IFSC Climbing and Paraclimbing World Championships Paris: Report

The biennial IFSC World Climbing Championships took place last week at the Accor Hotels Arena in Paris, uniting the world's best competition climbers across all four disciplines of lead, boulder, speed and paraclimbing. Five days of action attracted crowds of over 8,000 spectators and some stunning performances. Great Britain's Esme Harte won Bronze in the women's Amputee Leg 2 category and John Churcher placed 4th in the final of the men's Visual Impairment B2 event.

Team GB's Esme Harte wins Bronze in Paris, 227 kb
Team GB's Esme Harte wins Bronze in Paris
© Eddie Fowke/IFSC

Esme told UKC: 'I'm really happy to maintain my world ranking, although I would have preferred to have climbed on the lead wall! I'm very proud of my teammates and competitors who put their all into their climbs, and I loved the atmosphere in the stadium.'

In the bouldering championship, Team GB saw two men progress to the semi-final round: Tyler Landman and Nathan Phillips, who finished in a very commendable 16th and 17th place respectively in a strong field. 

Competing in the combined event in lead, speed and boulder, Dave Barrans finished a respectable 7th place despite his lack of experience in speed climbing.

In the women's lead event, 18 year-old Molly Thompson-Smith qualified in 11th place for the semi-finals, eventually finishing 25th after a smooth climb in the semis in a highly competitive field of 75 competitors - a promising result in what was her first senior World Championships.

The huge crowd of over 8,000 spectators
© Eddie Fowke/IFSC

Shauna Coxsey was absent from the line-up in the women's bouldering due to a shoulder injury which she incurred at the Munich Boulder World Cup last month (UKC News Report).

Two donations from Climbers Against Cancer (CAC) were made of €30,000 to the Lymphoma Study Association and $45,000 SGD to The National Cancer Centre Singapore. CAC Trustee Shauna Coxsey presented the cheques to officials on stage and delivered a speech thanking supporters of the charity for their donations and gave a tribute to founder John Ellison, who first conceived the idea of CAC in the same arena in 2012 and sadly passed away last year. Sales of CAC tshirts and other merchandise at the event sold out before the competition had finished.

Shauna Coxsey presents donation cheques on behalf of CAC
© Eddie Fowke/IFSC

The men's bouldering finals attracted a crowd of over 8,000 spectators in the arena, despite many regular World Cup finalists having been thrown out of the game in the semi-final. The French team had three finalists competing before a home crowd: Mickael Mawem, Manuel Cornu and Jeremy Bonder, alongside boulder World Cup winner Tomoa Narasaki and Tsukuru Hori of Japan, with Adam Ondra (CZE) - the reigning World Champion following his win in Munich, Germany in 2014 - also making an appearance despite not having entered any World Cup rounds in bouldering this season. The crowd-pleasing boulders were artfully crafted by Chief Routesetter Percy Bishton and his team. Adam put on a show for the spectators, giving his all but not managing to surpass Narasaki, who took Gold to become both World Cup winner and World Champion for 2016. Cornu completed the podium in 3rd place.

Adam Ondra resembling a bat in the bouldering finals, 119 kb
Adam Ondra resembling a bat in the bouldering finals
© Eddie Fowke/IFSC

On Sunday afternoon, the women's bouldering finals took place, including a mix of seasoned competitors and younger newcomers: Akiyo Noguchi and Miho Nonaka of Japan, Petra Klingler (SUI), Anna Stöhr (AUT), Megan Mascarenas (USA) and first-time finalist Elena Krasovskaia (RUS). Yet another outstanding set of boulders featuring multiple jumps and volumes provided an excellent spectacle. All the action boiled down to the final climber on the final boulder - Noguchi needed to top the problem to take the win from Petra Klingler, who had stunned the crowd (and herself) by flashing two problems and unlocking the fourth with style. In tears after topping out, the crowd gave Klingler a well-deserved standing ovation. Noguchi failed to complete the final problem and took third place behind compatriote Miho Nonaka.

An emotional women's lead podium
© Sytse van Slooten/IFSC

In the women's lead final, a fairly typical line-up of 9 finalists had secured their spot from the semi-final round. After an emotional top-out from Anak Verhoeven (BEL) - who took her first Gold in a World Cup in Arco, Italy just a few weeks ago - all eyes were on the next three climbers and on Slovenia's Janja Garnbret in particular. Having climbed past a clip in the semis, Verhoeven had scuppered her chances of qualifying on top for finals - finishing in 4th place. Garnbret topped out the final route with relative ease, resetting a hand on the second-to-last volume briefly as the crowd watched open-mouthed, thinking for a second that she might be off. She held it, taking the title at just 17 years of age ahead of Verhoeven on countback. Garnbret's Slovenian teammate Mina Markovic took third place after a controlled climb.

Janja Garnbret enjoys the moment following her win
© Eddie Fowke/IFSC

The long, volume-filled route provided ample entertainment in the men's lead final, which once again consisted of a stellar line-up. Dynos, Tarzan-like swings between large volcano holds and a technical top section wowed the crowd. Fired-up by his home supporters, Gautier Supper (FRA) reached a highpoint on the headwall before fumbling a clip and falling. Jakob Schubert (AUT) surpassed Supper's effort, but it was Adam Ondra who stole the show once again. Despite having climbed to 2nd place in the bouldering finals only 24 hours ago, Ondra didn't appear too phased: seemingly fresh as a daisy, he topped-out to the loudest applause of the event. A dyno to a jug after a technical section saw him turn and fist-pump to the crowd, before smoothly climbing to the last hold and clipping the chains in front of a delighted audience to become back-to-back lead World Champion after his win in Gijón, Spain in 2014.

Romain Desgranges on the Tarzan section of the men's lead final, 185 kb
Romain Desgranges on the Tarzan section of the men's lead final
© Eddie Fowke/IFSC

A surprise in the women's speed final saw Anouck Jaubert (FRA) - winner of three speed World Cups in a row so far this season - beaten into 2nd place by Russia's Anna Tsyganova, ahead of Iuliia Kaplina in 3rd. In the men's final, Marcin Dzienski of Poland took Gold with the fastest time of the competition - 5.83 seconds.

The Paraclimbing events were once again a highlight of the action - the crowd respectfully watching in silence in the Visual Impairment rounds and applauding every climber's effort in all categories as soon as their attempt was over.

The combined championship - in which athletes compete in all three disciplines of lead, boulder and speed - saw a rise in participation, possibly due to last month's announcement that climbing will be joining the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games programme in a 'triathlon' format. Sean McColl (CAN) took Gold for the third World Championship in a row, and Elena Krasovskaia won the women's event.

Full results of all events can be found using the IFSC Calendar.

More photos from all five days can be found on the IFSC Flickr feed.

Replays of all events can be found on the IFSC's YouTube channel.

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