12 March 2023

The François Legrand interview

François Legrand was dominant on the competition scene between 1990 and 1995. He won all three World Championships and 15 out of the 27 World Cups that he competed in during that period. He's the son of mountain guides, but it was not until the age of 18, that he began sport climbing when he moved to a cave in Buoux and at the same time started to compete. Later he moved into an apartment with Yuji Hirayama and the rest is history. In 2000, he made the FA of Boby in the Sky (9a).

How do you live climbing nowadays?
I'm still highly passionate about climbing... differently but as much as 30 years ago 😊 Of course, I'm not a "pro climber" anymore so I have to deal with a full-time job and family occupations, but I try to save as much time as I can for my passion. I also have to deal more and more with my body limits since I had an accident in Kalymnos 5 years ago, and 2 consecutive surgery operations on my shoulders! So my training regime and my level is not always as high as I would like but when everything is alright I manage to climb 4 times/week, usually Tuesdays and Thursdays evening indoors, and at our favourite crags at the weekends. I said "our" ‘cause I'm really happy and lucky to share all these great sessions and emotions with my younger son Erwan 😊 Erwan is 14 and seems to love climbing as much as his father, so it's amazing to spend so much time together thus it's becoming harder and harder to follow him!

It’s particularly difficult that he’s progressing, and that "small injuries" are frequent for me! But following him at such amazing places as Buoux or Saint Léger keep my motivation always high! When I'm not able to climb, I enjoy being at the crags with friends; I belay and encourage Erwan, and I use the time he's resting to find new lines, I also love that... I've bolted more than 100 routes mostly in Buoux within the last 2 years! It's such a great achievement to discover lines of holds on the rock; sure, it's sometimes quite tough work to place the bolts and to clean the route, but what a satisfaction to see the result, to try to free climb it (when I can do it before Erwan!), and then to see others enjoy these new climbs 😊

What are the biggest changes in the comp and rock scene since you were active?
So many things have changed since the beginning of sport climbing competitions! Yes, I was quite young at those times, but I started comps in 1986... then it was almost the very first climbing competitions ever, we made a few outdoor events on the real rock: What a disaster! First, it was lead climbing only, and all "on sight"; no preview, so each climber had as much time he wanted in his 10 minutes allowed to read and climb the route! I think I had a real impact on the format change as I was spending more time reading the route on the floor than performing on the wall... the rhythm of the comps was so slow, and the qualifications on 1 single route was so long for everyone, and the isolation waiting time was crazy for the last climbers of the start list!!! Then came real indoor comps and world cup circuits every season, first the World Championships in 1991 (Frankfurt), 1993 (Innsbruck), 1995 (Genève)... my golden years 😊 (Francois won three consecutive golds.)

At the beginning of the millennium appeared the Bouldering Series, with several modifications of the formats and the rule applications (also in Lead), and finally in 2007 the IFSC speed circuit on the official "record route" created by Jacky (Godoffe) and which is actually still exactly the same nowadays! These last years the biggest changes came from the artificial climbing structures, and especially the "extra use" (overuse?) of the volumes and the micro and macro holds. These evolutions influenced radically the route setting, the climbing style and the skills required for the competitors... and in the end the results! That's a big change and the older athletes had to adapt themselves and many had trouble dealing with it, while the younger generation grew up with it naturally.

Personally, I like every kind of climbing as far as it is not dangerous. I'm not good at modern coordination moves like run and jumps or big dynos, but I have fun trying them when needed (which is not so frequent as I'm mostly rope climbing). But concerning competitions, as an observer and spectator, I think competitions are often too stereotyped in this modern style and should propose more diversity in terms of skills for the climbers, and maybe a little less risk; risk is fun for the show, but not always for the athlete who invested a lot to present himself in his best shape for a Championship!

How do you see the future and what is your advice to the youngsters pushing hard?
The future is great for our sport: climbing events are great, competition circuits are now really well organized, we are at the Olympics since Tokyo (finally!), there will be 2 more medals at Paris2024 and hoping for 2 per discipline for LA2028 (?) Media and sponsors are putting more focus on our sport, which is good for us TV spectators and for athletes who aim to be professionals. Gyms are opening every month in large cities, and the number of new climbers is growing respectively with the quality of the offer of these new facilities... but not only!

The future is wide for our "Vertical World": Outdoor rock climbing never has been promoted so well by films since Patrick Edlinger, with climbing legends such as Tommy Caldwell or Alex Honnold. Sport climbing limits also have been pushed hard and filmed in high quality to share these achievements and to show all the "behind the scenes" of the success (which is the most interesting part to me). Chris Sharma, Adam Ondra or Alex Megos are not just pure monsters; they are real role models in their climbing careers and also for their spirit and humanity on our fragile planet. This is so inspiring... We are lucky to have such mentors in our sport, especially for the new generations, but not only; personally I've learned a lot from these heroes even though they are much younger than me! If we follow the same way, respecting Nature and Life, "Planet Rock" is a magical playground that deserves to be preserved.

The community of climbers is particular, far from most sports: we interact, support and push each other; we all speak the same language, and we are like a "Big Family" 😊

My advice to the youngsters, in between others, would be to always keep some fun in their sessions: meet some friends or someone you'd like to talk to, not always push hard or be highly focused from the beginning to the end of the session, and of course, learn to find little satisfactions when failing to the challenge: being positive, keeping the smile... makes you and who you are climbing with happy, and keep the motivation high! Love Climbing & Buoux for ever 😊
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