IFSC Lead and Speed World Cup Wujiang 2024 - Roberts Wins Lead Gold


The first Lead and Speed World Cups of the season took place in Wujiang, China this weekend, just days after the Boulder World Cup in Keqiao wrapped up. As athletes target different events in this Olympic year, there were some unexpected results and memorable moments. Highlights include Sam Watson of the USA breaking the World Record twice in Speed, Janja Garnbret winning back-to-back gold and Toby Roberts earning his second Lead victory as three GB Climbing athletes made finals. 

Max Milne (GBR) finished 8th in his first Lead final.  © IFSC
Max Milne (GBR) finished 8th in his first Lead final.


In Speed qualifiers, Paris-qualified Sam Watson (USA) set a new World Record of 4.85 seconds (down from 4.90 set by Indonesia's Veddriq Leonardo in Seoul 2023), before breaking it with a time of 4.79 seconds. Watson also beat his own Pan American record with the time.

The round was the fastest men's Speed World Cup qualification round in history. Times under 5.26 seconds were required to progress compared to 5.27 seconds from Chamonix 2023. 

The women's round was equally speedy and was the fastest qualification round yet: sub-7.25 seconds was the key to qualification (down from 7.40 in Chamonix 2023). Paris ticket-holder Emma Hunt (USA) topped the leaderboard in qualification.

A false start knocked World Champion Desak Made Rita Kusuma Dewi (INA) out of contention, while world record holder Aleksandra Miroslaw qualified low down in 5th.

Watson (USA) vs Wu (CHN) in the men's Speed final.  © UKC News
Watson (USA) vs Wu (CHN) in the men's Speed final.

In the final, Peng Wu (CHN) defended his IFSC World Cup Wujiang gold medal from 2023 in front of his home crowd, setting a PB and Asian record of 4.86 seconds in the semi-final. 

Wu beat new world record holder Sam Watson (4.91 vs 5.11). Former world record holder Kiromal Katibin (INA) claimed bronze.

Ola Miroslaw (POL) returned to form in the women's final, equalling her world record of 6.24 seconds in her final race against compatriot Natalia Kalucka (6.75 second). Jimin Jeong (KOR) won her country's first Speed medal after fending off Aleksandra Kalucka (POL) (6.62 vs 8.93 seconds) in the small final.

Ola Miroslaw (POL) takes the first Speed gold of the season against compatriot Natalia Kalucka.  © UKC News
Ola Miroslaw (POL) takes the first Speed gold of the season against compatriot Natalia Kalucka.


The semi-finals resulted in some upsets as many lower-ranked athletes from qualifiers outperformed those who had placed higher and climbed later on. 

Boulder World Cup silver medallist Max Milne (GBR) was competing in his first-ever Lead semi-final, having placed 25th amongst the 26 qualified athletes.

Max qualified in 4th for the final after some clever route-reading on a cruxy route. He wrote on Instagram: 'Making my first semi final felt good so I had to go and make my first final too. I really couldn't be happier about how today went and I'm really looking forward to climbing again tomorrow evening.'

Toby Roberts (GBR) ranked 1st place in both qualifications and semis, closely followed by Japanese rising star Sorato Anraku.

Erin McNeice made her IFSC second final - and her first in Lead - in the space of a week after coming 5th in Keqiao, by placing 7th after semis. Molly Thompson-Smith finished 15th in the semi-final.

This was the first time that more than two British athletes have qualified for finals in the same World Cup event since the Leeds World Cup in 1989, when Simon Nadin, Jerry Moffat, Mark Leach and Ian Vincent competed in the final (and Simon won).

Janja Garnbret (SLO) topped the route and the women's leaderboard in the semi-final and looked in a league of her own.

China's Zhilou Lou marked herself out as a favourite for the OQS in the two events last week.  © IFSC
China's Zhilou Lou marked herself out as a favourite for the OQS in the two events last week.

The women's final involved an insecure route with a chimney-like starting sequence to unsettle the athletes. A powerful section on slopey holds stopped Mia Krampl (SLO), Laura Rogora (ITA) and IFSC World Cup newcomer Natsumi Oda (JPN) at 34+. Erin McNeice (GBR) fought hard to pass this sticking point, and reached a tricky traverse with an unclear sequence at 39 to finish 5th and match her rank from Keqiao. Natsuki Tanii (JPN) reached one move more, while Chaehyun Seo (KOR) and Zhilou Lou (CHN) made it further onto the headwall, at 43+ and 44+ respectively.

Janja Garnbret (SLO)—fresh from her Boulder win in Keqiao just a few days earlier—seemed unfazed by the route and reached her fourth and final Top of the event.

Janja Garnbret won her second gold in the space of a week in China.   © IFSC
Janja Garnbret won her second gold in the space of a week in China.

As we near 100 days out from the Games on Wednesday, Garnbret's climbing made a statement that she'll be one to beat—despite the smaller fields in China. The Tokyo 2020 gold medallist revealed that she will skip the upcoming Boulder event in Salt Lake City and will only compete in the Boulder and Lead World Cups in Innsbruck in June pre-Paris. 

Garnbret told the IFSC:

"I was just having a lot of fun and just excited to be back competing. I had a good start back with Boulder and I hoped I would have the same with Lead, and I guess my Lead shape is as good as Boulder. I'm excited now to go back home and get some more training in before I return to do the World Cup in Innsbruck where I will do Boulder and Lead, and then it's Paris."

Two 5th places across two disciplines for Erin McNeice (GBR) in the first events of the season put her in good stead for the Olympic Qualifier Series in May/June.

Women's podium Wujiang 2024.  © IFSC
Women's podium Wujiang 2024.

Nine men qualified for finals due to ties. The men's route was curiously described by the route setters as having 'big moves and low-risk'. A thrutchy move to a crimp with a complex difficult-to-read sequence saw off five climbers between 23+ and 24+, including Max Milne (GBR), who gave a steely performance in his first final. The podium finishers were the only ones to reach the headwall. Taisei Homma (JPN) looked on track to top with a smooth climb, but popped off a slopey ramp section. His teammate Sorato Anraku fell a few moves short of his highpoint.

Toby Roberts works his way through the lower crux section.  © IFSC
Toby Roberts works his way through the lower crux section.

Toby Roberts' managed to regroup after choosing the wrong sequence at the stopper section low down, and refused to give up on the technical headwall. He stalled on the slopey rail of hold 36 as he considered his options, and eventually made a move towards 37, scoring 36+ and matching Homma's score, but surpassing him on countback. 

With a win in Wujiang and a 4th place in Keqiao last week, Roberts appears to be on track for Paris 2024, which he is already qualified after winning the Olympic Qualifier Event in Laval, France last year. 

Roberts told the IFSC:

"I slightly misread the beta, but I managed to stay there and compose myself and find the right way, luckily. Preparation for Paris is going well and I'm using this competition to see how I am doing after a hard winter's training and I just enjoying competing on the comp circuit. So things are going well."

Sorato Anraku, with a silver and bronze across the two competitions, will also be one to watch in Paris. 

Men's podium Wujiang 2024.  © IFSC
Men's podium Wujiang 2024.


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16 Apr

Why do you indulge the Muppets who foisted speed climbing onto the scene by reporting it?

Why not ignore it and focus your reporting on the actual climbing, ie boulder and lead?

Because it's a brilliant (Olympic!) sport and we don't report/not report on things based on the individual likes/dislikes of our readers.

Got a Speed-focused interview coming up just for you, though.

16 Apr

I think a true Generalist should embrace all aspects of climbing.

16 Apr

I have zero interest in speed climbing, it's akin to synchronised swimming. However it is occurring and perfectly reasonable that UKC would report on it.

16 Apr

I don‘t normally follow the Speed comps at all, but since having tried the standard route on TR with a magnificent time of ca. 2:30 I shall definitely be getting in some popcorn and beer and shall watch the Olympic event with enjoyment.

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