Rishat Khaibullin is a climber from Kazakhstan, who lives and trains in Czechia today. He became the first athlete from CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States, the organization of post-Soviet republics in Eurasia) to receive an Olympic invitation. Rishat talked about learning Czech, training with Adam Ondra and preparing for Tokyo 2020 in the interview with Skalolaz magazine.
Rishat in Prague
Rishat, how did you make the decision to go to Czechia to study? And why exactly there?
The decision came to my mother’s mind. She wanted me to get a prestigious education abroad. It is quite difficult and expensive to do it in our country, that’s why she offered me that idea and I accepted it. I can’t say, why exactly Czechia. Many of our colleagues and friends, about whom we heard a lot of good news, moved to Czechia to study, this might be the reason. It is not so easy to study there for locals and it was harder for me because I studied in Czech. So, if we are talking about complexity, the most difficult thing was missing my family… And may be some pets. But in that case it wasn’t so bad, Czechs like dogs.
How did you learn Czech? Is there a language barrier today and how difficult is it to overcome?
I had started to learn Czech a year and a half before moving. After that I learnt it directly in Czechia, in Prague for a whole year. Climbing helped me in it so much. I started to associate with Czechs in climbing halls, started to hang around with them. So, it helped me so much. Of course, there is a language barrier, because it is not my mother tongue. But talking to Czechs in Czech, I’m improving my knowledge.
Do you come back home, to Kazakhstan or does your family travel to you in Czechia? Are you missing home, how do you feel in another country, in another culture?
The first year and a half I was in Czechia and didn’t come to Kazakhstan. But my sister came to me from Israel. Now I do it quite often. In the beginning I was missing so much. But now I’ve gotten used to it, that’s why it is not a big problem.
Rishat on a speed climbin wall in Hachioji
What is the main discipline in rock climbing for you?
I’d say, it’s speed, because I have success in it against others. And considering that fact I managed to get a good time without enough training.
What are your strong and weak suits in climbing for you?
Strong fingers. I can hold any crimps and chips so easily considering my low weight. And my weakness is stretching. Genetically I don’t have it. But I work on it as well as I can and there is some result.
How do you prepare for the Olympics? Are you going to stay in Czechia or go back home?
I’ve decided to prepare in Czechia. I’m already integrated into that environment, I know a lot of climbing halls and climbers. And, of course, Adam Ondra. I’ve already moved to Brno, where he lives, for that matter. So, we have common preparing for the Olympics. There are different climbing gyms: Kotelna, Hangar, Komec, Hudy, Big Wall, SmichOFF, Boulder Bar, Innsbruck.
What proportions do you have in your sport climbing trainings, lead/speed/bouldering?
Definitely I emphasize speed, then bouldering and lead. More than likely I’m doing quantity in every discipline now. Closer to the Olympics I will be training climbing itself and technique.
Rinat Khaibullin and Jacob Schubert
Who is training you now?
My father. Rinat Khaibullin. He coordinates me.
Which athletes do you train with? Do you have friends among Czech and other European climbers with whom you meet and come across in climbing halls?
Adam Ondra, Jan Kriz. But anyway it is very possible to meet up other strong girls and guys and to train together.
Do you like to climb on real rocks, on what routes have you succeeded?
I do like real rocks but unfortunately, because of competitions I almost don’t climb there. I could climb 8b of leading in Frankenjura.
Rishat on a training with Adam Ondra
How did you meet Adam Ondra?
For the first time we met several years ago, on the organized competitions by Adam Ondra himself – 10-Boy. It contains from the 10 disciplines of different campuses. He was so surprised by how strong my fingers are, because I set several new records.
Is he a good student?
It was difficult to work with him in the speed discipline, but to my surprise he quickly got into it so that now he’s pretty good at speed.
Have you noticed something uncasual in his trainings? Was there something useful for you being in contact with him?
Training with Adam is novelty for me. I can’t say, that anything specifically surprised me, rather training’s process. Definitely, there was a lot of usefulness, not only in training, but lifestyle, nutrition, meditation.
How did this relationship impact you? Are you also a fan of porridge in the morning? What kind of breakfast do you have?
I started to pay more attention to eating healthy food. Unfortunately, it is hard to find healthy food in supermarkets, that’s why I need to search for it in specialized shops. My typical breakfast is oatmeal with nuts and dried fruits, two boiled eggs, avocado with tomatoes on bread.
Have you trained as a student of any European coaches, climbers?
Not yet. I’m going to work with Libor Hroza.
Rishat on bouldering in Hachioji
Elimination to the Olympics in Tokyo: what was the most difficult for you? What surprised you?
The most difficult is work capacity, I didn’t get used to it. And my leg was also injured, that’s why my climbing concentration was reduced. I was surprised by the friction on speed.
What is your opinion about Japanese athletes? Why, do you think, are they so strong in competitive bouldering?
Very strong athletes. In my opinion, possibly a reason of their growth might be found in simulators, modern holds, routes and of course very high level of competition.
Rishat took 3rd place in Hachioji and passed the qualification to the Olympics
Have you ever been in Japanese climbing halls? What interesting things have you noticed there?
I’ve been Hachiōji during the World Championship. I think, the first thing, which is the most noticeable, is a quantity of volumes. On a square meter there are more volumes than in all of Kazakhstan, that’s why it’s another type of routes.
Does anybody in your family climb too, other than your father?
Everybody in my family is good at sports. All my brothers climb, some sisters climb at present or used to climb. So, everyone climbed or climbs.
Do you participate in commercial competitions?
I’ve taken a part in KIA X Games in China a couple of times and in China Open there last year. And also just Czech commercial competitions.
Rishat in a gym in Czechia
Are you ready to become a climbing coach in the future? Is it interesting for you to impart knowledge to others.
I’d really like to impart knowledge, to teach somebody something new. But I don’t think, I’d like to be in the role of a coach.
Do you have space in your heart for something not connected to climbing?
At present I’d say, no, because all my thoughts and actions are pointed to the Olympics. Besides, I’m trying to evolve myself not only in climbing but in other fields too.
Original text: Yury Birilov
English translation: Ignaty Brovchenko
Photos by Lukas Biba and from Rishat Khaibullin's archive