Interview with Italian sports climber Luca Zardini Canon.
Luca Zardini, better known as the "Canon", is one of this sport's strongest athletes, and not just in Italy. Competing for the elite Italian police training corps since the early 90's, his name has regularly appeared right up top in both the national and international ranking systems. He counts as one of the most experienced members of the Italian competition squad and, when not training with the other athletes in Val Gardena, spends his time in Cortina - we went to see him there...
Although we'd met many times before, beneath a crag or at competitions, we had only ever exchanged a few hasty, polite words before wandering off on our ways. We expected him to be timid and reserved, but the "Canon" surprised us; after the inevitable initial embarrassment he opened up and spoke about climbing in general, competitions, plans and his plaguing injuries. Behind this reserved mask we discovered a willing, determined young man who, after all these years near the top, still hasn't lost the ability to just climb and have fun.
Luca can definitely be classed as a "true" athlete, a professional like other athletes in other sports and it is he who, quite rightly, underlines this fact. His immediate future, driven by precise aims, is clearly mapped out; if able to shake off the misfortune which has surrounded him in the recent past, he should hopefully be able to achieve that what he deserves.
How did your last season go?
1998 went well until the Top Rock Challenge in Cortina at the end of August; I had won a leg of the Italian Cup at Padua and the Master at Malè. Unfortunately I injured my finger during the boulder competition at Cortina and that jeopardised the rest of the season. Since I was competing at home it was particularly important to me - at the end of day one I was 4th but I ended up 8th overall. More importantly though, I found myself having to compete with this injury at the main competitions. At the Rock Master at Arco and at Courmayeur I climbed well (5th and 3rd place respectively), but I had to have cortisone injections in my fingers to ease the pain! Things got worse after this and I only went to the final comp in the World Cup circuit to gain some vital points; the first 30 get awarded points - I arrived 31st! In the end though I placed 7th overall.
What do you think about the new boulder competitions?
I like them a lot, in some ways they suit me more than the traditional competitions because I get less worked up. If I make a mistake I can try again, I don't need to fear being too tense, to crimp too hard and worry about wasting stamina - although to get up these problems you really have to crimp hard!
Another advantage is the training - it's easier and more fun training for power than for stamina. But I hope that the "traditional" competitions will continue; they have some unique characteristics which show clearly how complete each individual athlete is.
Do you think boulder competitions will catch on?
Yes, because they are cheaper and easier to organise, less time is wasted while the problems are changed and of course they are more spectacular. It's not easy to train for both types of competitions and so inevitably the athletes have to decide what to concentrate on. A good idea would be to hold boulder comps in the first half of the year, then traditional comps in the second. This would reflect the athlete's training schedule of first power, then stamina.
Who are currently the strongest climbers on the competition circuit?
On an international level things have levelled out considerably and the French no longer dominate as they did in the past. There are now about 20-25 athletes who have a chance of reaching the final. Hijrayama, Legrand and Brenna are a cut above the rest though; they're the most constant and almost always reach the final.
Rackmethov, Petit and Lombard are the ones to look out for in the boulder competitions, as well as the Italians Nardi and Brenna.
Do you still have time to climb outside, on rock?
Yes, although I climb outside mainly to have fun, not to train. I like all types of routes, in particular, (and this may seem strange to some) old-style vertical, technical routes which help you improve your technique . Unfortunately I haven't got that much time to travel and try routes onsight, but I'd love too do more of this in the future. In 1996 I did "Thriller", 7c+ in Yosemite, but in general I don't boulder that much either. It's becoming evermore popular here in Italy - loads of new bouldering areas will be discovered soon - it's fashionable now!
And what about your future?
I still really like sports climbing which I consider to be a "real" sport, in which an athlete must devote himself full time, accepting all the sacrifices that this entails. I'll probably continue competing for another 2 years - hopefully injury free so as to show exactly what I'm capable of.
His best competition results:
- Italian Championship: 1°; in 1993, 1994, 1996
- Italian Cup: 2°; in 1995, 3° in 1996 e 1998
- World Cup: 2° in 1992, 7° in 1993, 4° in 1996, 7° in 1998
- European Cup: 6° in 1992, 5° in 1996
Master in Kranj: 1° in 1993.
His best results on rock:
- his redpoint of "Sogni di gloria" 8b+ at Erto in 1991, when he was 19 years old
- his onsight of "Course de nuages" 8a+ at the Grotta dell’Orso, Calanques, in 1992, a feat repeated only by Legrand and Cortijo in 1997 & ’98
- his redpoint of "Progetto Reini" 8c+ at Massone, Arco and "Nagai" 8c at Covolo, Vicenza, 5th go