IFSC Lead World Cups Chamonix and Briançon 2021 - Report

© 2021 Jan Virt/IFSC

The two French stops on the Alpine tour of the IFSC Lead World Cups are always a highlight of the competition calendar. This year, being the last two events before the Tokyo 2020 Games, the events provided a marker of the current form of some Olympians and shone a light on the underdogs who consistently nip at the heels of the top players, but rarely get a chance to break on through.

Laura Rogora on form in Chamonix.  © 2021 Daniel Gajda/IFSC
Laura Rogora on form in Chamonix.
© 2021 Daniel Gajda/IFSC

Chamonix brought its typical moody weather, scenic backdrop and long, meandering routes above an enthusiastic crowd. Sadly there were a few hiccups in gauging the difficulty of the women's route, with nine tops in the semi-final round causing Nolwenn Arc (FRA) to be denied a finals place on countback despite completing the route. Laura Rogora (ITA) made her last appearance at an IFSC event before she jets off to Tokyo, and proved that she is on good form by achieving the only top in finals. Natalia Grossman (USA) continued her meteoric rise and claimed a silver medal, her sixth medal of the season, finishing just a few moves ahead of young sixteen-year-old up-and-comer Aleksandra Totkova (BUL) in third (her first senior IFSC World Cup medal). Totkova's style is punchy and dynamic; her high-risk approach is akin to that of Janja Garnbret (SLO) and is exciting to watch. 

Lead Women

1 Laura Rogora ITATOPTOP
2 Natalia Grossman USATOP41+
3 Aleksandra Totkova BULTOP38+
4 Vita Lukan SLOTOP38+
5 Natsuki Tanii JPNTOP32+
6 Julia Chanourdie FRATOP29+
7 Ashima Shiraishi USATOP29+
8 Dinara Fakhritdinova RUSTOP28+
9 Nolwenn Arc FRATOP
10 Eliska Adamovska CZE54
11 Momoko Abe JPN53+
12 Camille Pouget FRA52+
13 Nina Arthaud FRA51+
14 Salomé Romain FRA49+
15 Sabina van Essen NED49+
16 Michelle Hulliger SUI48+
17 Molly Thompson-Smith GBR47+
18 Giorgia Tesio ITA43
20 Eva Maria Hammelmüller AUT41

In the men's final, a tough route saw low highpoints. Seasoned favourite Stefano Ghisolfi (ITA) and long-time competitor Martin Stranik (CZE) matched a score of 32, which was ultimately surpassed by an on-form Sean Bailey (USA), fresh from his first Lead World Cup win in Villars. This was Sean's third win in the season so far, with one Gold in Boulder and two in Lead. Alberto Ginés López (ESP) was the sole male Olympian competing, finishing 14th. 

Sean Bailey is having his best IFSC season yet.  © 2021 Daniel Gajda/IFSC
Sean Bailey is having his best IFSC season yet.
© 2021 Daniel Gajda/IFSC

Lead Men

1 Sean Bailey USA4334+
2 Stefano Ghisolfi ITA4632
3 Martin Stranik CZE4332
4 Sascha Lehmann SUI47+29
5 Victor Baudrand CAN41+28+
6 Marcello Bombardi ITA41+26+
7 Luka Potocar SLO4525+
8 Paul Jenft FRA45+25
9 Masahiro Higuchi JPN41+
10 Hannes Puman SWE41+
11 Yannick Flohé GER41
12 Christoph Hanke GER41
13 Mejdi Schalck FRA40+
14 Alberto Ginés López ESP39+
15 Sebastian Halenke GER39+
16 Sohta Amagasa JPN38+
17 Mikel Asier Linacisoro Molina ESP38+
18 Milan Preskar SLO38+
19 Nao Monchois FRA38+
20 Stefan Scherz AUT37+
29 Hamish McArthur GBRQual: 27.39

Less than one week later, the athletes and their contingents had made their way to Briançon, where numbers were slightly fewer. Alberto Ginés López was the last Tokyo-qualified man standing once again, while no female Tokyo-qualified athletes chose to compete. 

As ever, the risk of rainstorms and thunder and lightning threatened to end play, but thankfully only a brief but heavy downpour of rain occurred during the final. It's a serious risk at this venue, where an organiser was struck by lightning in 2015 and finals were cancelled. Thankfully the event has since moved to a less risky location in Briançon. Nonetheless, rain (and double rainbows) coloured the finals. The crowd were masked and hooded, showing enthusiasm despite the conditions. 

In the men's final, a tricky-to-read route on dual-tex tube-like volumes unsettled some athletes. Top qualifier on the qualification day Luka Potocar (SLO) fell low in the roof after misreading a technical feet-first section. An awkward perched move on the aréte of a triangular volume caused issues for multiple athletes, including Sascha Lehmann (SUI) and Fedir Samoilov (UKR), while Sean Bailey (USA) and Martin Stranik pushed their way into a stem-like rest, before falling on the way out of it. Dmitrii Fakirianov (RUS) set an impressive highpoint of 39+ to earn his first IFSC World Cup medal since his breakout year in 2016. Stefano Ghisolfi (ITA) - arguably the favourite in this event - pushed further to 42+ to take the win, his first since Kranj 2018.

Stefano Ghisolfi on his way to a win in Briançon.  © 2021 Jan Virt/IFSC
Stefano Ghisolfi on his way to a win in Briançon.
© 2021 Jan Virt/IFSC

Lead Men

1 Stefano Ghisolfi ITA42+42+
2 Dmitrii Fakirianov RUS40+39+
3 Martin Stranik CZE39+37+
4 Sean Bailey USA42+36
5 Sascha Lehmann SUI37+35
6 Fedir Samoilov UKR3735
7 Alberto Ginés López ESP3727+
8 Luka Potocar SLO3722
9 Victor Baudrand CAN37
10 Domen Skofic SLO36+
11 Yannick Flohé GER36+
12 Masahiro Higuchi JPN36+
13 Mathias Posch AUT36+
14 Nicolas Collin BEL33+
15 Marcello Bombardi ITA31.5+
16 Sam Avezou FRA31.5+
17 Sebastian Halenke GER31.5
18 Nino Grünenfelder SUI31.5
19 Hamish McArthur GBR31+
20 Sohta Amagasa JPN31+

Five women topped their semi-final route (effectively 6, but Totkova timed out just before the top), creating a similar situation to Chamonix's semi-final. The women's final route appeared basic from the outset, but fortunately proved more complex as athletes started their runs. An unnerving bottom section on slopey holds caused some hesitation, including the young and gutsy Aleksandra Totkova (BUL), who seemed to rush a few moves low down and expend more energy, before falling in the middle of the roof.

Young Czech star Eliska Adamovska, who had qualified for her first final, stunned spectators by confidently reaching the headwall and setting a highpoint. As more experienced athletes dropped below her - Lucka Rakovec (SLO), Ashima Shiraishi (USA) and Vita Lukan (SLO) - her performance became all the more impressive. Natalia Grossman (USA) looked set to earn her first Lead gold, climbing smoothly through the cruxes and reaching the headwall. But as she threw for a crimp and missed, it was clear that Adamovska had secured her first win in her first final. A shock result, maybe, but Adamovska's potential was demonstrated at the IFSC European Championships in Moscow, where she placed 3rd in Combined and 2nd in Lead. Also of note was Lukan's 3rd place: depsite being a regular finalist - four times in Briançon alone - Lukan had never medalled in an IFSC World Cup. 

Eliska Adamovska (CZE): one to watch ahead of Paris 2024.   © 2021 Jan Virt/IFSC
Eliska Adamovska (CZE): one to watch ahead of Paris 2024.
© 2021 Jan Virt/IFSC

Lead Women

1 Eliska Adamovska CZETOP36
2 Natalia Grossman USATOP35+
3 Vita Lukan SLOTOP29
4 Ashima Shiraishi USATOP27+
5 Ryu NAKAGAWA JPN36+27+
6 Lucka Rakovec SLOTOP26+
7 Lana Skusek SLO3824+
8 Aleksandra Totkova BUL4122+
9 Natsuki Tanii JPN36+
10 Camilla Moroni ITA31+
11 Tjasa Slemensek SLO31
12 Molly Thompson-Smith GBR30
13 Eva Maria Hammelmüller AUT30
14 Camille Pouget FRA29
15 Martina Demmel GER29
16 Hannah Meul GER29
17 Salomé Romain FRA29
18 Julia Fiser AUT27+
19 Nina Arthaud FRA27+
20 Oriane Bertone FRA27+

The next event on the calendar is the biggest of them all, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. If the 2021 IFSC season so far has shown us anything, it's that there's an exciting pool of talent simmering just below the established Olympic greats. There are plenty of unknowns (what shape are the South Koreans in? The Chinese? The Candians?) ahead of Tokyo, but also plenty to look forward to. Once the Games are over and a new chapter in Sport Climbing history is written, the remainder of the IFSC circuit might attract a fuller range of athletes (COVID-permitting) and also a new audience.

In just over two weeks' time, I'll (hopefully) be reporting from Tokyo...

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21 Jul, 2021

Some really good separation for both men's and women's in the Briançon final. Stefano Ghisolfis attempt was unreal.

22 Jul, 2021

I very much enjoyed these two rounds and great to see some new faces.

One thing that drives me nuts though. Can Matt Groom actually see the wall/top of the wall or do the climbers go out of view?

There were multiple times in the semis in both comps where he failed to notice or mention that where the climber fell was the current highpoint etc. It seems to take him by surprise or the co-commentator had to point it out. Seems a key part of commentating is to keep people informed as to what's going on and how it affects the standings?

22 Jul, 2021

I reckon he’s relying on the app to keep track of the score rather than having his own route topo and a pen to mark off who got where and what that scored…

He has improved in just a few comps but I’d expect he’s still learning the job and needs more time to get it dialled.

22 Jul, 2021

Maybe. It does get me frustrated as I'm watching on catch up skipping through sections and I'm sat there thinking, "that looks like they've just got higher then anyone else but Matt hasn't said that so have I missed something, did I accidentally skip over a entire section when climbers have been rinsing this section to the top?"

It's a bit disappointing but hopefully he'll get into his stride.

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