The first round of the 2013 IFSC World Cup series in Lead Difficulty got off to a spectacular start in Briançon, France last month. Over 100 of the world's best lead competition climbers gathered in Serre Chevalier to test their abilities on a global stage.
After a very successful European Championships in Chamonix the weekend before, many competitors had already had a taste of the current level of competition. For the teams who were not eligible to compete in Chamonix, Briançon was to be their testing ground and the results showed that the Japanese and Korean teams in particular pushed the standard of climbing even higher than in Chamonix.
Due to a poor weather forecast, it was decided to run the male and female qualifiers simultaneously on themorning. Situated in the courtyard of a former army barracks, the outdoor wall only came under attack from the rain just as the qualifying round was finishing off - a wise strategy from the organisers!
Semi finals took place early on Saturday morning with many familiar faces making the top 26 cut. The men's route meandered leftwards and included a tricky section high up with a confusing cluster of volumes. Despite many brave attempts at tackling this section only a few climbers managed to overcome the difficulty, with Sachi Amma of Japan leading after the semi-final round. The women's route was a long and endurance-based route with a small crux section halfway up the wall in the roof section. Mina Markovic of Slovenia looked incredibly comfortable on this route and took a 2-hold lead over Magdalena Röck of Austria.
The line-up for the finals was as follows:
WOMEN: Mina Markovic, Magdalena Röck, Hélène Janicot, Dinara Fakhritdinova, Akiyo Noguchi, Jain Kim, Charlotte Durif, and Katharina Posch
MEN: Sachi Amma, Manu Romain, Cedric Lachat, Gauthier Supper, Ramón Julian Puigblanque, Domen Skofic, Stefano Ghisolfi, and Thomas Tauporn
A crowd of 9,000 spectators filled the square just as the sun was starting to set. The women came out for observation and were presented with a route not too dissimilar in style to the men's semi-final route. The crowd certainly seemed to be hyped up to support the French athletes on home turf. Despite having just recovered from a leg injury which she picked up at the Boulder World Cup in Millau, Jain Kim was third out to climb and managed a smooth, controlled climb to top out. The audience, having been stunned into silence during her climb, burst into applause as she clipped the last quickdraw and turned to face the crowd with tears of joy. Mina Markovic looked just as poised all the way up until the very last move - a heartbreaking moment as she threw for the final hold but just missed it! Young Hélène Janicot of France matched her performance in Chamonix last weekend with yet another 3rd position and proved she is a force to be reckoned with in the following rounds.
Before the men's final, a very special presentation was made by John Ellison of Climbers Against Cancer alongside Sheila and Sophie McCarron as £10,000 was donated to La Ligue Contre le Cancer, a French cancer research facility, in return for the fantastic support which France has given the cause. Night was falling and the men's final had a spectacular backdrop of the night sky complete with a full moon. The male route looked like a slightly harder version of the female semi-final - small holds with intricate sequences. The three youngest competitors in the field were out first - Thomas Tauporn, Stefano Ghisolfi and Domen Skofic - and set the bar high for the remaining 5 climbers. Ramón Julian Puigblanque was 4th out to climb and stunned the crowd by reaching the final few moves on a "rhino horn" volume at the top of the wall. Cedric Lachat gave a gutsy performance to finish in 3rd position behind Ramón and Sachi, who looked very likely to reach past Ramón's highpoint but fell one move lower.
1. Ramón Julian Puigblanque
2. Sachi Amma
3. Cedric Lachat
1. Jain Kim
2. Mina Markovic
3. Hélène Janicot
In all, a promising opening to the 2013 lead series, the next round is in Imst, Austria the 9th/10th August.
Here is a video report of the competition presented by Natalie Berry:
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