The year 2022 began for Yannick Flohé with a broken foot. On New Year’s Day he climbed granite boulders in Ticino, one task was to scale one of the huge rocks over an overhanging wall. 8c+ is what climbers call this difficulty, which is so high on the scale that Flohé was the first German to do the “Off the Wagon low” route. A day later, “Poisen the Well” – the rule applies that the first climber of a route can choose the name – was his undoing. Flohé fell and broke his foot.
He has been climbing the wall, which is up to four meters high, since he was five years old
But it wasn’t as dramatic as it sounds. “It’s the most comfortable injury you can have while climbing,” says Flohé. “Because you can just keep training”. According to the motto: You still have two hands and one foot. And now, half a year later, he stood at the top of a World Cup podium for the first time in his career. In Brixen, the 23-year-old from Essen won a gold medal – he is only the third German athlete to do so and the first this year to prevail against the dominant Japanese in the international arena. He has his next chance this Thursday in Innsbruck.
It took three months after his fall before he was able to wear a climbing shoe again. “If I had a ligament injury, I wouldn’t have been able to climb for a long time,” says Flohé, who is starting for the Aachen section of the German Alpine Club (DAV), on the phone. He’s on the train to Innsbruck, the reception is bad as usual. Flohé continued to train on one leg – only started pure competition training later and had two months more time to specialize in finger and maximum strength training.
Flohé is currently the best boulderer in Germany. The North Rhine-Westphalian has been climbing the up to four meter high wall since he was five years old. He comes from a family of climbers, and his younger sister Luisa is also a competitive climber. He is also studying civil engineering. “I want to build up a second source of income,” he says and then adds: “It also makes you stupid in the long run if you don’t do anything else on the side”.
Lots of steep routes, lots of power: the course in Brixen suited Flohé
Although he doesn’t have to worry about his climbing career at the moment. In 2019 he took third place at the Bouldering World Championships in Hachiōji in Japan, a long-awaited medal in German climbing. He also won the overall ranking in the former Olympic combination at the World Championships in Moscow last year. Flohé is an all-rounder who enjoys both bouldering and lead climbing (with a rope). The versatility is a good prerequisite for participation in the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Flohé is now concentrating on that. Qualification starts next year.
Power is one of his great strengths, but that alone does not bring a breakthrough. The head has to play along. His foot injury also helped him with his mental attitude. “I started this competition season with zero expectations,” says Flohé. Nevertheless, he climbed into the finals of the first World Cup in Salt Lake City in May. “That showed me that it’s possible this season,” he says. In Brixen he not only won the competition, but also dominated the qualification and the semifinals, from which he emerged victorious.
The fact that the route style suited him also played into his hands. “Rather classic,” is how he describes what the route setters presented to him in Brixen. Lots of big holds, steep routes where he could use his maximum strength, but fewer flat surfaces and dynamic jumps. For him, that’s the fascinating thing about bouldering – it never gets boring. “There is no other sport where the competition can be so diverse,” he says. The route setters played a big role because they set the style.
His training usually takes place in Cologne, where there is another DAV squad base in addition to Munich. “I train 50 percent alone, 50 percent with my trainer,” he says. Friederike Kops is the national coach, and Hannah Meul, who won silver in the women’s competition in Brixen and thus also made an important achievement for the Germans, also came from her forge. Because the climbers have hardly been convincing at the top level so far.
Yannick Flohé confirms that the squad as a whole has “huge potential”. How does he see the near future for himself? “This year I’m going to take part in the Lead World Cup and the European Championships in Munich,” he says. He wants to devote the rest of the year to university and rock climbing – without breaking his foot.