IFSC Boulder and Speed World Cup Salt Lake City 2021 (Rnd 3): Report

© IFSC/Dan Gajda

The second IFSC Boulder World Cup in the space of a week took place in Salt Lake City, Utah last weekend, with a Speed World Cup as an opener. Same place, (mostly) the same people, but different boulders and scorching hot weather. The Speed event saw a flurry of world-record-breaking from team Indonesia, while back-to-back bouldering on the same wall proved to be anything but boring, especially for two members of the GB Climbing team: Max Milne and Alex Waterhouse, who finished 6th and 8th respectively in only their second World Cup. Team USA dominated on home turf, bettering even their remarkable success in the previous event.


Rumours of fast times being clocked in practice rounds resulted in a hotly anticipated Speed competition. In qualification, 20-year-old Indonesian Kiromal Katibin smashed the previous World Record of 5.48 seconds by hitting the buzzer at 5.258 seconds. On the same day, his teammate Veddriq Leonardo set a new record of 5.20 seconds in a nail-biting final run against Katibin. 'We didn't come here for the victory, we came here to break records,' Leonardo commented following his win. Marcin Dzienski (POL) took 3rd place in the small final against USA Climbing's John Brosler. 

In the women's event, Tokyo-qualified Aleksandra Miroslaw (POL) dominated each round, setting a time close to her PB (7.129) of 7.20 seconds. Emma Hunt (USA) placed 2nd and Miho Nonaka (JPN) displayed her potential by finishing 3rd and claiming her first Speed World Cup medal, having beaten Speed specialist Patrycja Chudziak (POL) in the small final and set a new PB of 8.20 seconds in the 1/4 final. Nonaka is looking in fine form ahead of Tokyo, in both Boulder and Speed.

Among the Olympic-qualified climbers, there were some interesting shifts in rank-by-Speed-PB (UKC Olympic athlete database) following this first Speed World Cup since 2019. While it's not 100% fair to compare due to absences since 2019, Miho Nonaka (JPN) and Janja Garnbret (SLO) have cut down their times considerably and moved up the PB rankings (5th and 6th respectively), while young Speed unknowns Colin Duffy (USA) and Chris Cosser (RSA) proved themselves capable of fast times, shifting up the table. Tomoa Narasaki (JPN)'s current Speed form remains an unknown after false start in qualifiers, but he's still the fifth-fastest based on his 2019 PB (6.292 seconds).

Speed Men

1 Veddriq Leonardo INA5.20
2 Kiromal Katibin INAFALL
3 Marcin Dzienski POL5.84
4 John Brosler USA6.89
5 Merritt Ernsberger USA6.13
7 Pierre Rebreyend FRAFALSE START
8 Yaroslav Tkach UKRFALL
9 Ludovico Fossali ITA5.95
10 Guillaume Moro FRA6.12
11 Mickael Mawem FRA6.79
12 Michael Finn-Henry USA7.79
13 Gian Luca Zodda ITA7.88
14 Kostiantyn Pavlenko UKR8.28
15 Carlos Granja ECU8.73
16 Linus Bader GER11.09
17 Jan Kriz CZEQual: 6.40
18 Ethan Pitcher CANQual: 6.54
19 Amir Maimuratov KAZQual: 6.56
20 Colin Duffy USAQual: 6.75

Speed Women

1 Aleksandra Mirosław POL7.38
2 Emma Hunt USA7.53
3 Miho Nonaka JPN8.95
4 Patrycja Chudziak POL10.40
5 Anouck Jaubert FRA7.78
6 Natalia Kalucka POL8.48
7 Alexandra Elmer AUT8.63
8 Capucine Viglione FRA10.58
9 Franziska Ritter GER8.52
10 Callie Close USA8.70
11 Tetiana Kolkotina UKR8.95
12 Brooke Raboutou USA9.55
13 Akiyo Noguchi JPN10.20
14 Kyra Condie USA10.82
15 Janja Garnbret SLO14.47
16 Laura Stöckler AUT14.94
17 Petra Klingler SUIQual: 9.42
18 Alejandra Contreras CHIQual: 9.76
19 Julia Duffy USAQual: 10.27
19 Julia Duffy USAQual: 10.27
20 Isabel Gifford USAQual: 11.28


A new team of route setters - once again led by Britain's Jamie Cassidy - created a very different tour of climbs to the parcour-heavy boulders of the previous weekend. Adam Ondra (CZE) withdrew from the event due to a shoulder tweak last weekend and there were some COVID-related absences, which left the field slightly more open.

Alex Waterhouse (GBR) and Max Milne (GBR) qualified in 7th and 18th place respectively for semis after gutsy performances in a round which stumped some of the world's best. The climbs were more old-school in style, which seemed to suit the Brits. The rest of the GB men were clustered in the 30s, with Nathan Phillips, Matt Cousins and Billy Ridal finishing 31st, 33rd and 39th respectively. In the women's qualification round, a tough set of dynamic boulders resulted in a cluster from 33rd-45th place (Holly Toothill, Emily Phillips, Hannah Slaney, Jen Wood and Molly Thompson-Smith.)

There were few surprises in the semis, with six female Tokyo-qualified athletes making the cut - two more than in the previous week - in a strong field of Japanese (six) and US (four) competitors. Five future Olympians progressed to semis in the men's round, with five Japanese and three US athletes. 

Both Milne and Waterhouse excelled on a very rock-esque round involving cracks, laybacking and kneebars. Milne qualified in 6th place, making finals in only his second-ever World Cup. The ever-expressive Waterhouse just missed out in 8th place, only a top hold match away from the cut-off. Tomoa Narasaki (JPN) led the semis round, with Americans Sean Bailey and Zach Galla completing the top three spots. 

Janja Garnbret wowed the crowd once again in semis, having hinted on Instagram that qualifiers were perhaps a touch too easy for her: 'Hoping for some hard stuff tomorrow!' An awkward chimney - completed by Brooke Raboutou (USA) alone - was the talk of the round. 

For the women, the finals line-up looked relatively similar to the previous weekend's, with four of six finalists maintaining their form. In the men's event, only Kokoro Fujii (JPN) - who topped the qualification round - managed to reach two finals in a row. 

The men climbed first on a hot and sunny Salt Lake City evening, which provided completely different conditions to last week's cool, overcast weather and only added to what proved to be a very tough round. The first coordination boulder involved a jump into what appeared to be a fast-paced paddle dyno, but ultimately a slower method using a leg lift to decelerate between the holds was key. Only Kokoro Fujii (JPN) and Sean Bailey (USA) topped this boulder, while the other four climbers failed to reach the Zone. M2 involved a technical bottom section to an easy-to-reach Zone before a one-handed jump to a blocked crimp. Nobody topped, but all climbers reached the Zone. Only three Zones were achieved on M3, a technical compression boulder which resulted in footslips aplenty. The final boulder was a burly mantel in full sun, followed by a leg swing and jump up to a top jug. Only Tomoa Narasaki (JPN) - who flashed the climb - and Sean Bailey managed to find Tops. In front of an ecstatic home crowd, Bailey earned his first World Cup win and only his second podium finish ever after his silver in Vail 2018. 

"I don't know, I can't even think right now!" said an ecstatic Bailey moments after the final. "I never thought this day would come, and it's crazy that it came. We had some pretty tough boulders, and I wanted to find some success on something again. The crowd hype was real!"

Boulder Men

1 Sean Bailey USA4T4z 13 122T4z 9 11
2 Kokoro Fujii JPN3T4z 7 71T4z 9 12
3 Tomoa Narasaki JPN4T4z 7 41T3z 1 3
4 Yoshiyuki Ogata JPN3T4z 4 40T2z 0 4
5 Zach Galla USA3T4z 3 90T1z 0 1
6 Maximillian Milne GBR3T4z 9 130T1z 0 2
7 Manuel Cornu FRA3T4z 9 15
8 Alex Waterhouse GBR2T4z 2 12
9 Mejdi Schalck FRA2T4z 3 9
10 Nathaniel Coleman USA2T4z 3 9
11 Aleksei Rubtsov RUS2T4z 3 10
12 Simon Lorenzi BEL2T4z 3 11
13 Sohta Amagasa JPN2T4z 4 6
14 Alex Megos GER2T4z 4 9
15 Nicolai Uznik AUT2T4z 7 11
16 Anze Peharc SLO2T3z 2 4
17 Nicolas Collin BEL2T3z 5 6
18 Rei Sugimoto JPN1T4z 1 10
19 Sean McColl CAN1T4z 3 16
20 Yannick Flohé GER1T4z 3 17

Max Milne finished with one Zone having put in a valiant fight throughout a tough round. 'Well that was hard,' he commented in an Instagram Story. Aberdeen-born and now Leeds-based, Milne has serious potential to do more of the same or better. In the space of one week, he jumped from 41st place in the first event to 6th this weekend.  

Contrastingly, the women's final was a feast of Tops. Last weekend's winner Natalia Grossman (USA) was first out - having squeaked into the final in 6th - and set the tone with a smooth, unrivalled flash of W1. All women topped except for Miho Nonaka (JPN), who rushed the finish and couldn't match the Top hold multiple times. Janja Garnbret (SLO) fumbled the start position and required two attempts to top. W2 was a sun-kissed sloper affair, flashed by Grossman and Raboutou and topped second-go by Garnbret after a similar fumble at the start. Garnbret looked slightly unsettled and was starting to fall behind the young Americans, despite seeming on fine physical form. All women topped W3, completing an interesting stem move into a layback and bodyweight shift towards the top hold. Grossman flashed her third boulder in a row, while Garnbret excited the crowd as she flung her body outwards on the top hold in her signature style, before slipping just after the match. The judge awarded her the Top nonetheless.

With one boulder to go, Garnbret was still two attempts off the lead. As Grossman flashed the final problem with ease, there was no catching her: she had won her second IFSC Boulder World Cup in a row, beating Garnbret and ending her streak of nine wins (excluding last week, where Garnbret was absent). Grossman's best friend and teammate Brooke Raboutou was unable to Top the last boulder and shifted to 3rd place, matching both her performance and post-event emotion to those showcased last weekend. 

Grossman is the first woman to beat Garnbret in a Boulder World Cup since 2018. She makes very few mistakes and is adept at flashing or climbing boulders quickly. While both women looked on top form (and given it's perhaps unfair to judge Garnbret too harshly for making mistakes due to her different priorities in the run-up to the Games) it's exciting to know that a strong, young field of climbers is hot on her heels. Last weekend certainly wasn't a one-off for Grossman and Raboutou.

16-year-old Oriane Bertone (FRA) was a force of nature once again, but her youthful exuberance cost her too many attempts on moves where slow and steady was the way. With a bit more experience and maturity, she'll be right up there with Grossman as she was in Meiringen, fighting to reach the top step.

"Going first allowed to have fun the whole time, with no pressure," said Grossman, who described her second win as 'a dream come true times two'. She continued: "I'm always trying to be as confident as possible, but the fourth problem seemed to be the hardest one. Winning last week's event definitely gave me a little bit more confidence this time."

Boulder Women

1 Natalia Grossman USA2T3z 8 34T4z 4 4
2 Janja Garnbret SLO3T4z 5 84T4z 6 6
3 Brooke Raboutou USA2T3z 5 63T4z 5 8
4 Oriane Bertone FRA2T4z 8 63T3z 9 5
5 Stasa Gejo SRB2T3z 5 63T3z 11 10
6 Miho Nonaka JPN2T4z 7 112T4z 5 9
7 Katja Kadic SLO1T4z 3 10
8 Kyra Condie USA1T4z 11 11
9 Futaba Ito JPN1T3z 1 7
10 Fanny Gibert FRA1T3z 3 6
11 Afra Hönig GER1T3z 4 7
12 Petra Klingler SUI1T3z 5 5
13 Camilla Moroni ITA1T3z 6 10
14 Mao Nakamura JPN1T2z 3 2
15 Hannah Meul GER0T3z 0 10
16 Kylie Cullen USA0T2z 0 6
17 Vita Lukan SLO0T2z 0 6
18 Akiyo Noguchi JPN0T2z 0 11
19 Ryu NAKAGAWA JPN0T2z 0 13
20 Franziska Sterrer AUT0T0z 0 0

The success of Team USA is undeniably the storyline of both events this past two weeks. Yes, they were on home turf, and there's jet lag and the altitude to consider, but there's no denying that their training set-ups - whether in Boulder or Salt Lake, the two dominant training hubs  - are producing consistent results. 

Another topic for consideration is the rate at which Olympic-qualified athletes are picking up injuries. Shauna Coxsey (GBR) wrote about back issues on Instagram; Julia Chanourdie picked up a shoulder injury in SLC prior to last weekend's event; Jessy Pilz injured her finger during last weekend's final; Adam Ondra withdrew due a shoulder niggle, and Miho Nonaka - who has recovered from two shoulder injuries in recent years - was seen clutching an ice pack on her shoulder after the final, having looked unhappy with it on the third boulder. 

The next stop on the circuit is in Innsbruck, Austria from 23-26 June, which is an atypical mix of Boulder and Lead events. 

Watch the replays below:

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2 Jun

One thing I love about comp climbing is how competitors delight in each others' success. Bertone and Grossman's hugs and support, not to mention those of Rabatou, send such a positive message to young athletes: you can be strong AND competitive AND an avid supporter of your fellow competitors.

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