Lee and Bertone Win IFSC Boulder World Cup Prague 2023

© Jan Virt/IFSC

IFSC commentator Matt Groom reports from the Boulder World Cup in Prague, Czechia.

Prague hosted the IFSC World Cup for the first time, which is ironic considering it marked the return of two of our sport's biggest stars. Janja Garnbret (SLO) was climbing again after missing the first few competitions due to injury, and Adam Ondra decided to pick his home country, and crowd, for his first IFSC event of 2023. 

Oriane Bertone earned her first IFSC World Cup win.  © Jan Virt/IFSC
Oriane Bertone earned her first IFSC World Cup win.
© Jan Virt/IFSC

The organisers had pulled out all the stops to provide a great setting for the event. The venue was…well…a car park, but a very fancy one, with lots of tents providing food, drink and lots of space for the various journalists and media groups to work in. The crowd were well provided for with lots of miniature climbing walls, masterclasses taking place and of course the legendary Czech beer was flowing.

Once again the semi-finals and finals were split between sexes, with the men taking Saturday and women climbing on Sunday. Team GB had two men in the semis with Toby Roberts (GBR) keen to repeat his medal success from Salt Lake and Max Milne (GBR) trying to make his first final of the year. Unfortunately neither of them could quite pull it off, with Max finishing in 19th and Toby 15th. Time to dust themselves off and return next week in Italy.

We had a big reaction to having Cody Grodzki, a route setter at the event, in the commentary box. I have tried for years to persuade one of them to do a broadcast with me. Route setters are generally a little bit shy and reluctant to get behind the mic, but Cody was up for it. I see a lot of misdirected anger towards setters, and I think it's because people don't fully understand the difficulties of their job. Having him there to explain the thoughts of the team and some of the choices they made was hugely beneficial. 

The men's final was probably a little undercooked. We saw plenty of Tops and many flashes and although it drove the competition forward at an intense pace, it was probably a bit too easy. As Cody explained to me later, though, they had tested the boulders in boiling hot conditions, and the night of the men's finals was much colder than expected, perhaps explaining some of the setting decisions.

Mejdi Schalck (FRA) has competed in three World Cups this season and won medals in each event.  © Jan Virt/IFSC
Mejdi Schalck (FRA) has competed in three World Cups this season and won medals in each event.
© Jan Virt/IFSC

We have seen lots of new faces in finals this year and Jan-Luca Posch (AUT) was the latest athlete to make a final debut. He was a couple of seconds outside the time limit going to the last hold on the first climb, but continued to push hard and was rewarded with his first top on Boulder 4. Although he came 6th, we haven't seen the last of this athlete.

For a while it looked like the final would be another Mejdi Schalck (FRA) masterclass. He was the only climber to flash the first two boulders, both of them being technical and requiring complicated toe hooks and foot movements, making his Tops even more impressive. He was in total control coming into Boulder 3, ahead of both Adam Ondra (CZE) and Dohyun Lee (KOR).

Boulder 3 was a tricky slab with an awkward start and big, but slopey and tenuous feet. A climb that feels 100% secure…until the moment you fall off. The first time, Mejdi hesitated. He could only manage the Zone, and you could see his disappointment. In such a high-scoring round, he knew in that moment that gold was out of reach.

Adam Ondra returned to the IFSC circuit on home turf.  © Jan Virt/IFSC
Adam Ondra returned to the IFSC circuit on home turf.
© Jan Virt/IFSC

There was a strange moment on Boulder 3. Yannick Flohe (GER) was back in the final and on certain boulders was looking ridiculously strong. He has a try-hard physicality that is exciting to watch. However, he just couldn't figure out the press-style first move on Boulder 1. With around a minute to go he sat resting, framed in the golden light of the sinking sun. With about 45 seconds to go he started brushing all of the holds, presumably for Adam who was coming next. It's unusual to see an athlete stop climbing that early, especially when he hadn't yet got the Zone. Maybe it was a sign of respect to Adam to prepare the boulder in the way he did. Perhaps he was angry at himself, or the setters. I honestly don't know what was going through his head.

After Mejdi failed to top Boulder 3, all attention turned to Adam and Dohyun. Adam had seemed a little nervous in both qualifying and semi-finals. He had chosen to compete for the first time this year in his home country, and all the focus and attention was on him. In the final he seemed to relax; he clearly feels at home there and it was time for him to simply enjoy the moment. Attempts became all important and it just took Adam more tries to finish boulders than Dohyun. Boulder 1 took Adam 6 goes, while Dohyun did it in 2. Adam had two foot slips on the final move on Boulder 2, while Dohyun flashed it. 

Dohyun Lee (KOR) won his first IFSC World Cup gold medal.   © Jan Virt/IFSC
Dohyun Lee (KOR) won his first IFSC World Cup gold medal.
© Jan Virt/IFSC

Those attempts added up and coming into the last climb it came down to whether either athlete would make a big mistake. The boulder was meant to start with a physical upwards shoulder throw and palm-down, but unfortunately there was a hidden heel hook that the setters had blocked, but not well enough. Yannick was the only climber who didn't use it, and his HUGE move method showed how good the climb could have been. 

With the heel, the boulder became a bit of a flash fest. Adam did what he needed to do, and sat and waited on the side to see if it would be silver or gold. Enter Dohyun Lee (KOR).

Jongwon Chon (KOR) describes him as his son—the best way to understand the relationship between the two. Jongwon has been mentoring him for a while now and clearly the training is paying off. Dohyun had an almost perfect round, needing just five attempts to climb all the boulders compared to Adam's 13. Coming into the last climb he would have known that he had lots of attempts in the bag, and that it was a very climbable boulder. He just had to hold his nerve. 

He started swinging for a Yannick-style massive move, then at the last minute spotted the heel, re-adjusted and flashed the climb with ease. He delayed his celebration until he was at the front of the mats…then roared his delight. He becomes only the second Korean man to win a World Cup, following in the footsteps of Jongwon Chon. And so it was gold for Dohyun, silver for Adam and bronze for Mejdi. 

Men's podium: Ondra, Lee, Schalck.   © Jan Virt/IFSC
Men's podium: Ondra, Lee, Schalck.
© Jan Virt/IFSC

On Sunday night, it was time for the women to show off their skills and as the setting sun bathed the stage in yellow and a new gold medalist was crowned.

Unfortunately Team GB couldn't get any women further than qualification. Erin McNeice (GBR) came close though in 27th, while Holly Toothill (GBR) was 35th. 

I bumped into Oriane Bertone (FRA) as I was grabbing a sandwich before the finals and she told me she was jet-lagged and hadn't been sleeping well since Salt Lake. She shrugged her shoulders and just accepted the finals would be difficult. Sometimes that attitude helps to take the pressure off, and certainly she climbed brilliantly.

She qualified in last place and therefore was always climbing first. Sean McColl and I in the commentary box never knew if the boulder was easy…or if she was on another level—apparently a concern shared by the route setters! Her flash of Boulder 1, a tricky slab, was very impressive. She had supreme confidence as she committed to bad feet and was in cruise control as she latched the last hold, her closest rival on that boulder was her teammate Flavy Cohaut (FRA) who sent it in two tries more. 

We gradually began to realise that Oriane could potentially win the competition. Janja Garnbret (SLO), her closest rival throughout, was impressive from the start and flashed the first boulder with ease. At that stage she was ahead of Oriane, but the slab proved too difficult on the night. Janja could only manage the Zone, which left the door open for Oriane to take advantage. 

Janja Garnbret appeared on good form, but is perhaps still building confidence in her healing foot.  © Jan Virt/IFSC
Janja Garnbret appeared on good form, but is perhaps still building confidence in her healing foot.
© Jan Virt/IFSC

I didn't confirm this with Janja, but I wonder how much her injured big toe—the reason for her absence so far this season—played a part in missing Boulder 2. It was certainly foot, and toe intensive, and she didn't look particularly comfortable.

Boulder 3 was very physical with big coordination moves required. Although the top was more straightforward, half of the 6 athlete failed to get through the first move. Therefore it was even more impressive that Oriane flashed the problem. She has a brilliant instinct that allows her to make mid move decisions, when she's at her best she doesn't over-think things. Janja also climbed the boulder but it took her a few goes more, meaning that coming into the last climb Oriane jut had to flash the zone to win. 

I watched her battle her emotion as she walked onto the stage. It was time to put all of the physical and mental training into practice, keep it all together under the immense pressure. It was a tricky fist move and Oriane trusted her instincts getting to that all-important zone on her first try. She knew she had won, and the emotion of the moment swept over her. The rest of the climb was immaterial. As Sean said on the broadcast: 'You never forget your first win.'

Janja came out disappointed, but with a point to prove. She simply crushed the last climb, flashing it, when no one else could climb it and reminded everyone that although she missed out this time, that she's still an Olympic champion. 

Flavy Cohaut (FRA) was very impressive in her first ever finals. We have seen quite a few debuts this year and all of them have been great to watch. With two tops and a Zone, Flavy earned her first bronze medal and team France dominated the women's podium.

Women's podium: Garnbret, Bertone, Cohaut.  © Jan Virt/IFSC
Women's podium: Garnbret, Bertone, Cohaut.
© Jan Virt/IFSC

So time to move on again—no time to pause. We're off to Brixen in Italy for the last Boulder World Cup of the season this weekend. 

Watch replays of the semis and finals on the Olympic Channel.

Boulder Men

1 Dohyun Lee KOR3T4z 3 154T4z 5 5
2 Adam Ondra CZE2T3z 5 144T4z 13 9
3 Mejdi Schalck FRA2T4z 5 113T4z 3 6
4 Yoshiyuki Ogata JPN3T3z 4 43T4z 5 5
5 Yannick Flohé GER2T3z 9 183T3z 9 7
6 Jan-Luca Posch AUT2T4z 7 121T3z 1 7
7 Sorato ANRAKU JPN2T2z 5 3
8 Colin Duffy USA1T4z 4 14
9 Mickael Mawem FRA1T4z 4 15
10 Tomoa Narasaki JPN1T4z 15 20
11 Ritsu KAYOTANI JPN1T3z 3 20
12 Simon Lorenzi BEL1T3z 6 14
13 Hannes Van Duysen BEL1T3z 10 8
14 YuFei Pan CHN1T2z 1 2
14 Taylor Clarkin USA1T2z 1 2
15 Toby Roberts GBR1T2z 1 6
16 Jongwon Chon KOR1T2z 2 2
17 Kokoro Fujii JPN1T1z 3 1
18 Jernej Kruder SLO0T2z 0 3
19 Maximillian Milne GBR0T2z 0 7
20 Nimrod Marcus ISR0T1z 0 2
33 Jack Macdougall GBRQual: 2T5z 6 9
37 Jim Pope GBRQual: 2T5z 8 20
53 Hamish McArthur GBRQual: 0T5z 0 17

Boulder Women

1 Oriane Bertone FRA2T3z 5 53T4z 4 5
2 Janja Garnbret SLO4T4z 6 43T4z 6 7
3 Flavy Cohaut FRA3T3z 7 42T3z 6 12
4 Miho Nonaka JPN3T3z 8 51T3z 1 3
5 Staša Gejo SRB3T3z 10 70T2z 0 8
6 Futaba Ito JPN3T4z 10 90T2z 0 9
7 Oceana Mackenzie AUS1T4z 1 8
8 Chaehyun Seo KOR1T4z 3 8
9 Jessica Pilz AUT1T3z 2 5
10 Julija Kruder SLO1T3z 3 8
11 Katja Kadic SLO1T3z 3 9
12 Giorgia Tesio ITA1T3z 5 13
13 Ayala Kerem ISR1T2z 3 9
14 Johanna Färber AUT1T2z 4 5
16 Mia AOYAGI JPN0T3z 0 8
17 Nanako Kura JPN0T3z 0 9
18 Sofya Yokoyama SUI0T3z 0 11
19 Adriene Clark USA0T2z 0 11
20 Hélène Janicot FRA0T1z 0 1
27 Erin Mcneice GBRQual: 2T5z 4 9
35 Holly Toothill GBRQual: 1T5z 2 16
47 Molly Thompson-Smith GBRQual: 0T4z 0 16

This post has been read 2,658 times

Return to Latest News

Support UKC

As climbers we strive to make UKClimbing the kind of website we would love to visit, with the most up-to-date news, diverse and interesting articles, comprehensive gear reviews, breathtaking photographs and a vast and useful logbook system. As a result, an incredible community has formed around the site - we’ve provided the framework but it’s you who make the website what it is today. If you appreciate the content we offer then you can help us by becoming an official UKC Supporter. This can be a one-off single annual payment or a more substantial payment paid monthly or yearly which includes full access to Rockfax Digital and discounts on Rockfax print publications.

If you appreciate UKClimbing then please help us by becoming a UKC Supporter.

UKC Supporter

  • Support the website we all know and love
  • Access to a year's subscription to Rockfax Digital.
  • Plus 30% off Rockfax guidebooks
  • Plus Show your support - UKC Supporter badge on your profile and forum posts
UKC/UKH/Rockfax logo

5 Jun

I enjoyed watching that but, maybe just me here in France, but am now finding it hard to access recorded full length videos of the climbing, since thr IFSC made an agreement with Olympic TV i think. Before Eurosport had good coverage.

The replays are available on the Olympic Channel:

But they take a while to be uploaded. Still waiting on the women's final.

5 Jun

They are still on Eurosport. I watched the men’s final last night.

5 Jun

Thought eurosport had gone??certainly the app stopped working?

5 Jun

Discovery+ app has it now, that contains all the old Eurosport stuff

More Comments
Loading Notifications...
Facebook Twitter Copy Email