A bumper festival of competition climbing took place in Innsbruck, Austria last weekend, celebrating the full variety of disciplines. A Paraclimbing World Cup kicked off the action, followed by a European Speed Cup and separate Lead and Boulder World Cups. With the Tokyo 2020 Games now less than a month away, the Lead and Boulder events served as a warm-up act of sorts for the qualified climbers.
In the Lead event, six Tokyo-qualified women made finals. A bouldery route split the women well, but provided its fair share of scary moments: Tokyo-qualified climber Viktoriia Meshkova (RUS) fell in the roof section and inverted, slamming her back into the wall, while Lucka Rakovec (SLO) and Laura Rogora (ITA) flew sideways into the wall after slipping from the heart-in-mouth sideways dyno.
Having achieved two consecutive bronze medals at the Boulder World Cups in Salt Lake City, USA, last month, Brooke Raboutou continued to demonstrate her current top pre-Tokyo form by setting an impressive silver medal-winning highpoint, matched and surpassed only by the GOAT herself: Janja Garnbret (SLO), who broke the intended triple dyno to the top hold in one fell swoop, earning her 28th World Cup gold. Akiyo Noguchi (JPN) climbed smoothly past the high crux move and through the roof section to take 3rd place in her last ever Lead World Cup.
The men's event involved four Tokyo athletes and threw up more surprises, with Stefano Ghisolfi (ITA) setting an early highpoint of the second-to-last hold. Was the route too easy? Apparently not: only Jakob Schubert could reach the same point and move upwards to earn an extra '+' and take 1st place in front of his home crowd. Sascha Lehmann (SUI) took third place after narrowly beating Masahiro Higuchi (JPN) on countback.
A shock moment occurred when Adam Ondra (CZE) slipped low down in a dual-tex section of the route, before regaining composure. Then the same happened again, only this time he couldn't stay on the wall. It had not long started raining, which some speculated might have caused issues, but the following day Ondra posted on Instagram about a tornado that had ravaged his home region of South Moravia on Thursday evening, which was likely on his mind.
Boulder finals took place on Saturday evening and was made more exciting by thunder, lightning and a heavy rainstorm that stopped play, ending both rounds prematurely. In the women's event, Miho Nonaka (JPN) withdrew due to a knee injury incurred on W4 in the semis. Scenes of Nonaka being wheeled out of the event into an ambulance caused concern, but she later posted to say that her injury is minor. Nonetheless, it was a worrying moment with less than one month to go until her home Games.
The five remaining women competed across an entertaining round of boulders, but sadly the final boulder - an awkward press mantle between two volumes - was only attempted by Noguchi and Staša Gejo (SRB) before heavy rain stopped play and the boulder was ultimately cancelled. It was a shame not to see what Natalia Grossman (USA), Futaba Ito (JPN) and Garnbret would have made of this curious creation from the route setters. The results froze as they were on W3, with Garnbret in 1st, Grossman in 2nd and Gejo in 3rd - her first podium since her major knee injury in 2019. The last time that Garnbret's feat of winning two World Cups in a weekend was matched was in Edinburgh in 2003, when Sandrine Levet (FRA) did the double in Lead and Boulder.
Unfortunately the rain disruption couldn't have come at a worse time for what was Akiyo Noguchi's last climb in an IFSC World Cup. The crowd was asked to leave their seats and gather indoors due to the risk of lightning while Noguchi was climbing: an unfitting end to one of the most impressive competition climbing careers in history, with 21 Boulder World Cup wins, 58 podiums and 10 Lead podiums to boot. But the longevity of Noguchi's career is arguably the most impressive aspect, spanning 16 years from 2005-2021. A silver medal in lead the previous day likely made up for this unfortunate ending, but let's hope she leaves the stage in Tokyo 2020 on a higher note and gets the standing ovation she deserves. Check out her UKC athlete profile for a full list of her achievements.
With a late start, the men's boulder final was also at risk of being cut short. The rain had subsided, but sections of the matting were wet and conditions were less than ideal. A tricky M1 caused most to fail on the first move, but Yoshiyuki Ogata cracked the beta and campussed his way to the top. Tokyo hopefuls Tomoa Narasaki (JPN) and Nathaniel Coleman earned the Zone, but couldn't top. M2 proved easier with four tops and featured a dynamic jump between volumes. Simon Lorenzi (BEL) stole the show by topping with a second or so to spare on his tenth attempt.
The final boulder was a heinous slab on low-angle volumes, which the route setters had caked in chalk to dry out any wet footprints. Unfortunately the chalk seemed to affect the friction, making the problem harder and very unpredictable: feet were popping out of nowhere. No one seemed to be getting anywhere fast, until Narasaki reached the Zone in four attempts and came excruciatingly close, dropping the final hold. It seemed like a no-Top boulder, until Kokoro Fujii easily padded his way to the top second go. The final men's boulder - which looked very aesthetic and intriguing - was relegated to the graveyard of unclimbed boulders and the competition ended after three boulders. Japan completed the podium, with Ogata in 1st, Narasaki in 2nd and Fujii in 3rd.
Overall, it was a jam-packed few days of events, with the typical Innsbruck fare of mixed weather but a good show, despite no spectators (except for the athletes and coaches) being present. A poor decision by ORF - the Austrian national broadcaster - cameramen led to an apology both from the ORF team and the IFSC. I will spare the athlete involved any further humiliation, but it involved a lingering slo-mo close-up of her shorts, which was unnecessary and frankly inappropriate. The replay has now been edited and reuploaded without the offending clip.
|5||Alberto Ginés López||ESP||41+||37+|
|1||Yoshiyuki Ogata||JPN||3T4z 5 4||2T2z 7 7|
|2||Tomoa Narasaki||JPN||3T4z 4 6||1T3z 2 11|
|3||Kokoro Fujii||JPN||4T4z 8 4||1T1z 2 2|
|4||Nicolai Uznik||AUT||3T4z 8 11||1T1z 2 2|
|5||Simon Lorenzi||BEL||3T3z 8 5||1T1z 10 10|
|6||Nathaniel Coleman||USA||3T4z 5 9||0T1z 0 2|
|7||Aleksei Rubtsov||RUS||3T3z 11 9|
|8||Jongwon Chon||KOR||2T4z 2 5|
|9||Colin Duffy||USA||2T4z 4 5|
|10||Rei Sugimoto||JPN||2T4z 5 4|
|11||Yannick Flohé||GER||2T4z 5 6|
|12||Alex Megos||GER||2T4z 6 9|
|13||Kai Harada||JPN||2T3z 2 5|
|14||Jakob Schubert||AUT||2T3z 5 6|
|15||Sohta Amagasa||JPN||1T4z 1 6|
|16||Tomoaki Takata||JPN||1T4z 2 12|
|17||Anze Peharc||SLO||1T4z 4 13|
|18||Mickael Mawem||FRA||1T4z 5 6|
|19||Jan Hojer||GER||1T3z 2 4|
|20||Mejdi Schalck||FRA||1T3z 6 5|
|1||Janja Garnbret||SLO||4T4z 9 4||3T3z 3 3|
|2||Natalia Grossman||USA||3T4z 5 6||3T3z 9 9|
|3||Stasa Gejo||SRB||2T4z 4 7||1T3z 2 6|
|4||Futaba Ito||JPN||3T4z 4 5||1T2z 3 8|
|5||Akiyo Noguchi||JPN||3T4z 11 10||1T1z 1 1|
|6||Miho Nonaka||JPN||3T4z 4 5||DNS|
|7||Johanna Färber||AUT||2T4z 6 7|
|8||Brooke Raboutou||USA||2T3z 4 5|
|9||Laura Rogora||ITA||2T3z 6 11|
|10||Mao Nakamura||JPN||2T3z 7 6|
|11||Petra Klingler||SUI||1T4z 1 11|
|12||Katja Kadic||SLO||1T4z 1 15|
|13||Franziska Sterrer||AUT||1T4z 5 7|
|14||Andrea Kümin||SUI||1T3z 1 3|
|15||Chloe Caulier||BEL||1T3z 2 9|
|16||Oriane Bertone||FRA||0T4z 0 7|
|17||Kylie Cullen||USA||0T3z 0 6|
|18||Sandra Lettner||AUT||0T3z 0 10|
|19||Julia Chanourdie||FRA||0T3z 0 19|
|20||Nanako Kura||JPN||0T2z 0 3|