected with his personal happiness. Pepi is fully obsessed with climbing yet he realizes how important it is to keep a good balance between training and school, “because there is no other way to succeed – both things are equally important.” He misses some down time luxuries like regular contact with nature, but even when he’s engaged in the merciless training routine and frequent traveling, the sense of healthy sacrifice stays strong with this young believer. In the same way successful people do, he embraces the sacrifices with the conscious understanding that the way to the top will only get harder with every next step.
AP: You`ve been attending every international comp in Europe lately. What is the price of this endeavor, I guess it comes with many compromises on a personal level?
P: Yes, that is true. I have attended all the rounds from the European youth cup and some of the World cup circuits. Well I am younger in my group this year, I have almost two years age gap with some of the other contestants, and this is a very important period for me, so we knew it would be very hard to win the European championship and decided the European cup to be this year`s goal. And we did it. It is really hard to be on the top of all the competitions during the season, that is the challenge about the cup, and that is why I am happy with my performances this season. It really cost me much time spent on training, much motivation and self discipline, no excuses and too little time spent on teenage things and other pleasures from the “normal” life.
AP: Is it hard to train in Bulgaria and perform well internationally? Do you feel like you`re missing something climbing kids from other countries have? What could be better?
P: It is for sure! Our gyms and training opportunities have almost nothing in common with these of my opponents from other countries, but that is not an excuse and I have shown that with hard training and enough motivation you can turn your dreams into reality. Of course the quality of the training is of great importance and so is the consistency. In Bulgaria we mainly miss the good opportunities for training, developing and upgrading. However sport climbing is a very interesting sport that is becoming more and more popular, so I hope these problems will no longer be an obstacle in the near future.
AP: Is it mandatory to have sponsors in the competition game? How do you fund the frequent traveling for you and your coach?
P: If your parents aren’t millionaires – it is hard for sure, even for the guys from better developed countries. So if you want to attend all the competitions, which is necessary if you want to win, you should spend a sufficient amount of money on it. Ideally you should have sponsors in case the federation cannot afford to pay for the trips.
AP: I’m interested in gear and I know you climb with BOREAL shoes and BOREAL shoes only. How do you choose them and what is it you like about them? Which one is your favorite model? Why?
P: Yes, I am a Boreal ambassador and I am sponsored by them. I`ve had good relations with them through “Stenata” outdoor shop in the past 5 years and it was last year after my bigger achievements that I became part of their team. They are a brand with history in the climbing shoes-making industry and their new models are perfect for rocks and comps.
AP: Why do you prefer bouldering? Do you have any lead climbing ambitions for the future? How do you imagine your personal evolution?
P: Bouldering to me is the most successful climbing discipline mostly because currently in Bulgaria we have conditions to properly train for bouldering only. I hope this will change with the new Walltopia climbing gym and we will begin to experience more lead and speed as those are areas I`d really like to explore.
AP: Now, with the news that climbing will be featured in the 2020 Olympics, many climbers showed their concerns that this major step into the mainstream might spoil the elitist tradition of the sport and somehow harm the community. Should we popularize our sport? How important is it for you to share your passion with the world?
P: Some people were amazingly happy about the news that climbing will be part of the games in Tokyo, while others showed concern that it might be bad for our sport. I think this change will only help climbing develop more and won’t harm its wild and free character. In my opinion these news have only shown that sport climbing is becoming bigger and greater.
AP: Do you see professional sport as your future occupation?
P: I have had thoughts whether climbing will be my future occupation but I haven’t yet decided what I will do for a living. One is sure – I will continue climbing and enjoying nature!
AP: Thank you! Any final thoughts?
P: Thank you for your interest in doing such an interview with me, that is not like the usual ones. One more thing to say: World up, keep climbing!